Blog Archives

Caught in a Conundrum

Richa Gupta Author Interview

Richa Gupta Author Interview

Skeins follows a group of Indian woman as they travel through Europe learning something about life, each other, and themselves. What served as your inspiration for this uplifting novel?

Both my novels relate to a world well-known to me: urban educated India. I have been travelling a great deal for the past 14 years and I undertake at least one group tour overseas each year. Though the itinerary for the tour described in Skeins is similar to that of a group tour I undertook with Cosmos© in 2015, the similarity ends there as the tourists in the latter included men and women of varied nationalities. Also, when I had traveled to Ireland in 2016, my suitcase had not been transferred in time to the connecting flight by the airline staff at Munich airport during transit. These experiences sparked off my imagination, which led to the birth of Skeins.

There is a great collection of women from several generations in this group. Who was your favorite character to write for?

It’s like asking someone who is your favourite child. Each woman character is alive in my imagination with her own distinct personality, dreams and circumstances. They are all resilient as I don’t sympathize with whiners. I like women who get back on their feet after a hard tumble and find their own path in life without seeking sympathy or support. However, I particularly empathized with the characters Sandra D’Souza and Vidya Rao who are caught in a conundrum and need to make tough decisions.

I enjoyed how the characters each had their own story that contributed to the depth of their character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?

Though the novel is a breezy read, it deals with serious societal issues related to women. I feel very strongly about the thwarting of women’s emotional, professional and intellectual independence and expression by a patriarchal society and a dominant partner who limit her role to that of a mother and a comfort provider. The novel also depicts the generic issues of social hierarchy, aspirational lifestyles, the violence within and without our homes, loneliness and dementia.

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

I have a few ideas that I am exploring. When that creative spark is ignited, I know I will not take longer than two months to pen the story and edit it.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

What happens when the skeins of life of 16 diverse Indian women, aged 25 to 67, get entwined when they travel to Spain and Portugal in an all-women’s tour? 

With a galaxy of identifiable characters from modern urban India depicted with light-hearted mirth in a travel environment, the novel explores serious issues, such as the quest for an independent identity and economic independence, the violence within and outside our homes, the loneliness of old age and the need for constructive channelization of youthful energy. Spanning events across a little more than a year, Skeins depicts how self-expression and a supportive environment trigger a cataclysmic effect and stimulate the women to realize their dreams.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

18 Cranes: Kaifeng Chronicles, Book One

18 Cranes: Kaifeng Chronicles, Book One by [Campbell, Robert]

For most of his life, Bing has prepared ceaselessly to take the civil servant examinations, with little time for anything beyond the collections of texts that dictate political matters. Passing the exams would be the first step in following his father’s path, and also determine nearly everything else about his future. Finally, the day to begin them has arrived, and Bing faces the grueling challenges before him with understandable anxiety, but also a necessary determination. Outside of the exam compound, however, his focus is frequently drawn to a mysterious dream that recurs almost nightly, as well as a glimpse into history from his beloved grandfather.

In 18 Cranes by Robert Campbell, we’re introduced to Bing, his loved ones, and some of the traditions of village life in 17th century China. With an engaging narrative and colorful descriptions of Bing’s world, 18 Cranes does an excellent job of holding the reader’s attention, even while discussing a subject as mundane as civil servant exams. Despite a lack of any real action, the story never seems stagnant. Of course, there’s more going on than just rigorous testing. Bing is also suddenly plagued by a recurring dream, the meaning of which eludes him. The reader learns a lot about Bing and his relationships with his loved ones over the course of several expertly crafted conversations that examine each part of the dream, which always ends with 18 red-crested cranes ascending into the sky. The number 18 in particular holds special intrigue and multiple explanations are suggested for its meaning. To further the feeling of mystery, toward the end of the story, Grandfather Ai begins to tell Bing about the origins of their family. The short oral history is enough to stoke Bing’s stifled imagination. Restricted by his strict studies, Bing has never had the opportunity to read many legends or works of fiction and his curiosity, although kept under control, nonetheless exists. Grandfather Ai’s revelations also provide an interesting twist for the reader.

The uncertainty of the future is an overarching theme throughout the book and is explored through both tangible avenues, like Bing’s performance in the exams, as well as in deciphering the symbolism of his dream. There is also a considerable emphasis placed on Bing’s age, with repeated mentions that he could be one of the youngest people to ever pass the exams on the first try. Because of this, it reads a good bit like a coming of age story.

18 Cranes is subtitled “Kaifeng Chronicles Book One”, in reference to the village that Bing’s maternal ancestors came from. I’d be excited to read the rest of the series and follow Bing further through the avenues of his life. The abundance of detailed descriptions make it easy to picture the aspects of Bing’s village life, from the shores of West Lake to the flowers in the gardens. This book is an interesting and well written story that moves at a good pace.

Pages: 123 | ASIN: B07C8LC32H

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Skeins

Skeins by [Richa Gupta]

Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.

Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.

If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.

I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.

Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.

I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.

The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Love After Life

Love After Life by [Sieg, Richard]

Some loves cannot be contained within a single life. Such is the story of Kathleen and James. Two high school sweethearts, from North Carolina, that had that love at first sight moment, knew they were soul mates, and for them it is not just a cliché phrase. When an accident occurs and ends their lives too short everyone around them is left at a loss. Their best friend Nancy at their funeral however, quotes James saying they will be reborn again to find each other and love again. James is reincarnated as Joseph far away in Saint Louis. At the age of five he starts remembering dreams, but the dreams are old memories from James. With the help of Dr. Simms the family is able to piece together the past life Joseph relives each night in his sleep. But where is Kathleen? Will Joseph find her again? He believes he that he will; it will just take time.

Many cultures around the world believe in reincarnation. This is a topic I have never given a lot of thought to, but after reading Love After Life by Richard Sieg, I am willing to believe it could happen. It really touches on your emotions, the passion Kathleen and James felt for each other, it is what couples dream of having. One of the obstacles this novel tackles is the Christian view that reincarnation is not possible and to even consider it is blasphemy. Joseph’s family is able to overcome these beliefs due to the overwhelming evidence Dr. Simms compiles. The same however is not the case for Kimberly. Her Southern Baptist family refuses to accept she had a past life, and further despise Joseph. They are an example of the saying, ‘money can’t buy happiness’ and ‘looks are everything’. It breaks my heart reading how they treated Kimberly growing up, and especially after she meets Joseph. The interactions are filled with conflict, passion, and a deep sadness. All Kimberly wants from her family is love, but all they are concerned with is appearances. This is the complete opposite of Joseph’s family once Dr. Simms brought his dad around to things. Joseph gives Kimberly everything she is craving, love, the missing piece of herself as Kathleen, and a family that loves her the way she is.

The novel starts out with James and Kathleen and moves to Joseph’s story growing up. The mix or story and timelines is easy to follow and flows organically because James and Joseph are the same person inside. I enjoyed the conflict with Joseph’s father, his struggle to accept things while his mom is just there by his side, not understanding but accepting what was happening. When his father finally accepts that Joseph is the reincarnation of James, it is a touching moment and sets the tone for the remainder of the story. You see how this shapes his life over how Kathleen’s life is shaped. Their lives are interesting and realistic and you can’t help but keep reading to see where they end up.

Pages: 235 | ASIN: B079VVWHDQ

Buy Now From Amazon.com

End it By the Gun

End it By the Gun by [Obi, Kenechukwu]

Ken Obi’s latest novel End It By The Gun features charismatic and determined Beck, who’s eagerness to get a top book deal and offer for a screen play, ruins his life. The book delves into Beck’s past, his relationships with women and writing and his latest novel. It is full of dynamic relationships with both women and men, family ordeals and political strife. There’s even a spattering of nature. The novel cannot be simply put into one genre as it ventures into fantasy, political thriller and drama, so there’s bound to be a part that everyone can enjoy.

The book can be split into two parts – the first half is about Beck and his life, his dream to become a famous writer and his relationships. The second half is his eleventh novel which features Abdoullah, Farouk, and Murktar and their deadly pathogen V1B6F3.

The first half is characterized by tumultuous relationships, between Beck and his family and women. It has a fast-paced style with a masculine tone and lots of underlying energy in the short chapters. There are twists and turns constantly occurring in the chapters that jump around different time periods in Beck’s life. He experiences strange meetings, fame and kidnapping. This style of writing is inviting and leaves the reader wanting more.

However, I felt that some parts the book were awkwardly written – “I read that to mean that he must have thought I had given up on dashing away”, and I thought that it could be overly descriptive for a book that means to move quickly. I also felt that there was a lack of sympathy for women in the book – Beck’s wife is made out to be crazy with no explanation, and his agent has no name for most of the narrative.

The second part of the book begins in a way reminiscent of a zombie apocalypse. This is the book that makes Beck famous. It has a science versus nature theme which ultimately turns political, alongside this runs the age-old battle between good and evil. The nature aspect of it focuses on an area called Shonga, which is untouched by humans. This part is the gem of the book and where the writing style really works. The vivid descriptions of the forest and way of life offer a rich picture which makes the reader long to be in nature with the characters, away from their urban lifestyles.

The characters in the second half of the book are presented in a linear fashion which evokes a level of understanding which is not present in the first half of the text. The characters in this part are all from different walks of life, which goes to show how many people can influence an event.

I thought that the tone of the book is inviting, quick and full of energy and I think many people would enjoy the interesting characters and fresh perspectives.

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B07DHK1PHF

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Beguiled

Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.

Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’

Buy Now From Amazon.com

In Hiding Book Trailer

A dream. A memory. That’s all Brij remembers of her past – as well as the fact that she was abandoned by a dirt road at the age of three. After getting picked up by a passing stranger who seemed to know everything about her, she lives the next fourteen years of her life in an enormous nuclear power plant, performing high-intensity sports games inside the plant’s five-mile reactor for spectators – people who keep the plant operating. Most days, she doesn’t mind. Then again, she doesn’t have a choice – if she refuses to perform, she’s at risk of being abandoned all over again. When mysterious images start haunting Brij during the performances, she begins to wonder if her life in the plant is real. No matter how much she tries to ignore them, they keep coming back. A series of strange events start to unfold that ultimately leads her to make a choice – whether to live a lie, or face the truth of what she really is, and why she’s here.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Strange Combination

David K. Hulegaard Author Interview

David K. Hulegaard Author Interview

Icarus details the captivating account of P.I. Brinkman’s investigation into the disappearance of young Jane Emmett. What was your inspiration behind this story?

I’ve suffered from night terrors since I was a child, and sometimes the dreams can get pretty intense. Over time, I’ve learned how to use this to my advantage, and I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand to scribble down as much as I can remember. The first seeds of Icarus began there, and then I started to fill in the rest over the next couple of months. I’d say the concept is a hybrid of influences: the TV series Lost, the video game series BioShock, and the movie Battle Royale. It’s a strange combination of things that really shouldn’t fit together, but I still somehow felt they could.

This story is set in West Virginia in 1947. Why did you choose this time and place as the backdrop?

I wanted the story to take place in a fictitious location, but still feel believable. I love it when people tell me they’ve googled Ashley Falls trying to find it on a map. 😊 I guess I’ve always been drawn to small towns. I love the sense of community, and the whole “everyone knows everybody” atmosphere. Ashley Falls is a sleepy little town nestled away in the woods, but close enough to big cities so that it’s not completely cut off from the rest of the world. I ultimately chose West Virginia because of its proximity to key places I thought would make for a great setting.

As for the decade, it was the perfect fit for what I was trying to accomplish. I’m fascinated with urban legends and conspiracy theories, and some of my favorites are from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I thought it would be fun to pull some of that mid-century paranoia into a post-WWII world and see what it might’ve looked like. I mean, if people reported seeing men in black in the ‘60s, how much earlier were they in existence before they were actually noticed?

One thing I found exceptional in this novel was the characters, especially Miller Brinkman. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating his character?

Thank you! I really appreciate that. What I ultimately wanted for Miller was to be relatable. When you look at some of the most famous detectives in literature, you start to see a lot of the same characteristics. I wanted to create a character who was different. He’s not a big city P.I., and he doesn’t have much experience dealing with things like kidnapping and murder. Although he’s a logical and capable sleuth, Miller’s still sort of getting his feet wet and learning on the job. I wanted readers to come along on his journey and hopefully be invested in his growth.

It was also important to me to find the right balance in his character. He’s not Superman, but he’s not bumbling either. No answer comes to him easily. I wanted him to work hard for every inch he advances in the case.

Icarus is the first book in the Noble Trilogy. What can readers expect from book 2 in the series, The Invisible War?

The Invisible War is a bit of a departure from Icarus. It had to be. Miller couldn’t have gone through the events of the first book and come out the same man, so I really wanted to explore his mental state, and what that meant for his future. He made some powerful allies in Icarus, and those relationships open the door for him to explore a new opportunity working with the F.B.I.

In Icarus, we see Miller working somewhat in a silo. In The Invisible War, he’s handed a rather sinister case that’s going to require more help, and he’s put in charge of a special task force. Miller’s never had to lead before, so this is an opportunity for him to evolve even further.

However, something else is changing inside Miller at the same time. He’s becoming stronger. Faster. Bloodthirsty. Something dormant inside of him is beginning to bloom.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

It’s the winter of 1947 in Ashley Falls, West Virginia, and a teenage girl has gone missing. Local private detective Miller Brinkman takes the case, quickly uncovering a string of bizarre clues. A hidden diary, cryptic riddles, and buried secrets all pique Miller’s interest, but one key detail gives him pause: the girl’s parents haven’t reported her disappearance to the authorities. As the case deepens, Miller’s investigation begins to poke holes in the idyllic picture of his beloved hometown. No longer certain whether anyone in his community can be trusted, Miller dives headfirst into a desperate search for the truth that extends far beyond the borders of Ashley Falls. He soon discovers that his missing persons case is not an isolated incident, but part of an otherworldly mystery—one that, if confronted, may threaten the very future of humanity.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Epiphany

Epiphany (Epiphany #1-2)

Epiphany, written by Sonya Deanna Terry, is a two-part novel that explores the beginnings of currency through a magical adventure where the forgotten past collides with the future.

Book One: The Golding, introduces us to Rosetta, a woman of many talents, ranging from tarot reading to organizing book clubs and being a mother to a sultry teenage girl. The past is then uncovered through a novel Rosetta reads, bringing to life a world of elves, faerie clans, body kings, and potions. Soon it becomes evident that the elves have a message for the people of the future and from here begins an epic adventure where love, life, and fantasy come together for a modern day fairy tale.

Book Two: The Silvering, explores The Global Financial Crisis and the impact it has on the people of the future. Rosetta and her book club friends stumble into a quest for “The Silvering” where letters from the past give clues of the future. What is the Currency of Kindness and will it return in the lifetime of Rosetta and her friends?

Epiphany is a novel with an epic story line involving financial struggles, intimate relationships and a book filled with elves and mystery by a mysterious Lillibridge.

The book alternates between Rosetta’s current life and the novel she is reading, weaving the two stories together in a package of magic, elves, and fantasy. As you enter the world of prehistoric Norway, you can’t help but be entranced by the magical world portrayed through vibrant colours, beautiful oaked woods and most importantly, elves who are between reality and the Dream Sphere. The switch to the modern day brings about relatable issues such as family problems, relationship woes, and moody teenagers. The two worlds then collide, creating a modern-day fairy tale, filled with magic and consequence.

There are also letters which help establish clues and meaning to some of the characters. These letters are vital to the story line and give us an insight into people’s personalities and real-life problems. Some of the problems are eerily relatable, from financial stresses and relationship woes, leaving the plot line feeling almost as if it could genuinely be real life.

Pieter of the Brumlynds is an elf who ventures into the Dream Sphere to help someone in the future. Pieter is a deep thinker, analyzing his destiny while also getting frustrated at the simplicity of humans. Malieka, Pieters mother, ventures into the Dream Sphere, sometimes meeting strange and beautiful creatures who are determined to pass on important messages. Throughout the novel we watch the characters grow in both strength and courage, as they venture into the unknown world.

The imagery conjured by the author is both beautiful and enchanting. The colours, descriptions of nature and the Dream Sphere leave the reader imagining their world with a tinge of fairy dust and sparkle. Phrases such as “emerald tinged blackness” or “hair like lava, eyes of black stone” are just a few examples of the magic the words bring to life on the page.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel with a dash of romance, magic and a modern-day twist.

Pages: 1095 | ASIN: B01NCNFS6F

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Stainer: A Novel of the ‘Me Decade’ – Audio Book

Stainer AudiobookA coming-of-age tale set in 1975 New York during Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade”, Stainer follows the misadventures of a naïve Jewish Columbia University student named Benjamin Steiner, who, on the night of his 21st birthday, meets not only the sweet girl of his dreams, a lovely young lady named Rebecca Glaser, but also an unprincipled drug-loving rogue from Princeton called P. T. Deighland. As the days pass, Ben’s immature inability to resist temptation and an overwhelming need to be “cool” gradually cause him to fall under Deighland’s malign influence until, at an impossibly glitzy Princeton party, he encounters and becomes spellbound by a ravishing but predatory high-fashion model named Anthea Montague.

When Rebecca returns from an unexpected overseas trip, Benjamin’s unreasoning jealousy over her friendship with another boy casts a shadow on their budding relationship. A series of rashly imprudent decisions abetted by Deighland and the model leave Ben feeling guilty and angry. At an ill-fated summer barbeque, he wrongly explodes at Rebecca and soon plunges headlong into a reckless self-destructive downward spiral, culminating in a horrific confrontation with Anthea Montague that brings his life crashing down in ruins.

Against the background of a vanished period in American history, Stainer offers a bittersweet nostalgic trip back to a less complex world, during a time of incautious excesses that, while deceptively fun and carefree, in due course forced many unwary youngsters like Benjamin Steiner to learn some necessary – but terribly painful – lessons about growing up.

Audible AudiobooksBuy Now From Amazon.com

 

%d bloggers like this: