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The Gift of the Seer

The Gift of the Seer by [Laugheed, K.B.]When you tire of the overload of digital and technology tools within our 2019 era, K.B. Laugheed’s The Gift of the Seer will expedite time travel back with you, and this author will have you writing with a feathered quill by the end of this literary journey! Put on your cultural anthropologist boots and allow this novel to cleverly weave historical yet fantastical plot elements, interestingly complex characters, and a rugged setting that will definitely transport and immerse readers. You will face cultural nuances, norms, spiritual beliefs, worldviews, philosophies, goals, life lessons, conflicts, natural connections, romances, and myriads of adventures via an Indian perspective. Our protagonist, Katie, provides uncensored reflections and stories spanning from the years 1748-1778. Yet Katie, the book’s protagonist, is not the docile, silent, subjugated, stereotypical, domesticated wife and mother that many heroines from her time era typically portray. Instead, she is a literary and cultural badass-think Katniss from The Hunger Games -but Katie encompasses more maturity, carnal pleasures, and complexities as a woman struggling to survive among different cultures, determined to sustain her love for her husband against all odds, and abandoning the feelings of guilt and condemnation based on her feeling that she’s living a big lie!

In short, adventures, dangers, thrills, and chills will bombard you on every page. Yet instead of feeling defeated and exhausted, you will experience the triumphs and evolution, right alongside Katie, as if you were a passenger in her canoe! The book is brilliant in terms of its vivid, sensory details that paint a no-nonsense picture of life during this era. The characters also conjure feelings of fables and folk tales via the author’s unique, authentic style. At times, I noticed hints of magical realism, which further add pizazz to this riveting book. While there are so many positive qualities about this book, especially the way in which the author develops her vast array of characters and executes her dramatic dialogue, all with cultural relevance and sensitivity, I was a bit overwhelmed with the plethora of social, historical, political, cultural, marital problems and themes that she tries to address all at once. At times it was slightly too ambitious for me to keep track of all the family members, neighbors, friends, and foes. Although they are important, especially to comprehend the larger scope of the historical fiction milieu, some of the symbols were slightly perplexing and some plot events were mentioned but not fully explained.

All in all, because readers can sense the imminent danger on every page, as evident from the great use of foreshadowing and cautionary notes to build suspense throughout the text, as in “til the ocean wave of Colonists comes crashing down upon us—then we will see which of us is right,” We not only learn cultural and historical information through characters with real vulnerability and authenticity, but we also find solace in our own journeys about how to fit into this world and all its challenges! We obtain a true sense of empowerment within this challenging piece of art. Try this time travelling and cultural anthropological plight by K.B. Laugheed in The Gift of the Seer!

Pages: 308 | ASIN: B07L7FHTFC

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Cascarones

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.

This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.

As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.

I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.

My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.

Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889

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Mandarin Ducks

Mandarin Ducks: Kaifeng Chronicles, Book Two by [Campbell, Robert]

In the year 1630, in Hangzhou, China, two families were getting set to join with the marriage of Li Bing and Xiaoyun Wang. Marriage is taken very seriously and there are many traditions that must be observed in order to ensure a prosperous marriage to the couple. Li Bing is the city’s celebrity of sorts as he prepares to take the exams to become an important civil servant for the city. This causes his father to receive many gifts and accolades, as well as resentment. Vice-perfect Wang Zhengqian, father of Xiaoyun, plots to ruin Li Bing’s father, the other vice-perfect Li Gao. Wang is power hungry and wants nothing more than to gain all he can, and cares little who he hurts in the process, his own family included.

Mandarin Ducks is the second book in a trilogy by Robert Campbell. The first novel gives you more background of this community and some the characters so I recommend reading that first, but it’s not required as this book can stand on it’s own. Taking place in the 1600’s of China, it talks about how some of the inhabitants have roots in Jewish culture, and how they have to keep that hidden away. Li Bing has a deep interest in discovering his heritage and Jewish roots but must go in secret to learn more about his past. His grandfather helps him some but is growing old quickly and Li Bing is worried all the past knowledge will be lost. There is a lot of focus on class and the nuances that each rung of society has to observe. I enjoyed reading about how the different classes interacted, and as the story line developed I grew more invested as things become more intricate and layered. The novel has a slow start and builds at a steady pace that never feels rushed and allows you to grow attached to the main characters involved in the plot. The side story of Li Bing learning about his Jewish roots mixed into the scandal between the vice-perfects was well placed and fit seamlessly into things, nothing felt like added filler, everything seemed important to the progression of the story.

I really enjoyed Robert Campbell’s style of writing. The prose is clean and the story is focused. The story expertly builds suspense and develops the characters in a way that you either love or hate them. There is real history encased in the story, making things more believable, and adding extra depth to the plot. I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.

Pages: 133 | ASIN: B07G7GV256

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Free Yourself

Free Yourself is a collection of intimate and engaging poetry written by Juliana Garcell. The poems are written in various styles and in various formats which helps to keep things interesting. The poetry sometimes hits on current social and political topics, but there is an overall focus on love, loss, and identity. Especially the struggle with identity in the face of love and loss; but having to define it in this way is somewhat limiting as I feel the poems are about much more.

I enjoyed this collection and found the poems to be lyrical, as if written for a song. Each poem has its own focus, although they area about slightly similar topics. The emotions expressed are often raw and painted in vivid detail with colorful connections and allusions to nature and culture.

Each poem is impactful, if not relatable, and I was able to understand each one. Understanding a poem is important for me, as I feel that poets often go off on some abstract ideas. But this collection is down to earth, and simple to follow, which makes the message ring clearly.

I appreciated the poems that left me with singular emotions at the end, but I really enjoyed the poems that were able to do the same work with just one or two lines. ‘Free My Expression’ is one of my favorite of the shorter poems, with the line “want you to stay but I always run away”. And the very last poem, which I believe is untitled, is probably my favorite of the collection because it manages the same emotional impact as one of the longer poems with only four lines.

I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys poetry that is emotive yet easy to understand. The collection is short, but I suggest you give yourself some time to stop and ponder the thoughts, concepts, and ideas conveyed in each of these poems as this is an engaging assortment of passionate poetry.

Pages: 56 | ISBN: 1483622444

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Kaifeng Chronicles

Robert Campbell Author Interview

Robert Campbell Author Interview

18 Cranes follows a young boy as he prepares for an important civil servant exam while being tormented by nightmares. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?

The story was inspired by my own journey of learning about China, first through teaching Chinese students in Canada, and then through my eye-opening experience teaching and traveling in China.

Bing is an interesting character that continued to gain depth as the story progressed. What were some driving ideals behind his character?

Bing is a composite character, reflecting some the attitudes and behaviors I’ve observed in my Chinese students, but also embodying elements of historical and fictional persons I’ve read about.

This story takes place during the summer of 1630 in China. Why did you choose this time and place for your story?

The story takes place in the final years of the Ming dynasty, culminating in a monumental and highly consequential event that takes place in the city of Kaifeng in 1642. By starting in 1630, I’m building the necessary background for readers to understand the significance of the event when it takes place.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

18 Cranes is the first in a series of nine novellas, collectively known as, Kaifeng Chronicles. The second book, Mandarin Ducks, has been available for the past few months. The third book, Grand Canal, is scheduled for release in late January 2019.

Author Links: Website | Twitter

18 Cranes: Kaifeng Chronicles, Book One by [Campbell, Robert]In the late summer of 1630, 23-year old Li Bing writes the provincial level imperial examinations, the first step towards entering the Chinese civil service. He is tormented by a dream of 18 cranes, and as he awaits his exam results he seeks out insights from those around him to help him understand his dream. In the end, he learns more than he imagined.

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Amazing Experiences

M. P. Prabhakaran Author Interview

M. P. Prabhakaran Author Interview

An Indian Goes Around the World – II recounts your travels through Europe and shares the amazing experiences you had along the way. When you first set out on your journey were you expecting to encounter so many interesting people?

No. It was those “amazing experiences,” as you put it, which I had in the early stage, that made decide that I must travel to as many countries as I can before I kick the bucket.

You come from a teaching an journalism background. How has your professional background helped you write this book?

My thirst for learning is attributable to the two professions I straddled. Whatever writing skill I have is attributable to my background in journalism. English is not my mother tongue. So to survive in journalism in the English language, I had to put in extra efforts to learn the finer points in English. I realize that I will have to continue those efforts until my dying day.

You state in the book that traveling has opened your mind. Do you think that everyone should undertake such traveling?

Yes, it opens your mind to many things you were blissfully ignorant of until then. When you travel to a new place and interact with the people there, you learn to your surprise that many of the notions you had about both were false. So traveling is not anly a learning experience, bout also a correcting process, in life.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

It is a collection of some of the political and social commentaries I published on the online monthly I edit. It is expected to be out in about six months. Side by side, I am also working on my third book in the “An Indian Goes Around the World” series.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

An Indian Goes Around the World – Ii: What I Learned from My Thirty-Day European Odyssey by [Prabhakaran, M.P.]

This is the second book by M.P. Prabhakaran on his world-trotting experience. The first one, Capitalism Comes to Maos Mausoleum, was published three years ago. This book is devoted exclusively to the 30-day tour he undertook through 10 countries of Europe in the summer of 2009.

If academic qualifications are a measure of ones learning experience, Prabhakaran says in the Preface to the fi rst book, he has a string of them, including a Ph.D. in Political Science from The New School for Social Research, New York. But, he hastens to add, what I learned from this prestigious American institution and, before that, from various academic institutions in India is no match for what I did from my travels around the world.

In describing what he felt at the end of the 2009 European tour, he goes a step further. The more I travel, he says, the more I discover my ignorance. He admits that his description is a
mangled version of poet Shelleys immortal words: The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance. But, he adds, he could not find a better way to express his enlightening experience.

The tour of 10 European countries, he says in the Preface to this book, opened his mind to various aspects of European cultures he had been quite ignorant of. Through the subsequent pages of the book, he shares with readers the knowledge he gained from conversations with people and from events and objects he got exposed to during that tour.

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The Bookbinder: A Personal Journey with the Tsaddik Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri

In an age where science attempts to explain everything, it can feel like the world has run out of mysteries. In reality, we still struggle to rationalize many aspects of life. Batya M. Goldman’s memoir, The Bookbinder: A Personal Journey with the Tsaddik Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri sheds light on one such mystery. The book follows Goldman’s family as they move to Israel, try to raise a family, battle illness, and start their own business. All of these endeavors keep connecting to the famous (although highly secretive) Rabbi Kaduri: a physical as well as spiritual bookbinder.

Much of the memoir focuses on Goldman’s family life in Israel. But she clearly shares these stories in an attempt to fill a void left by a humble man who did his work without concern for his lasting legacy. This old soul helped guide Israel and its people through many decades. And the insight into his methods, perhaps being written down for the first time, is fascinating.

Still, there is no doubt that Goldman wrote this book for an audience familiar with Orthodox Judaism. That’s not to say that there’s nothing here for readers from different backgrounds. The stories are layered with journeys and returns between Israel and the United States. It’s also a moving portrayal of a young mother in a new land with a traveling husband dealing with chronic health problems. In these sections, Goldman praises the community she discovered in Israel. Relative strangers, linked by connections to Rabbi Kaduri, take care of one another. Accounts of miracles and visions from deceased loved ones also pepper the account. These always seem to be presented in a straightforward, matter of fact way. In doing so, the memoir has an honesty to it that those who don’t prescribe to the Jewish faith should appreciate, but will probably be confused by.

Ultimately, Goldman delivers a sincere account of a life both vastly different and surprisingly similar to that of the average reader. The specifics of her memoir will likely appeal to those already familiar with, or interested in learning, Orthodox Judaism or Israeli culture.

Pages: 105 | ASIN: 151941868X

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Crimes of Rumba – Trailer

Crimes of Rumba is the hottest, epic combination of business, politics, music, and of course, crimes behind the predatory conduct culture that has glamorized the worst corporate malpractice in US cultural history. As a matter of law, order, and economy, the state administrations intolerance and crackdown on musicians dissent and opposition to the colonial music cash crops production is authoritarianism at best and without precedent in the worlds history of colonization and music. This legal truth and material facts-checkings operation is the blunt, exclusive disclosure of the sources and methods used for the cultivation and autocratic harvest of music cash crops in the Belgian Congo, which were economically engineered from and back to America for its consumption through misinformation, disinformation, deceit, and fraud. Not only is this the tale of the utmost scam that has been very fully funded to defraud the worlds collective memory of rumba, it is the hefty price that our humanity has dearly paid for without consent for Foniors crimes of rumba for decades. Silence has been complicity at worst from the people with knowledge of the case against rumba. Not only are the material facts and consumers rights violated and suppressed, along with musicians copyrights for decades, the morally repulsive glamorization of the fraud has brought creative freedom in the worlds music into disrepute. A lot of readers will discover Thierry Antha with the publication of Crimes of Rumba, Volume I of Congo Music. But this international journalist carried decades of excellence in covering the Congo and Haitis politics, business, and entertainment. His professional and personal ties with all the most famous Congolese musicians in advocacy, promotion, and production of their musical works have crowned him the best authority with respect to the Congo musics history. Contrary to all the spinning, posturing, and work of fiction for rumba, Thierry Anthas expertise and dedication to exposing the truth behind material facts and laws related to Congo music from the Belgian Congo to the Congo is second to none. Embark in this riveting literary journey to discover how Socit Gnrales authoritarian harvest of music cash crops has shattered and destroyed lives and careers for its economic gain in the Americas. Without censorship, Crimes of Rumba, Volume I of Congo Music exposes Foniors victims long overdue rebuttal, which is long way apart from the reality of its predatory conduct culture and its propaganda of rumbas fake-outs.

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An Interesting Psychology

Igor Valec Author Interview

Igor Valec Author Interview

Damnation is a thrilling dark fantasy novel that follows King Lortar as he finds himself surrounded by enemies. What was the inspiration for the setup to this novel?

Loosely, the Warring States period of ancient China.

Asuf was an intriguing character that I enjoyed following. Your book is filled with interesting characters, who was your favorite character to write for?

Princess Alerise. She has an interesting psychology and fun dialogue. Plus I have a thing for tomgirls, villainesses, and blondes, and Alerise just so happens to tick all those boxes.

The characters inhabit a world with a rich backstory. How did you create the backstory for this world and what were some themes you wanted to capture?

From the ground up. First the geography, then the ecology, then the peoples and their cultures, then their histories.

As for themes, I wanted to show a harsh people bred by a cruel and uncaring world—but more importantly, I wanted to show how kindness, however small, can exist even in a world that punishes the kind.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The sequel to this book will most likely be available sometime in 2021.

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Damnation: A Grimdark Fantasy Political Drama by [Valec, Igor]An Empire fallen. A kingdom beset. A family divided. When King Lortar discovers a savage cult performing heathen rites, he’s forced to battle a foe he never imagined: his own son. Surrounded by enemies, Lortar is trapped in a world of treachery and betrayal, where mercy is vice and malice is glory.

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An Indian Goes Around the World – II

An Indian Goes Around the World – Ii: What I Learned from My Thirty-Day European Odyssey by [Prabhakaran, M.P.]

M.P. Prabhakaran takes readers across ten countries in Europe. The exciting journey is filled with amazing experiences, new trials, immense learning, and lovely interactions. Reading the book made me understand why the author modified English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s words and said: “The more I travel, the more I discover my ignorance.” Traveling the world is truly fun, at least that’s what I got from M. P. Prabhakaran’s book. I learned quite a number of things as I read.

The first city the reader is introduced to is Stockholm. The fact that the author visited the Swedish city twice confirms just how much he loved being in Stockholm. One can say that M. P. Prabhakaran is inquisitive in nature. That is perhaps the reason why he knows about a lot of people, their culture and the political climate in their respective countries. He is also charismatic and easy to talk to. I loved the conversation he had with the Swedish woman married to an Iraqi while riding a bus in Vaxholm. I empathized with the woman and her baby. I loved their conversation though. Mr. Prabhakaran knows how to keep the conversation going and that’s why the woman felt comfortable talking about her life with a stranger.  The author’s conversations are among the things that made the book a lovely read.

It was interesting reading about the author’s encounter with the Russian Mafia on a St. Petersburg street. Being a target because you are a foreigner is no fun at all. There was a lesson at the end of it all; don’t put all your cards in one pocket.  You would have imagined that his trip would have been smooth without any trouble. His harassment with the mafia was however just a little problem that was averted without the author being harmed. His trip was mostly pleasant, with only a few incidents that can be ignored.

From Stockholm to Bergen, to Helsinki, Prague, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and all the amazing places the author went made the story exotic, for someone that hasn’t been to all these places. Having to travel through all those countries in just 30 days is not a simple thing. The author enjoyed walking, taking the train and even flying to go see the world and learn about societies.

The author is knowledgeable in the political state of the countries he traveled. I admired that in him. I would be there reading about his beautiful trips, then out of nowhere, he would throw in a fact about the leadership of a country either in the past or present. I love that he reminded the reader of a little history that may have been forgotten.

I understand why M. P. Prabhakaran took to traveling in Europe. Given an opportunity, I would travel the world as he did. I loved that he also documented every interesting thing because I enjoyed reading his tales. “An Indian Goes Around the World – Ii: What I Learned From My Thirty-Day European Odyssey” is a lovely book that will make you want to travel.

Pages: 270 | ASIN: B0794N38FB

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