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Imelda’s Secret

Imelda's Secret by [Liza Gino, Miho Kim, Jeannie Celestial PhD LCSW, Judith Mirkinson]

Imelda’s Secret written by Liza Gino is a book based on true stories and events. It is a book that tells a story about two women, cousins Gloria and Imelda, both survivors of World War Two. Through the war, they were people known as, ‘comfort women’. Although they are now living in San Francisco, they both struggle with the trauma. Gloria is the one who steps forward and tells her story, but with some hard and painful consequences for her two sons. But Imelda was keeping it a secret to protect her family. What happens when they find the courage and the strength to gather all different women and stories about their suffering? Together this becomes a story of the survivors and women’s rights.

As we know, Liza Gino is not only an author. She is also an advocate and change agent, as we may recognize in her writing. The story written here is more than just a passionate testimony. It is a powerful testament that war is dangerous and deadly for everyone. It tells a different kind of story, one that is often hidden. Years ago – it was taboo for those survivors to take a stand. But, Imelda’s Secret is an illuminating book that speaks volumes to those that were blind to these situations and those seeking justice.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and the straightforward chronology helped keep me on track. But I felt that the dialogue was sometimes sensationalistic in a book that otherwise feels grounded. As we see in the book, it is hard to speak up, but raising your voice can help you and others. Imelda’s Secret is a candid story about ordinary but giant women whose secrets should be heard by the world. As a true believer in a passionate fight, and taboo uncovering, I highly recommend this book thought-provoking book by author Liza Gino.

Pages: 210 | ASIN: B08LB5XG64

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Reagan’s Reward

Reagan's Reward (Thousand Islands Brides Book 3) by [Susan G Mathis]

Reagan didn’t know what to expect when she accepted a job as governess to a pair of mischievous 8 year olds. As a Christian employed by an esteemed Jewish family, she was doubly unsure of how the summer might pass. Any misgivings she had, however, were greatly reduced by the splendid beauty of the Thousand Islands… and the easy charm of Daniel, another employee of the Bernheim family. As Reagan struggles to become accustomed to her new charges and downplaying her own faith in front of the Bernheims, she also has to deal with her growing feelings for Daniel, complicated by their own difference in religion.

Set in the summer of 1912, Reagan’s Reward, by Susan Mathis, is a heartfelt story about apprehension in the face of new experiences, and the struggles that so often occur between the heart and the head. While Reagan is sure of where she stands in her beliefs, finding out how those fit in the lives of the people around her becomes a challenge she isn’t used to facing. Her growing attraction to Daniel, and his obvious attraction toward her, brings about the jealous animosity from another staff member, which is yet again a new experience. Set in the picturesque region of the Thousand Islands, an area that straddles the US-Canada border, Mathis makes the scenery and atmosphere come alive as it must have been at the height of its popularity as a destination for the wealthy. Because of the novella length, there isn’t much time for heavy character development, and because of that, Reagan, Daniel, the twins, and each of the other characters are basic and the story seems rushed. However, the glorious depictions of the life and sights in the area make up for that fact, and the Thousand Islands are very nearly the main character themselves. 

Faith is definitely the most prevalent theme in Reagan’s Reward, as it colors every thought and action in Reagan’s life. She relies on it when searching for patience with the twins, Jacob and Joseph, and understanding of her new circumstances. It is also the reason she is reluctant to initially admit her feelings for Daniel, as he proclaims he is Jewish, despite not actively practicing. Ultimately, too, it is a leap of faith that brings about the eventual resolution.

I enjoyed this book and Mathis skillfully crafted that time and place in such a way that it truly came alive. I wish the book was longer so that we could explore ideas and characters more. I liked Reagan and Daniel’s relationship, but I definitely wanted to see it explored in more depth. Reagan’s Reward is a compelling historical fiction romance novel that tells an emotional and heartfelt story that readers will enjoy. 

Pages: 189 | ASIN: B08MDNM82L

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NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos

NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos by Mady Menon is a historical and military fiction story about a real tribe (the Wanchos) in North East India, told by a fictional character. Peter Atamkhung Shawang is a student studying at Trinity College in London, but he plans to return to India to work on his thesis. Peter’s family is part of a tribe of headhunters who live in the village of Ninu. He shares the region’s history with fellow classmates and tells the story of his father’s childhood and career. Will the young man be able to hold on to his tribe’s traditions while living in an increasingly modern world?

Mady Menon has added a touch of authenticity to the story by including real historical events. The map at the beginning of the book helped me to better picture the region. You learn a lot about the history of North East India, from the constant struggles to maintain the Ahom kingdom for 600 years, to the native tribes living under British rule, to India becoming an independent republic and the many improvements made to the infrastructure in the area. I had little previous knowledge of the native people of this country, and it was interesting to read about the tribal structure and daily life in the villages. The author provided good descriptions of the setting, especially the village layout, the Naga Army headquarters, and Shawang’s mission school.

The historical information that was conveyed in the first part of the book, where Peter was relaying the history of the region reads a little like a professor giving a lecture. This slowed the pace of the story but it is all worth it in the end. There were portions where some of the historical details were repeated from previous chapters. The pace picks up when Peter was retelling his father’s life experiences and an overview of historical events was given while Shawang was visiting significant sites during his class trips and while working as a Circle Officer. I found the vocabulary definitions at the end of the book very helpful to clarify Indian terms used in the story. Ninu is an insightful and beautiful read that I highly recommend to readers looking to be immersed in an exotic and intriguing culture.

Pages: 272 | ASIN: B08GQYZ8BY

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Literary Titan Book Awards December 2020

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Gold Award Winners

Silver Award Winners

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

The Tragedy of Misunderstandings

Alexa Kingaard
Alexa Kingaard Author Interview

My Name is Rose follows a curious young woman who leaves a commune to explore the world and find herself. What were some ideas that informed this novels development?

The thread that runs through my novels is nostalgia. As a baby boomer, I lived through some of the best decades, experienced the life-changing views of all Americans that were shaped by the Vietnam conflict, as well as the hippie peace movement that followed. I was never extreme, but fads began and ended in California. A teenager or young adult couldn’t help but be swept up in the changes that were happening, and communes were an escape for many of my generation who preferred the unhurried environment they provided.

The plot line of Rose’s lineage sprang up from the well-known fact that “free love” was embraced during this time, especially in San Francisco, the poster city for peace rallies and an over-indulgence of mind-altering drugs. Without degrading personal choices or judging anyone’s character, I thought it would be an interesting perspective to pursue from the point of view of one couples’ offspring. This nugget of inspiration has nothing to do with my life or direct involvement, but is an encapsulated version of what might have happened in this situation. There was no particular incident that triggered this story, but it flowed easily once I started to write.

I enjoyed Rose’s character and evolution. Was there anything from yourself that you put into Rose’s character?

Like Rose, I was never the center of attention growing up and spent more time observing than participating. I cultivated my skills that were more cerebral, as opposed to physical, and Rose has a touch of my personality in her. I was able to weave her life through the years not so much with first-hand experience, but with knowledge I had acquired over decades that helped me to understand what links hearts and souls together. My protagonists are ordinary people dealing with difficult circumstances. My antagonists are as much self-doubt, anger and immaturity as they are a person, as we can damage ourselves just as easily as we can be damaged by another human being. The tragedy of misunderstandings and mistakes that lead to estrangement is something many of us have felt, and this particular family saga puts into perspective how everyone plays a part in the final outcome. As an author, I have the ability to shape my characters – the way they think, dress, talk, behave – in order to present a tight, neat package with what I hope is a satisfying ending for my readers.

I find that writers often ask themselves questions and let their characters answer them. Do you think was true for this book?

Great question! That is absolutely true in this story! When I started to think about this novel in my head, before I even started writing it, I knew there were a few endings that I could create. As I wrote, and the characters and situations evolved, I considered all of them in the back of my mind and how I would determine the final chapters. Interestingly, when I got to that section and the question of who Rose’s biological father was, the words just spilled onto the page. I didn’t question it, scrapped the other endings, and let it emerge to a natural conclusion. It was seamless.

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

During my first nine weeks of quarantine, I completed the first draft of my third novel, MIRACLE. The story revolves around two young women in the 1950s’. One lives in Southern California and must come to terms with the fact that four unsuccessful pregnancies leave adoption as the only option for herself and her husband. The inability to qualify with the adoption agency due to their advancing age – almost thirty was old in the 50s’ – steers them towards an alternative solution of adopting a child outside the United States. From 1945 to the 1970s, the Canadian government created maternity homes for young women who were without a spouse or family assistance. Forced to give birth in secrecy, it was understood that they would leave their baby behind for adoption by a suitable couple. The second young lady finds herself in a position that demands she reside in one of these homes for the last part of her pregnancy where she agonizes about the ultimate sacrifice that is forced upon her. These two women are destined to connect, but the ending is not as one might expect. I hope to have MIRACLE ready for publication by mid-2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Rose is unsettled, curious, and bored. Life in a hippie commune in the ‘70s is her parent’s dream come true, not hers. She doesn’t share their passion for living off the land, nor does she enjoy the isolation that is thrust upon her. When she convinces them to send her to public school in the nearby town, a new world opens up to her.

As she pursues her education, Rose chooses a different path, leaving her parents heartbroken at her insistence they are hiding something from her. She’s convinced her father isn’t the man her mother married.

Although she finds love far away from her roots and upbringing, her wounds only deepen as she keeps her family at arm’s length. What she loses during those years can only be retrieved with her understanding that “a Rose by any other name is still a Rose.”

With Kisses From Cécile

With Kisses From Cécile follows two young women, Ruth and her French pen pal, Cécile. Through their letters we get a glimpse of their lives and the beautiful bond that is shared between two friends. Authors Anne Armistead and Jan Agnello have written a historical novel of friendship, loss, and forgiveness.

This book is a delightfully sweet historical fiction novel. The story between Ruth and Cecile is wonderful to follow. The book follows two timelines, one in the present and one in the past. The authors did a fantastic job distinguishing the two timelines. The characters are skillfully crafted and well developed. You admire both women and their strength and admire their friendship. The history in the book does not take away from the story, if anything it adds to it. Reading the historical events that each character witnessed you begin to understand and appreciate them. I would’ve liked to have read more about Clinton and Ruth. Ruth had so much more going on in her life that I would have liked to see loose ends tied up. I came to care for Ruth and the trials she faced, her emotions, and the way she lived life.

While I enjoyed the emotional depth of the book, I felt that the pacing of the story was slow when it came to Gran and Maggie but I pushed on because I wanted to read more about Ruth. The authors included pictures at the end of the book which was an added bonus. With Kisses From Cécile is a heart warming read that explores a beautiful friendship of two women who live worlds apart.

Pages: 269 | ASIN: B07WNY78W6

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Slaves to Desire

Slaves to Desire is composed of 11 short stories that are as insightful as they are erotic. By weaving fictional tales around some of the most successful European artists of all time, she manages to find that storytelling sweet spot between fact and fiction.

The book talks of George Sand, Salvador Dali, Antonin Artaud, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, and even Hamlet and Ophelia as if they were here with us today. The poetic and emotional way in which this book is written left me with a deeper understanding of what it means to be an artist.

As I progressed from page to page, I was confronted by melancholy, mania, and deep love. Great was the love of one character that they cared for their ill lover till death took them away, leaving her without enough strength to attend the funeral.

Another character, crushed by the pain of being separated from their ailing lover for years, suffers a stroke and struggles to learn how to paint again. But of all the stories, the one that resonates with me the most is the one of the artist plagued by relentless loneliness and melancholy that seems only to be cured by painting.

But even then, they prefer solitude over the company of others. As a writer who spends a lot of time alone, this story is deeply relatable to me and forces me to think more deeply about my life. Ultimately, Slaves to Desire is much more than a book about sex, it discusses complex issues that are inherent to the human condition.

Apart from love, some of the running themes include the need for belonging, the importance of sacrifice, the influence of religion on sexual exploration, and the grief of mourning a loved one’s death. This book is beautifully written, with tons of descriptive language and even quotes from some of the greatest literary pieces of our time. It is clear that the author is a lover of literature and that she poured her heart and soul into this piece.

But it was not lost on me that even these scenes have a deeper meaning to them, giving us more understanding of the psyche of the characters. Slaves to Desire is a well-written and thought-provoking work of art.

Pages: 216 | ASIN: B07SS5D8KR

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Welcome to Piney Falls

Welcome to Piney Falls (Piney Falls Mysteries Book 1) by [Joann Keder]

Joanne Keder’s novel, Welcome to Piney Falls, is an exhilarating mystery novel that delves into the history of a small town overlooked by most people. That is until Lanie comes along. Follow the stories of two powerful women, connected across time. Fiona Flanagan, a Scottish immigrant, marries and moves to America in the 1900’s. Lanie Anders, a businesswoman turned author, abandons her successful carer in marketing to rediscover herself. Upon her arrival in Piney Falls, she soon realizes is far from normal. She soon finds herself tangled in a curious cult and suspicious suicides.

In this piece, Joanne Keder, clearly demonstrates her knack for witty dialogue and a solid setting. The location is so tangible you’ll hear the sound of the rushing water and smell the Hemlock as you hike up Piney Falls with Lanie. I was also entertained by all the strange and memorable characters. From a nudist named November to a baker who names his pastries after constellations (sounds like they are out of this world, right?) In fact, the author captures their essence in such a lifelike way, you will wish they were real.

While the setting and characters are clearly defined, I did feel that the writing was a bit unclear and long winded in rare moments. The chapters were also surprisingly short, so some scenes felt rushed. It would have been a joy to spend more time sitting in the scenery of this small town. The story is also very plot-focused, as is often the case in a mystery novel. All that said, Keder does have talent when it comes to creating cliff hangers. I breezed through the book in no time at all to find out what happened next.

For the first novel in the series, it does a good job of sticking to the classic mystery novel genre. It starts and ends in a satisfying way and keeps you guessing. The themes of female empowerment and personal growth were also heartwarming and relatable as a reader.

If you want an easy to read mystery novel with quirky characters then Welcome to Piney Falls is the novel for you.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B083FF56FZ

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