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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.

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Spiral into Darkness – Trailer

He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.

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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

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A Trail of Honesty – Trailer

Summertime is vacation time for the Angelino family, and the two Angelino boys are excited about their upcoming camping trip. They’re going to the local state park, where they can swim, go fishing, and look for wildlife!

Being on vacation doesn’t mean the boys have to be careful. An encounter with a sneezing deer provides their father with an opportunity to teach the boys about respecting wildlife and staying alert for danger. Knowing more about the park’s wildlife helps the boys have more fun while staying safe. They discover staying quiet and moving slowly makes it easier to see the animals and birds that call the park home.

At the camp, the boys have responsibilities like the rest of the family. When they neglect one of these responsibilities and lie about it, they wind up in trouble—and learn an important lesson.

Beautifully illustrated, A Trail of Honesty teaches children about honesty while explaining actions have consequences. J. A. Angelo’s delightful story is an ideal way for parents to use consequences to teach children how to be better people—not simply to punish them.

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Gerald of Kerk

Gerald of Kerk by [Keenan, Paul Thomas]

Gerald of Kerk was an interesting read. I can’t say I have ever read a book that was written quite like this one; seemingly a fictional biography of the main character, Gerald. Although rather than covering his entire life we only read from his late grade school years until around his senior year of high school.

At first, I was little confused with the progression of the book because it didn’t seem to be reaching any sort of a climax or striving toward any particular purpose. Come to find out, the book would continue this way and end this way as well. Actually, I was surprised to have found myself at the end of the book and kept thinking I was missing another chapter, at least. I think I would have to say that overall, the entire book felt similarly abrupt. For instance, in the scene where Gerald exhibits a bit of bravery in going to rescue his bicycle from the neighborhood bullies, I felt a little letdown because the build up to this scene was emotional and the outcome was not what I expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, I just feel it could have been less abrupt and more fulfilling for the reader. But then again, the fact that Gerald’s experiences aren’t over the top and dramatic is what makes the book so relatable.

The charming aspects of the story are the childhood memories and experiences of Gerald that the author takes us through. I think that the feelings and thoughts and experiences are very familiar and relatable to the average reader, and they make the story compelling enough to be a page turner. While the writing could use some polish the story and characters are written well enough to be touching.

The relationship between Gerald and his childhood friends is the focal point of the story, as is his developing sense of self and morals. I really ended up loving Gerald’s character for his common sense and tendency to do the right thing even in the face of peer pressure. I think this book would be a great read for pre-teens, boys and girls alike, because it does a great job of illustrating how your life will not be ruined if you don’t always join the crowd. By the time Gerald reached his teenage years I really felt invested in his story and wanted to know what he would make of himself in college and beyond. I guess this is why I was a little disappointed with the story’s ending point. I could be wrong, but I feel like there has to be a Gerald of Kerk Part II on the way. If there was, I would definitely want to read it.

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Pages: 106 | ASIN: https://amzn.to/2Q4Ra78

East Wind Blowing

East Wind Blowing by [Leeward, C. U.]

East Wind Blowing is one of those books I get a hold of and feel grateful for the content. The author describes her life when living with an alcoholic. For close to two decades, she was married to an alcoholic who had no limit in his drinking. How unfortunate it was as the alcohol robbed her and her family of great times and a quality life. The author describes the types of alcoholics, what they do and what usually goes on in their heads. I loved reading the bit on how to handle cases of extreme alcoholism. It was refreshing, getting to know how to deal with those around us who seem to have thrown their lives at the brown bottle.

C.U. Leeward starts the book by narrating her story. Her childhood, the happy memories with her father, her brother, and all the wonderful things she loved doing in her early years. Her story was pretty much the normal story people tell. A beautiful tale, growing up, being adults and living life how we want. It was a happy tale up until she started talking about the alcoholism of her husband.

Having to raise a family with an alcoholic husband was not easy. I imagined how she persevered even when it would seem best to leave, just because of the kids. She sat and hoped, waiting for her alcoholic husband to change, but all was in vain. Talking about her helping her husband work at their construction company made me empathize with her. She was working as required but could see no paycheck. What a brave woman she was. I truly admired her.

East Wind Blowing is a great book. One thing that makes it good is that I was able to see addicts and alcoholics from a different view after reading the book. The saddest part was when the narrator could not see how damaging the abuse she got from her alcoholic husband was. “Oh I must’ve just overreacted to the situation; Why I must of exaggerated—yes that’s it; No No . . . it simply didn’t happen;” she would say. It took a while before she realized how bad it was. It was killing her as she stayed busy raising a family and running their joint business.

Alcoholism is not a pleasant thing. Through C. U. Leeward’s story, we can see how much wreckage it causes in families and among friends. There is no beauty in living with a person who can’t control their drinking. It drains the life out of you and in no time, you see yourself break into pieces. I like that C. U. Leeward boldly shared the ups and downs of her life. Her book is remarkable in more than one way. Her way of highlighting the plight of alcoholics is commendable.

Taking care of addicts of any drug may be challenging, but eventually one learns how to handle them in the appropriate way. There are important tips the author gives to both alcoholics and their victims. East Wind Blowing was a book worth my time.

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Pages: 256 | ASIN: B0792WD2V7

Four Letters

Four Letters by Lucy Hensinger follows 14-year-old Emily as she discovers letters that belonged to her great grandmother, Lucille. She reads them and while seeking out details of Lucille’s story, she learns a few things about herself as well. Her journey takes her both literally and figuratively to the place where Lucille lived. She traces her steps both in her real life trip to Boston and in her vivid dreams where she follows Lucille’s life. Emily becomes fascinated in her great-grandmothers story and can’t wait to see where her story takes her.

Four Letters has a nice flow and is easy to follow. It’s short enough that the length wouldn’t feel daunting to younger readers but at the same time is engaging enough to keep readers interested. The story doesn’t get weighed down with Emily’s problems or her great-grandmother’s tumultuous love life. Hensinger manages to keep things light throughout the book.

I liked the incorporation of real places in Boston and the surrounding areas. I have been to Boston before, and recognized the narrow streets and great big buildings with countless windows. I have also been to Salem to the House of Seven Gables and some of the museums there. Hensinger did a good job giving the reader a feel for those places and will likely inspire people to visit.

Emily is a character that many readers will identify with. She is a fiery, feisty redhead who has found her way into some trouble at home. She doesn’t always shy away from a fight. She takes a trip to see her grandmother and discovers bits and pieces of her ancestry and becomes enthralled with her great-grandmother’s story. That is probably a good and productive escape for her from the trouble she found herself in at home. I identify with the ancestry myself. I thirst for any knowledge I can acquire about my own family history. It is easy to get wrapped up in the search for family history.

If I have any complaint at all, it would be that I felt it lacked a big “aha” moment. There wasn’t a big plot climax for me. I feel like the build-up was great. I was interested to see what happened between Lucille and Opie. I followed along and felt like I was as anxious Emily to see why they didn’t end up together. I don’t feel like that really got resolved. I know Emily just sort of resigned to the fact that she was grateful that her great-grandparents ended up together, but I would have liked to know the details of what happened between them after becoming invested in the characters.

It was a good, well-written story with characters that young readers will enjoy. Any reader will enjoy touring Boston and Salem with Emily. I look forward to more stories about these characters.

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Pages: 108 | ASIN: 1481733419

Imaginative Solutions

Yossi Lapid Author Interview

Yossi Lapid Author Interview

Christmas with Snowman Paul is a heartwarming story showing empathy and helping others. What were some important themes you wanted to capture in this book?

I wanted my story to resonate with themes that address the true meaning of the holiday season such as friendship, inclusion, and family. The appeal of these values is in many ways near universal. My hope was that the story will raise questions such as: What does it mean to be a best friend? How does it feel to be excluded on a major holiday? Should we try harder to come up with imaginative solutions to problems of exclusion which seem, at first sight, insoluble? At the same time, I tried to address these themes with a fresh perspective and in a gentle, engaging and humorous way.

Ultimately, this is a simple story that encourages children of all ages to be sensitive to the needs of those who feel lonely and have no one to celebrate with.

The illustrations in this book are fantastic and serve to compliment the story. What was the art collaboration like with Joanna Pasek?

Collaborating with Joanna Pasek has been sheer joy from the very beginning. What I admire most in Joanna’s work is her unmatched ability to capture the emotional core of our key characters. The dog, for instance, is a key character that did not appear in my original text and was entirely Joanna’s creation. As an author, I always know that Joanna will find the best ways to match the narrative with compelling images which do not only illustrate the stories but also compliment them in new exciting ways. This holds true even in cases where text requires her to perform very difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible, illustrations. Click this link http://bit.ly/2ARLuE7 to see Joanna’s magic in action.

The story is told in rhyme. Do you find kids learn language easier with rhymes?

Most definitely! Rhyme is one of the most effective ways to install the love of reading at an early age. It helps keep attention, enhance retention and enrich vocabularies. Children love rhymes because they are musical and amusing and because they help them anticipate what is coming next. The timeless appeal of nursery rhymes, for instance, can be explained by these attributes. The instinct to rhyme was with me from a very early age but, I think, it comes naturally to most children.

What is the next Snowman Paul story you have in the works?

First, I would like to encourage Snowman Paul friends to check out the other nine volumes already published in the Snowman Paul series (https://author.amazon.com/books). But there are many other new adventures in store for Snowman Paul some of which are already written and eagerly awaiting their turn to be published. In addition, Joanna and I are just about to come out with a new picture books series titled “Yara, the Jungle Girl”. If you like Snowman Paul, you are likely to fall in love with Yara!

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website

Christmas with Snowman Paul by [Lapid, Yossi]

Join Snowman Paul on this heart-warming and humorous Christmas Eve adventure! 

What would you do if your beloved snowman told you that he feels sad about being left out in the cold while you and your entire family are celebrating a joyous Christmas Eve inside? Can Dan figure out a way to make Snowman Paul’s Christmas just as unique as his? Read this heartwarming and humorous Christmas story to find out 

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Once Upon a Blog: Then and Now

Once Upon a Blog: Then and Now by [Hallmark, Shelley L.]

Shelley L. Hallmark began her blog after she published her first book back in 2011. Once Upon a Blog is a collection of those blog posts that share her struggles and how she remains positive. Hallmark is a single mother of a special needs child and writes short, positive, and honest accounts of her life. All of her posts share how she maneuvers life and the lessons she embraces along the way. Reading the blog posts provides a sense of connection, for the struggles you relate to and those you can’t, Hallmark is still giving her personal motives, hardships, and balance in a way that encourages the reader.

The book is well organized, laying out the blog posts with their dates and titles. Each post is easy to read but heartfelt. I found the book to be a beautiful read, the honesty of the author made this feel stronger, inviting readers to connect on a deeper level. To open up your life in this way is a brave and I appreciate the feeling of being let into someone’s world; like listening to a friend talk about their life. I truly loved the positivity that this book exudes even while discussing real life struggles that pull at the heartstrings. Hallmark writes in a way that makes the reader feel like she is writing to them, aned for them, which strengthens the connection between writer and reader. This book is a well written memoir of one woman’s life. It’s a memoir delivered over six years through blog posts, and compiled in this novel for easy consumption. I always appreciated the advice delivered as it was gentle, but still resonated with truth. I greatly enjoyed reading this book and feel like I have benefited from it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a true story that is full of love, life, and wisdom.

Pages: 342 | ASIN: B07C2JZRK6

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Free Love and the Sexual Revolution: Finding Yourself by Removing Sexual Boundaries

I feel liberated just reading this book! I was totally caught by surprise by how much I loved this book. Any preconceived notions I had about this type of living situation were quickly dispelled by this beautifully written memoir about one woman’s life as the owner of a free love nudist community in California. She walks the reader through her early life, youth, and young adulthood and how this former top insurance salesperson and her aerospace engineer husband ended up running this alternative commune.

This community is located in Topanga Canyon, CA and is not hard to find on the internet and other sources like books, TV and even movies. She describes the community and property beautifully as being “nestled like a gentle Buddha in the wooded tangle of Topanga Canyon” and it made me instantly want to go there. The way she describes life with this free love family both answered questions and created more curiosity in me.  The star struck silly girl in me wants to know all the celebrities who went there, as the author mentions.

She tells amazing, sexy, erotic, and loving stories from her time at Sandstone, but she also shares some of the conflicts that inevitably arise in this type of environment. I was particularly interested by the chapters about the making of a film at the site. I am definitely going to have to hunt that movie down to watch after reading this book.

I love that she included essays by many of the former family members who shared their experiences at Sandstone. It seems like so many people felt transformed by their ability to be so open and free among this community of free thinkers and people who did not want to be weighed down by jealousy or judgment. I love that they promoted their lifestyle and had workshops and publications. These were people who were not just flippantly promiscuous or polyamorous. They lived this lifestyle with intention and the desire to live in a conscious way outside of what was forced on them by society.

The author shares openly about her life story which is somewhat sad in her early years, but she maintains such a positive and mindful attitude that it is inspiring to read. I am so impressed by how she ran with who she is and what she believed in. I find this awe inspiring and this book got me thinking about the things about which I am passionate. She also shares so much about her time running a cat rescue and you can really experience her love for these animals in her loving descriptions about these creatures.

This was not a smutty or perverse book, as some might assume, far from it. This work of non-fiction about the Sandstone Retreat paints this community with a beautiful brush. It was not some swinger club or sex club but a group of like-minded individuals who came together and chose to live in pure openness and honesty. This magically led to an amazing experience for so many people and never morphed into anything ugly or tragic. Awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Pages: 202 | ISBN: 9781508543558

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