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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An Indian Goes Around the World – II recounts your travels through Europe and shares the amazing experiences you had along the way. When you first set out on your journey were you expecting to encounter so many interesting people?
No. It was those “amazing experiences,” as you put it, which I had in the early stage, that made decide that I must travel to as many countries as I can before I kick the bucket.
You come from a teaching an journalism background. How has your professional background helped you write this book?
My thirst for learning is attributable to the two professions I straddled. Whatever writing skill I have is attributable to my background in journalism. English is not my mother tongue. So to survive in journalism in the English language, I had to put in extra efforts to learn the finer points in English. I realize that I will have to continue those efforts until my dying day.
You state in the book that traveling has opened your mind. Do you think that everyone should undertake such traveling?
Yes, it opens your mind to many things you were blissfully ignorant of until then. When you travel to a new place and interact with the people there, you learn to your surprise that many of the notions you had about both were false. So traveling is not anly a learning experience, bout also a correcting process, in life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It is a collection of some of the political and social commentaries I published on the online monthly I edit. It is expected to be out in about six months. Side by side, I am also working on my third book in the “An Indian Goes Around the World” series.
This is the second book by M.P. Prabhakaran on his world-trotting experience. The first one, Capitalism Comes to Maos Mausoleum, was published three years ago. This book is devoted exclusively to the 30-day tour he undertook through 10 countries of Europe in the summer of 2009.
If academic qualifications are a measure of ones learning experience, Prabhakaran says in the Preface to the fi rst book, he has a string of them, including a Ph.D. in Political Science from The New School for Social Research, New York. But, he hastens to add, what I learned from this prestigious American institution and, before that, from various academic institutions in India is no match for what I did from my travels around the world.
In describing what he felt at the end of the 2009 European tour, he goes a step further. The more I travel, he says, the more I discover my ignorance. He admits that his description is a
mangled version of poet Shelleys immortal words: The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance. But, he adds, he could not find a better way to express his enlightening experience.
The tour of 10 European countries, he says in the Preface to this book, opened his mind to various aspects of European cultures he had been quite ignorant of. Through the subsequent pages of the book, he shares with readers the knowledge he gained from conversations with people and from events and objects he got exposed to during that tour.
Posted in Interviews
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Beloved Mother by Laura Hunter is a saga that follows the lives of several members of the Parsons, a poor coal-mining family. The story begins in Covington, Virginia in 1923 when thirteen-year-old Mona Parsons is taken away to Carolina by Jackson Slocomb. He abuses her, and she’s rescued by a Native American man named Walks in Tall Corn. He takes her in and raises her son, Briar, as his own. Ten years later, Tall Corn is injured in a farming accident and his wound becomes infected. He dies and Mona (River of Two Tears) returns to Covington, but her father doesn’t welcome her. She and her son end up in a coal mining town, Breakline Mining Camp. Mona’s younger sister, Anna, runs away with Clint, and they end up in in the coal mining town, too. But although Two Tears and Anna interact and live in close proximity to each other for many years, they never realized that the other is their sister. Told from a number of different points of view, this book spans generations and decades, even going back in time to earlier generations.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and her vivid descriptions drew me into the story. I liked the bits of history that the author added throughout the book. The story touched on a number of different time periods, from the great depression and World War II to the mid 1800’s.
I enjoyed the Native American aspect of the book–the Great Spirit, Sister Sun and Brother Moon, and the Cherokee medicine woman (called a Beloved Mother). It added an interesting element to the story that I would have loved to read more of. The characters lives were hard, as they struggled to scrape by, but I felt that most were selfish, thinking of their own wants and needs, in desires to get ahead. There is a lot of colorful, and questionable relationships, from adulterous affairs to a twenty-six-year-old man married to a thirteen-year-old girl, and an older man with romantic feelings for his young half-sister–though he was unaware of their connection. This made it hard for me to relate to, although I certainly appreciated, the characters.
Overall, this is an emotional story that pulls at your heart. I would have enjoyed a more uplifting theme, if not a few moments. There were a number of deaths, and very few characters were still alive by the end of the story, but I suppose… such is life.
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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.
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.
Posted in Interviews
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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
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Laburnum Lanes is a small collection of beautiful poems by Shantha. The poems mainly contain nature themes, such as birds and marigolds, with birds as illustrations. Some of the poems have continuances. For instance, a poem may continue into another poem, telling a short little story within those small series of poems, while all of them tie together pleasantly. The book is serene with its descriptions of nature and the beauty of it. The poem book is also incredibly cultural. It makes references to Indian culture and the author provides footnotes to define the specific aspects.
I enjoyed this collection of poems. While it is a short read, it is a beautiful one. Many of the lines of many of the poems resonated with me or touched me in a profoundly deep way. A lot of the lines paint detailed exquisite visuals. For example, “Strawberry Filled Path” elicits visions of strawberries on the ground as well as gives the visual of someone holding strawberries. You can even get the smell and the feel of sunshine from it. Shantha’s words jump from the page and really make you feel like you are in the scene they paint. Similarly, “A Large Palm” does the same as “Strawberry Filled Path.” The reader sees the flashes of imagery. Many of Shantha’s words are paintings that have come to life, with being able to see, smell, and even feel the some of the descriptions. It takes talent to be able to construct strong sensory responses. Even the title of the poem book evokes imagery of the trees.
Poems like “Togetherness” also have great lines in them, like “marigolds come from heavens/They are not born of the womb.” It has such powerful phrasing. Then there is something like “Meditation” that resonates with me because it illustrates parts of life so well. Many of these poems are like this poem in that way, where it is relatable because it reflects life.
I have so many poems bookmarked because they either resonated with me in some deep, profound way, they were relatable, I enjoyed the imagery, or I loved the phrasing. I am a huge fan of poetry because it can be done so well and conjure up different feelings and can even be an outlet for feelings. I think Shantha was able to do this magnificently with their poems, tap into universal feelings while also giving readers a taste of Indian culture. It definitely made me want to look into Indian culture more and be more educated about it.
I think good poetry makes you feel something, but great poetry leaves this feeling of change within you. It gives you new knowledge, new perspectives, and the hunger for more of it all. That is what Shantha’s poetry did with me. It was interesting and beautiful. I highly recommend this book of poems to anyone who is a fan of poetry or even just pretty words and phrases.
Pages: 130 | ASIN: B07DLZPCXL
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Vegetarian Diet Guru is a guide that provides strategies to design diets for specific nutritional needs. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Diet plays a central role in determining the structural and functional basis of our living and is basic to our sustenance and productivity. Modern medicine has relegated the role of nutrition in our well being, and I wrote this book mainly to bring its importance to the fore and also provide individuals with the knowledge and means to be in charge of their dietary planning. Nature has provided us with a bounty of options to fulfill our nutritional needs but it is up to us to make the right choices for good health. I wanted to outline recipes that use natural, time-tested ingredients and combinations that utilize the latest scientific principles that enhance the value of food, while providing flavor, nutritional balance and variety.
In normal body homeostasis, all parameters fall within normal ranges and the body is on autopilot mode, with the various systems working in unison to provide robust energy, growth and vitality. However, in disease conditions, the body is off balance and requires additional monitoring, medications and diet therapy to function effectively. While the recipes in this book are based on vegetarian selections, they can substitute or supplement non-vegetarian diets as well, as the nutrients and their actions are very similar.
This book has more than 150 recipes. My favorite recipe was the Green Chilies Curry. What is your favorite recipe from the book?
My favorite dish from this book is Masala Okra Curry. Okra is a valuable vegetable in vegetarian diets due to its multiple benefits. Okra is high in fiber, being a rich source of soluble pectins and gums that lower cholesterol, insoluble fibers that aid digestion, and mucilage containing polysaccharides and glycoproteins that lower blood sugar. Other carbohydrates include low glycemic neutral sugars galactose and rhamnose. Okra seeds have 20-40% essential unsaturated fats, and also, rare in vegetables, high amounts of protein, made up of amino acids lysine and tryptophan which are usually lacking in cereal-based vegetarian diets. Okra is also rich in polyphenols and catechins, which provide exogenous anti-oxidant defense against lipid peroxidation and increase endogenous glutathione peroxidase for stabilizing intracellular redox status. This powerhouse of nutrition in this recipe is combined with tomatoes, onions and spices which add to its value. This curry can be a side dish to accompany rice, rotis or complement other menus.
What is a common misconception you find people have about dieting and how they can overcome it?
The common misconception about diet is “one size fits all”; however, people are very unique with respect to their dietary needs, tastes, cultural preferences and health status. Thus, menus have to be customized taking individual factors into consideration. Often, it is difficult to find the right solution for dietary problems and information sources can be confusing or misleading, sometimes even dangerous. In addition, there are plentiful natural, prepared and commercial foods to tempt our palate. In these cases, it may be best to follow safe or tested alternatives that are proven to be effective.
Another common aspect of diets is their content and how the combination of foods affects their assimilation. That is why knowledge of nutrient values helps to precisely target the recipes and menus towards meeting the requirements as closely as possible. Often, with diets and nutritional health, a holistic approach works best rather than an isolated, symptom-based approach. The dieter should aim at harmonizing various body systems in the most optimal way, gearing towards maintaining equilibrium and normal function. Diet should be the first line of action in preventing disease and always have a supportive role in curing and ameliorating abnormal conditions.
Some diets can give results for a short time, but may not be practical for the long term, but here the diet plays a timely role to correct deficiencies or excesses and normalize after which, one can switch to a maintenance diet. Also, some degree of experimentation or trial and error can be allowed with diets and individuals can tailor their diets according to how their body reacts to foods. In the final analysis, a good diet is one that makes you feel happy, energetic and healthy.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In this book, I have explained basic principles of Nutrition and Diet Planning in health and some abnormal conditions. In my next book, I would like to provide further details, better understanding and additional resources for healthy diet planning. Dietary practices are very personal and it takes time for people to commit to change. Diet should be habit forming and in tune with our lifestyle and modifying them according to our needs is a lifelong process. I would like to provide convincing arguments for food choices, simplified menu planning and food preparation strategies, dietary guidelines for other specific conditions and equip people with knowledge, freedom and practices to plan and use their diets optimally for the health and well-being of their family. As we delve deeper into our knowledge about what, how and why our body works, we realize that we have to reclassify foods and nutrients further into sub-categories that work in a coordinated manner. Although all this information may not fit in a book, I would like to popularize these ideas and publish at appropriate times to reach a larger audience.
“The Vegetarian Diet Guru” is a nutrients-based menu planning guidebook that explains and provides strategies to design diets that meet nutritional specifications according to individual requirements. There are low-calorie recipes for weight loss; low-glycemic carbohydrates based recipes for blood sugar control in pre-diabetes and diabetes; rice, millets and oats-based recipes that can be used for individuals with wheat gluten hypersensitivity; high fiber vegan and vegetarian recipes for gastro-intestinal health; high protein dishes using lentil bean and dairy proteins to lower BMI (Body Mass Index) and increase muscle mass for vegetarians.
Posted in Book Reviews
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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
Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
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The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.
Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.
Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.
Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.
McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.
Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.
Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.
I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL
Posted in Five Stars
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