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Celebrate Their Origins

Stephanie Longo Author Interview

Stephanie Longo Author Interview

Italians of Lackawanna County uses photography to show readers how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This book was extremely important to me to write, especially in a time when so many stereotypes against the Italian-American community as a whole exist. My goal was not just to seek to preserve and promote the Italian culture and heritage of Lackawanna County, it was also to show a positive image of Italian Americans working hard to celebrate their origins and how they are working to make the region a better place to live and work. Pictures tell the story in a way that words cannot—thanks to the wonderful photographers and community members who submitted photos, this book comes alive and readers hopefully get a true sense of what it means to be an Italian American living in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

In this book you not only cover modern day traditions but you also trace the history of Italian immigration. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

I have worked as a historian focusing on Italian American studies for the past 15 or so years, always placing an emphasis on local Italian history because my region is so heavily populated with people of Italian origin, like myself. Most of the research for this book is through interviews with the citizens, as well as through archives, such as the Lackawanna Historical Society and the Dunmore Historical Society. I also consulted scholars and archivists in Italy as they also have a wonderful catalog of history surrounding the various town festivals—this helped provide a background for the festivals that were brought here and I was able to truly tie them in to their towns of origin. This kind of work is more of a historic reconstruction, because a lot of the background information has either been lost or is unavailable—because of this, I rely heavily on people in the community who are willing to share their stories.

This book showcases Italian-Americans’ pride in their heritage and place in America. What were some themes you wanted to focus on throughout this book?

As I said before, I truly wanted this book to be a positive representation of Italian Americans and show how they contribute to the good of our society. I really wanted to focus on the fact that we are three or four generations away from the original immigrant generation here in Lackawanna County, but people are still passionate and proud to preserve the traditions their ancestors brought over so long ago. I also wanted to highlight the fact that our area truly embraces everyone of all ethnicities—while I focus on Italians, I do make mention that our Italian festivals have become more inclusive and you don’t have to be Italian to participate. I think that welcoming spirit is one of Lackawanna County’s greatest attributes and I wanted to showcase it as best as I could.

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

I have two projects that I am working on right now. The first is a passion project about the Guardiese community in the United States. My grandfather came to the United States from Guardia dei Lombardi (AV), Italy, and he was extremely proud of where he came from. These Guardiese traditions were passed down to me by my mother and inspired me to research our local as well as our national Guardiese community. My research locally is complete and now I am working on the national research.

I am also researching Sylvester Poli, a theater magnate from Italy who really revolutionized vaudeville. I was part of the Leadership Lackawanna Core Program this past year and our team project was to create a historic display in downtown Scranton’s Ritz Theater, which Poli founded in 1907. The research we did for the project took on a life of its own and I want to continue to pursue it and possibly publish a book.

Both projects do not have a set time commitment due to research, but I would like at least one to be complete within the next 2-3 years.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | FacebookWebsite | Blog 

Boasting one of the nation’s largest and most diverse Italian American populations, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, joins old and new with events such as La Corsa dei Ceri or St. Ubaldo Day in Jessup and La Festa Italiana on Scranton’s Courthouse Square. Every town in the county with an Italian population has its own story. Whether the people can trace their origins to Guardia or Gubbio, Felitto or Perugia, the Italians of Lackawanna County all share one thing in common: a strong sense of pride in their ethnic origins. In Images of Modern America: Italians of Lackawanna County, readers will find familiar images of summertime traditions, as well as new representations of how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage.

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Italians of Lackawanna County

Going through this book is akin to being virtually in touch with the Italian culture and customs. The author compiled text and images which show how beautiful the Italian community in America is and how wonderful the people are as they co-exist with others. Stephanie Longo tells the story of Italians of Lackawanna in a distinct and brilliant way that can’t help but admire the way of life of the Italians. The author starts by narrating the history of Italian immigrants who first moved to the county. The immigrants had to do menial jobs like farming, mining and other works that required hard labor. The first wave of Italian immigrants knew that only hard work would help them fend for their families. This notion was passed through different generations of Italian Americans as everyone had to work to survive.

The author shows the deep connection between Lackawanna county authorities and the Italians who live in the county. With pictures, the author talks about Italian-American themed events that happen throughout the county, the close ties between Pennsylvania administration and Italian officials in Sicily, the Lackawanna County Library System which promotes Italian American events throughout all nine of its branches, and the heritage and Italian pride witnessed in the county among other things. The author also highlights the monuments and buildings which were made in honor of Italian heroes and legends. They include the Gino J. Merli Veteran’s Center, The Christopher Columbus statue on Scranton’s Courthouse Square and the statue of Dante among others.

I absolutely loved the images Stephanie Longo shared of the La Cosra dei Ceri festival. The pictures were colorful and everything seemed perfect. La Cosra dei Ceri is a festival I would want to be part of if I ever get to be in Lackawanna County around May. I appreciate the author’s effort to explain in detail what the festival is about, and what each family does in honor of their patron saints. Religion and by extents Catholicism is a huge part of Italian living. It is beautiful how religion brings the masses together as they worship and celebrate life as one people.

Italians of Lackawanna County is about 70% images and 30% text. This is one of the things that made me enjoy reading this book. Pictures tell a lot and one can easily and quickly understand the content without having to read a bunch of words in a paragraph. I loved reading this book because the author shared a little history of the Italians in the county and how Italy is. Italians of Lackawanna County is a great educational read that I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about Italian-American culture.

Pages: 98 | ISBN: 1540228266

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Gazelle in the Shadows

Gazelle in the Shadows by [Peach, Michelle]

Based on her own life, Michelle Peach has crafted an intriguing story in Gazelle in the Shadows. Some parts of the story are fictionalized according to the author. The novel opens with Elizabeth Booth who has been kidnapped. She’s battered and bruised and not sure who is responsible. Her British diplomatic immunity does not seem to be of any use to her at the beginning of the story.

We then cut to an earlier time on a cold, rainy April day in the north of England. She is in Professor Mansfield’s office, attending school at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in Durham University. Not sure where she will succeed, she decides to enter the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a Diplomatic Service and she loves it.

Most of her life seems to have been about finding out who she is in her family. She grows up wanting to leave home and go on adventures. The point of meeting with her professor on that April day is to convince him to allow her to do her study in Damascus. She is the only student from her class going there. On the flight to Damascus, she is told by the flight attendant that there are no hotel rooms and arranges a place for her to stay.

Starting with the people on the flight, I did have to suspend disbelief somewhat to make myself believe that she could be as naïve as she was behaving. It seemed odd to me that anyone would trust a man on a flight and follow him afterward, even if he did work for the airline. It does seem to me that it would raise red flags.

She is literally a stranger in this new land and finds herself offending without meaning to. For example, when she drops bread on to the ground, she does not realize that bread is a sacred food and should never be wasted. She finds that navigating this new, strange land is not as easy as she had expected. I did love her descriptions of the exotic locale. She really brings the countryside to life with her writing.

This story is filled with mystery and suspense. This story was interesting to be because, unlike most books I’ve read, it’s about a place I knew little about when I started reading. The cultural issues that arise throughout the story are every bit as interesting as what is happening in the story. The only negative about the book is that I felt I knew what might be happening early on in the story even though I was not entirely correct. Despite that, the author has crafted a story that kept me turning pages way past my bedtime.

Pages: 327 | ASIN: B07CPX2WH5

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Vexing Stages of Culture Shock

Michael Greco Author Interview

Michael Greco Author Interview

Plum Rains on Happy House follows an American who is trying to turn an Inn into a school but is thwarted by the house’s strange creatures. What was the inspiration behind this unique story?

I live in Japan, and it’s a place I know well. The book’s dedication probably says it all:

This book is for Japan. It’s the place I call home—though it may not want me to. For over 25 years I have grappled with the dos and don’t’s of my host country, destroying the language in conversation, giving up, resuming more study, eventually resigning myself to the boundless plateaus of almost-speech.

And Japan abides. Like a patient steward, it absorbs the frolics and the ribbing, while providing a solacing habitat in which to write and teach and parent and grow.

I came over to Japan in the 80’s and I’ve lived in some pretty seedy guesthouses—what we call gaijin houses. In creating the residents of Happy House, I just mingled the characteristics of a few of the unique people I’ve met over the decades in Tokyo and in Los Angeles. In some cases, I didn’t need to exaggerate at all.

On one level Plum Rains on Happy House is a detective story. A fellow named Harry Ballse invites the protagonist, nicknamed the Ichiban, to Japan. But the residents of Happy House all deny any knowledge of this mysterious Harry Ballse.

Some readers may pick up on the references to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, about a policeman who is lured to a Scottish island to investigate the report of a missing child. It’s a game of deception. The islanders are playing with him. The paganism and the sexual activity the sanctimonious policeman finds so objectionable are simply part of the selection process—to see if he possesses the characteristics to burn in their wicker effigy so that the village will have subsequent successful harvests.

In Plum Rains on Happy House, the Ichiban must undergo his own horrific sacrifice to appease the house. My novel is in many ways a tribute to that remarkable film, and it has the same foundational plot lines, but I’ve laid down a hearty layer of satire and lots of cross-cultural lunacy.

There are some weird and fascinating things happening in this story. Was this an easy outlet for your creativity or was there some effort put into creating these things?

Nothing is easy. If women will forgive me the metaphor, creating Plum Rains on Happy House was like giving birth—it hurt a lot. There were points when I considered giving up because it was just too hard. I’m not a funny person, but I have little trouble dreaming up wacky stories and characters. The residents of Happy House had to be distinctively quirky. I didn’t know how bawdy things were going to become, or how much depravity would creep its way into the story. But once I had the characters they took charge, and I relegated myself to being, more or less, their stenographer.

Dialog was also something I paid close attention to. Of course, sharp dialog is vital in any story, but for this kind of back-and-forth humor to succeed, I felt it really had to have zip. Just like a comedian practices his delivery line, the dialog exchanges had to have real punch. As with most writing, dialog should say a lot , with very little. The communication isn’t in the words being said but in the subtext. Good dialog says it without saying it. One quick example from Chapter One has the resident of Room 3 (nicknamed The Goat) explaining to the new resident about his missing foot:

“I saw you looking at the bottom of my leg.”

“Your foot?”

The Goat scowled. “Obviously, you can see that no longer exists.”

“It’s in Cambodia.”

The Goat went into a cross-eyed fluster. “What is?”

Sometimes readers need to work a bit to understand the exchange, and I think they appreciate that. Dialog is an organic process. It’s the way characters talk in my head, and I think I know how to write them because they are all a part of me. It all works toward satisfying the element of what a good scene often comes down to: one person trying to get something from another.

Mix that in with the baffling idiosyncrasies of Japan and its language, and the vexing stages of culture shock, which frame the Ichiban’s adventure in Happy House, and readers have a lot to juggle, especially those uninitiated to living in other countries. I’m hoping this confusion is a part of the magnetism of the story. On top of that, one should remember the old guesthouse is haunted:

“Happy House is an amoeba everlasting, a floating world—capturing and sealing the self-indulgence of the red-light districts, the bordellos and the fleeting, delightful vulgarity of ancient Japan, an eternal time capsule of the flamboyant and the boorish.”

What do you find is a surprising reaction people have when they read your book?

The book has received mixed reviews. Of the five books I have up on Amazon, Plum Rains on Happy House was the first to receive a customer review of one star—perhaps rightfully so: the reader was “disgusted” by some of the more explicit scenes, and I think that was my fault; the earlier cover gave no indication of the sexual content within, and this poor woman was clearly ambushed. With the one star, I know I’m finally an author, and wear it as a badge of honor.

There are, however, cultural elements in the story that some will not understand: the usage of the various slipper customs inside a house, the daily beating of the futon, the laundry poles, the shockingly steep stairwells, the neighborhood garbage trucks that play cute tunes to let you know they’re coming, the confusion between the colors of blue and green.

The dichotomy of substance versus form also plays an important part in underscoring the tension—in the way one swings a tennis racket, or walks in a swimming pool, or plays baseball, or eats particular dishes: What should predominate—what you are doing or how you are doing it?

On another level, the story examines language acquisition and the role of structure within the learning process. The residents all have their various opinions: As teachers, should English be taught through some kind of lock-step formula, or would one be better off approaching it in a more hands off manner, rather like painting? Everyone seems to have an opinion.

The idea of structure comes to the forefront again when discussing what one character, Sensei, calls the hidden structure of the house, which, like the neighborhood (or any cityscape in Japan) appears as an amorphous sprawl. But look underneath this sprawl and one sees the organism. Sensei says that the randomness, or chaos, embraces a flexible, orderly structure, and he likens the house to an amoeba that has the ability to alter its shape. Similarly, this amoeba can be seen as a microcosm of Japan as a whole.

What are you currently working on and when will it be available?

I’ve finished the first few drafts of a story about Special Needs teens who discover time travel. But the adult teachers at the school find out what’s going on and abuse this ability to travel back into time for their own selfish needs. It turns out the ones with the Special Needs are not the teenagers—who are all somewhere on the Autism spectrum—but the supposed grownups, and it’s up to the teens to save the day. It should be out in autumn.
Thanks for having me!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Plum Rains on Happy House by [Greco, Michael]In Japan, the little inn called Happy House welcomes its guests … unless it’s rainy season. When the “plum rains” arrive, trying times of volatility and decadence begin for everyone.

The American in Room 1, however, is dead-set on turning the derelict Happy House into a burgeoning English school.

The house has other plans, and Room 1’s attempts are thwarted by a freakish creature that lives under the floorboards called “the Crat”.

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Chasing The Red Queen

Chasing the Red Queen by [Glista, Karen]

Chasing the Red Queen opens with the recently turned 18-year-old Donja, a self-proclaimed goth who is uprooted from the normalcy of teenage life. Her mother remarries, giving Donja a new home, a new father and a new stepsister. What starts out as an angsty teens tribulations quickly shifts to darker elements as violent murders begin to hit close to home. New characters emerge, friendships are made, and lovers unite exposing a history of supernatural elements and family secrets Donja never expected.

Karen Glista offers an urban fantasy with a dash of crime, horror and steamy romance all set to the backdrop of vampire lore. A perfect weekend read for those favoring the genre. The author also provides new components to these otherwise over told stories with well researched historical content and fleshed out explanations for the mystical aspects. The mix of first nation cultural and detailed locational history give a fresh twist to this vampire romance which kept me intrigued to the very end.

I found Donja to be likable as the main character. Although the constant reminder of her gothic reputation is repeated one too many times, otherwise her emotional response and reactions are believable throughout the story. I adored the character development between Donja and her stepsister Makayla, from beginning to end they share a bond that unites them through a roller-coaster of emotional events.

Unlike Donja, where she shines in the first half of the book, her counterpart Torin unfolds as the main player towards the end of the book. Once Torin takes center stage I found myself more invested in his story and the account of his mysterious past as well as that of his kind.

I felt that the timeline was a little vague; how much time did everything take, was it days, hours, weeks? I also felt that their were quick leaps in character changes (ie. Frankie, I didn’t know what was happening to him until it was already over). These are the only minor things holding the book back. 

However, the story surprised me with well thought out action scenes and gritty dialog. While some secondary characters faded into the background a few shown through and had my full attention. Chasing the Red Queen is a quick read with an equally fast-paced plot, yet will still give the reader enough time to establish a connection to the story, characters and paranormal features.

Pages: 277 | ASIN: B079KJFJW8

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Unusual “Visions”

Mallory O'Connor Author Interview

Mallory O’Connor Author Interview

Epiphany’s Gift follows one young girl through her life as she struggles to cope with an extraordinary gift. What was the inspiration for her gift and the struggles she faced?

As a child, I had several powerful “visions” and/or paranormal experiences. Because the experiences were so exciting and so unusual, I was surprised to find that when I talked about these experiences, adults didn’t want to hear about it. They told me it was my imagination. Or worse. So, I stopped talking to anyone and kept my experiences to myself. Later, I began to read about other people who had unusual “visions.” I began to study the writings of religious mystics and found many similarities to my own encounters with “another level of existence.” In 1979, I met a psychic medium and we became friends. Although my “mystical” experiences were not the same as her “impressions,” we found we had a lot in common and have remained friends ever since.

I really enjoyed the well developed character in the book. Was there anything taken from your own life and put into the story?

Along with my childhood experiences, I included a number of “autobiographical” elements in the story. One is my work as an art historian and my fascination with artists such as William Blake and his visionary illustrations, especially the works he did of Dante’s Inferno. I also incorporated my interest in Asian art and culture in the character of Maro Guido, an art crimes investigator who is half Japanese. I wanted to explore his views about art from a non-Western perspective. And, I set Epiphany’s Gift in southern Ohio where I lived for four years while attending Ohio University. I was fascinated with Appalachian culture and wanted to immerse myself in the area and its special landscape.

This book blends several genres exceptionally well. Was this your intention or did this happen organically while writing?

When I first started writing Epiphany’s Gift, I intended to create a series of stories that combined paranormal events with art crimes. I wanted my readers to understand the problem of art theft and the significance of taking cultural treasures out of the public arena and into private collections where they are only seen by a few individuals. I believe that art has a lot to teach us about how our civilization developed and why we are who we are. So, I think that art belongs in a larger world that is open to the public.

But I also wanted to explore the issue of climate change and environmental degradation. I was encouraged by Dan Bloom, a climate activist and editor of the Cli-Fi Report, to explore various aspects of global warming and its consequences in my writing. In Epiphany’s Gift I take on the issue of fracking and its consequences. In subsequent books, I plan to focus on a number of climate-related issues including the spread of tropical diseases, effects on water resources, and catastrophic weather events.

So, my stories will be about paranormal events, art crimes and global climate change. Something for everyone!

When will this book be available and where can readers pick up a copy?

I’ve just sent the manuscript off to the publisher, so I expect the book will be available in May or June 2019. It will be available on Amazon, through Archway Publishing, and on my website: www.mallorymoconnor.com. Hopefully, it will later be available at libraries and bookstores. Connect with me through my website and I’d be happy to answer questions.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite | Amazon

For thirty years, Epiphany Mayall has worked as a psychic medium in the small Spiritualist community of Cassadaga, Florida. But when she returns to her childhood home in Mt. Eden, Ohio, to visit her aging mother, she finds that the rural community is reeling from a series of alarming events. The pristine world of her childhood is being destroyed. Wells and creeks are polluted, and earthquakes have become a frequent danger.

Epiphany’s former professor and mentor, art historian Dr. John Bernhardt, believes that the problems are the result of fracking operations that are being carried out by an energy corporation in the region, and that someone from the company is also connected with the disappearance of an illustration of Dante’s Inferno from the university museum. Bernhardt writes an article for the local newspaper about his theory, but the next day he is found dead. When John’s ghost appears to Epiphany and tells her that he was poisoned, she becomes determined to find the answers to several questions: who is responsible for the environmental disaster, who stole the illustration of Dante’s Inferno from the university museum, and who murdered Professor Bernhardt?

Aided by art crimes investigator, Maro Gaido, and by Blake King, an eccentric local artist, Epiphany tries to put together the pieces of a disturbing puzzle, but finds her efforts thwarted at every turn. Even a State Senator cannot help. As the earthquakes escalate, Epiphany begins to wonder if even her psychic gifts are enough to find the answers before it’s too late to save her loved ones from disaster.

www.mallorymoconnor.com

Escape From Kolyma

Escape from Kolyma: Aborigin Is a Bear Region by [Litvin PhD, Chester]

Chester Litvin, PhD has woven together an Orwellian world of doctrine, dogma, and propaganda in his book, Escape from Kolyma: Aborigin is a Bear Region. Psychological warfare has run rampant in the form of super-viruses that attack the psyche. Citizens are forced to beg, steal, borrow, and worse just to get by. Concentration camps and dictatorship have come back into fashion, and the people of Aborigin are suffering. The super-viruses are turning good people bad, and stripping the people of their personalities. They are being brainwashed and turning on each other. Professor Kryvoruchko is aware of the widespread infection, and may be Aborigin’s and the world’s only hope.

Many parts of the book are reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany, complete with propaganda and concentration camps. The cultural rift present is also indicative of a Hitler-like state. Convince one man he is better than another and he will let you pick his pocket. Give him someone to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you. That’s a paraphrase of a Lyndon B. Johnson quote about racism, but it applies here. Readers will draw many similarities between the culture of Litvin’s Aborigin and racism and “otherism” still found present all over the world. This is a divide-and-conquer mentality that worked wonders for Hilter, and still works in politics and socially in other areas.

The book is scary to me in its realism. I don’t believe that these are things that could never happen. I think psychological warfare isn’t a half-step from where we are now. In America, in particular, racism is still alive and well. People still continue to look down on groups of people they see as “less thans.” In the book, groups of people are stripped of every possession and jailed. They are killed. This kind of hatred for others is contagious. This kind of infection continues to spread if it isn’t stopped. I’m afraid we are closer to this kind of thing happening than I’d like to admit.

A part of the book that particularly bothered me was the children emulating the adults that they watched. Apparently, the children were also infected. They, too, were brainwashed. They mimicked what they saw being done before them down to raping and killing others. The children became thugs. There seemed to be an entire loss of innocence. This may be disturbing for readers, but it’s important. Children become what they know. They imitate what they see. This serves as a reminder for people to be worthy of emulation.

I will say that the book is complex. This wasn’t an easy Sunday afternoon kind of read, and with its subject matter, it shouldn’t be. I found myself re-reading parts that I didn’t understand. It was not always easy for me to follow. It requires some time and thought to get through. With that being said, sentence structure, grammar, and spelling were pretty impeccable.

Litvin delves into some unpleasant scenarios for the sake of opening eyes it seems to me. He gives some reminders about how easily it is for us, as humans, to lose our humanity or to follow blindly as sheep. He keeps some underdogs in there for us to cling to as we grapple through the book. It’s not an easy read, but serves as an important reminder. As Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” This sentiment echos through these pages.

Pages: 432 | ASIN: B07N3SXLYV

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Her Stories Are Universal

Sylvia Sanchez Garza Author Interview

Sylvia Sanchez Garza Author Interview

Cascarones follows the life of a Mexican American girl in Texas that must balance her culturally rich heritage in a whitewashed school. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me to write and share my story since I believe that diversity is so important to all of us. Everyone needs to know that being different is a gift― especially our young readers. They need to be able to see themselves, their culture, and their traditions in books, music, and movies. Since reading has always been one of my passions, I realized that there was a lack of published stories that reflected Mexican American families such as mine.

When I was growing up, I loved it when our teachers would take us to the library to check out books. As I grew older, I started to realize that most of those books were about people that I couldn’t relate to. The characters weren’t anything like my family or friends. They didn’t look like us and definitely didn’t talk like us. When I started visiting bookstores, the same seemed true. Even today, it is still difficult to find books written by Mexican American authors in libraries or bookstores. I felt it was important to write about my beautiful culture and traditions so that readers would be able to experience the rich and colorful experiences that I was so privileged to grow up with.

We get to explore Suzy’s character all the way to adulthood. What were some driving ideals behind her character?

Cascarones is about a Mexican American girl growing up in South Texas always surrounded by family and friends. Love, faith, and simple fun are seen through her character. In a way, her stories are universal because everyone has their own version of Suzy’s story.

She grew up surrounded by people who left a huge impression on her just by being in her life. Her character is able to change and adapt to the situations that change in her life. Many of the characters in Cascarones are based on people who passed away at a very young age. They are vital to Suzy’s life and helped to shape who she becomes. Since Suzy grows up in a large extended family that is surrounded by love, she realizes that everyone in her life is important even though she is faced by challenges.

Each story gives more insight into the family as well as their culture and history. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?

The title Cascarones represents the cycle of life. The cascaron starts out as an egg with so much promise for life. The gold yolk inside symbolizes the life that we all have since we all start our journey as an egg. However, in order to make a cascaron the egg is removed, and the shell is then decorated in the most beautiful and artistic way possible. It is then cracked, falls to the ground and becomes part of the earth. It fertilizes the dirt and is reborn with the grass, trees, and flowers. That is what happens to us. Our life begins as an egg. We all have a gold yolk that represents our inner soul, but at the end our body goes back to the ground. The shell or the cascaron represents us, for we are all here only temporarily. In an instant we could be gone, for we do not know when our time will come. Life is fragile, just like a cascaron.

Everyone has a story inside of them waiting to be written. If there is not anything out there that reflects who you are, then it’s up to you to do something about it. Whether it’s about one’s religion or no religion, culture, or even sexual orientation it’s important to share one’s own story. Start writing and get the message out to everyone else. Once the writing starts, the rest will fall into place.

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

My next book is titled The Golden Egg and should be released next month. I’m really excited about it because it will be a bilingual chapter book. One page will be in English and the following page in Spanish. Even though Cascarones has some Spanish in it, many people have asked about a bilingual version.

I also have a poetry book that is forthcoming. Poetry is something that I truly enjoy, and it’s a beautiful way to express feelings in an artistic way. I have several selections that I’m excited to share with readers.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Cascarones is a young adult bildungsroman, a coming of age story narrated in a non-linear fashion that revolves around the life of a Mexican American family living in the Rio Grande Valley in Deep South Texas. The main character, Suzy, as well as her family and friends are encircled by rich traditions and culture of the region, shaping who she becomes. There are many beautiful people depicted in this novel who helped transform Suzy. The narrative shifts from present to the past to connect the reader with cultural traditions that changed through the years. It exposes how Easter was and is currently celebrated in the Rio Grande Valley and growing up during the sixties and seventies as a Mexican American amidst discriminatory undertones.

Sylvia Sánchez-Garza was born in Mercedes, Texas and raised in Weslaco, Texas. As a young girl, her family moved to Houston, Texas for a few years while her father worked on his doctorate at the University of Houston. She returned to and settled in the Rio Grande Valley. “I knew that it would always be my home,” Dr. Sánchez-Garza confessed. She and her husband live in Edinburg, Texas and own a real estate business. She has four sons, who make her very proud. She holds a B.A. in English, an M.A. in School Administration, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. Cascarones is her first novel.

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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 American 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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