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I am Still a Rose: In Spite of it All

I am Still a Rose: In Spite of it All by [Barbee, Tonya]

Tonya Barbee’s memoir, I am Still a Rose, details the struggle of a modern woman to find stability and true love for herself and her ever growing family. This book is Tonya’s version of events of her childhood, tumultuous love life and her change of heart. She has written this aiming to promote a healthy understanding and level of accountability for bad relationships and to educate women, young and old, about the dangers of unhealthy partnerships.

The book is refreshing to read. It’s a text about relationship struggle that does not place all of the blame on the male perpetrator or plead for sympathy from the readers. It is actually written in a very matter-of-fact and frank tone. Even when there are episodes with heightened emotion, which often occur in life, they certainly seem to have been written with a clear head.

One of the most prominent themes is the importance of family and motherhood. Tonya seems to rate her confidence in her weddings based on how many of her family turn up, and she is always grateful for the help her family, particularly her mother, provides in times of need – when she cannot rely on her current husband. Throughout her adult life she always does her best to provide for her children and stresses the importance of financial stability, which she did not have when she was growing up. Even when she suffers periods of illness and relationship breakdown, she still goes to work and earns a living for her family. She choses each man believing they will be beneficial for her children, as well as herself, always wanting to complete her family.

Due to her hard-working attitude, she represents female empowerment. She is the only constant parent in her children’s lives, despite her efforts. None of the fathers come to visit the children so she has to be both mom and dad. She even makes sacrifices for children that aren’t hers – as she wants her children to know their siblings. Whatever trouble comes her way she always bounces back, ready to conquer the next hurdle. Throughout her many relationships and responsibilities, she continues to climb the ladder at work and gain qualifications.

Tonya clearly explains that she takes responsibility for not listening to her gut instincts and the mistakes she has made and works to overcome them. Admitting this takes guts, and to admit it publicly and open yourself up to the world in writing takes bravery and pride. She uses her life experience with the view to educate women and to encourage them to listen to their own and their family’s instincts. She wants women to trust themselves enough to make bold decisions and to go it alone if they have to, because she knows they are more than capable.

She might not have had the fairy tale ending like she wanted, but did end up with a great sense of pride and independence and a very strong bond with her children and family.

Pages: 159 | ASIN: B07DSTYFWR

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Deja Vu All Over Again Book Trailer

At fifty-five, Nate Evans is a washed-up Hollywood screenwriter whose life has gone to hell in a handbasket he climbed in to by dumping his high school sweetheart 40 years ago. The girl who got away, Julie Cooper, was widowed at a young age and left to raise her two kids alone after her husband was whapped to death in a tragic carwash accident. Nate has always been obsessed with his high school days, and when he learns Julie is single and working at their alma mater in his hometown, he writes a script and follows it to recreate their teen years in hopes of starting his life over. It’s the ultimate mulligan… Except that Julie is afraid of growing old alone, with a life where the only men she’s intimate with are Ben & Jerry and their Chunky Monkey ice cream, so she settles for security by deciding to marry her boss at the school. Even though Nate’s return and his Peter Pan view of life, draws her out to rediscover the spirited girl she used to be, she rejects his attempts at a relationship because he burned her once and she doesn’t trust him. You can hardly blame her, except that she doesn’t see her rat fink fiancé is in serious need of finking and Nate needs to torpedo the relationship before she gets hurt, without becoming collateral damage himself. He writes a script for “Happily ever after” and puts it into action knowing that if he gets caught it will be Déjà vu all over again.

Available at Black Tie Books

Survival by Escaping

John Vikara Author Interview

John Vikara Author Interview

My Lonely Room is an emotional novel that tackles themes of belonging and loneliness. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It reflected the era of my childhood and the struggles of a young life in a non-politically correct world. It was meant to show that indifference and bullying were going on long before the present, and that it was accepted as part of growing up. The challenge was to overcome these incidences of being singled out because of not having been taught how to engage with society. But the challenge was very hard to overcome when the difficulties of a weak foundation are the starting point. I also wanted to highlight the era and the lower middle class urban youth of the time, rather than the television versions such as Father Knows Best and Leave it To Beaver depicting more affluent characters who really didn’t have any real problems in comparison.

Jimmy’s character was intriguing and I felt that you developed your characters well. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?

Probably the most important theme was belonging, finding your place in a family, whether it be a blood family or a substitute family, as long the group accepts you for who and what you are. This applies to both Jimmy, who is looking, and Johnny, who has found. The theme of indifference, from Jimmy’s father, the landlady, the kids on the block right down to the ticket booth woman at the pool, who knew something was wrong but didn’t want to get involved. The theme of misdirection, trying to dissuade someone from their passions into a humdrum robotic existence, such as Jimmy’s mother—although consciously unwittingly from her own development—continued to push upon him. The theme of survival by escaping into a world you can cope with and where no one will enter without your approval.

This book explores issues in interesting ways like isolation, relationships, and fears. Was there anything from your own life that you put into the book?

A huge part of me went into this book. They say to write about what you know. Who do you know more about than the being you spend twenty-four hours a day with? I learned early to isolate myself from that outside cruel world and escape to my own means of entertainment and survival. In fact, I still have several copies of the Gastruck Kids. My relationship with my parents wasn’t great, but that could be said of most teenagers—of any era. There were many times my relationship with my friends was stronger than that with my parents. But, of course, there was always a home, even though with a lonely room, waiting for you.

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

I have nothing going on at the moment, but I would like to say that My Lonely Room is the prequel to a series of books I had written that began with The Vandals. Most of the characters go on into adulthood in the subsequent Adjuster, National Defense and Auld Lang Syne. They’re all available on Amazon.

Author Links: GoodReadsAmazon

My Lonely Room by [Vikara, John A.]Life wasn’t so great when you didn’t have much of a relationship with your parents or the ability to play street games while growing up in the fifties. You would rather be secluded in your lonely room, using your imagination to write stories and draw comic books than to be drowned in negativity by your mother or humiliated by your peers. All of this can change for Jimmy Yadenik when he meets Johnny, his soon to be mentor and member of the Vandals, and he applies for membership. But the transition won’t be easy.

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My Lonely Room

My Lonely Room by [Vikara, John A.]

My Lonely Room is an outstanding contribution to the world of literary world, tacking themes of belonging and loneliness. The author, John Vikara, provides a novel which opens up a whole range of emotions. From feelings of isolation to intense moments of journeying-through, Vikara’s emotional rollercoaster of a story provides nothing more than a personal and intimate style of writing that gets the book off to an excellent start.

Set in the fifties, the reader is able to envision what life was like back then (for all those lucky younger readers), or recap on childhood memories (for our more mature readers). Vikara tries to write stories that appear to be realistic, creating a sense of nostalgia.  Jimmy’s journey for companionship and experience allow the story to move at a steady pace, whilst constantly maintain the attention of its readers.

What struck me the most whilst reading My Lonely Room is how the writing left me feeling slightly pessimistic. The protagonist, Jimmy, grows up in a world where he feels like he never belongs. Everyone finds comfort in one place or another. Whether that comfort is in a person, a particular place, or a particular thought, everyone is able to ‘zone out’ and enter that place of pure comfort and safety. For Jimmy, his bedroom is the only comfort that he can find.

One of the great things that Vikara articulates in his writing is the importance of real-life issues. The author of My Lonely Room reinforces key issues which are undoubtedly present in our everyday lives – we’re simply oblivious to it! Issues of isolation, relationships, fears, friendships and journeying on are all real life ideas that the majority of readers can relate to. As a reader of this personal journey into a world that is quite off-putting to some, I found it a truly remarkable account of events, which left me feeling slightly overwhelmed, pessimistic and a sense of sadness.

This book really opened my eyes to a new genre of books. A book that was easy to follow, written with flair and creative thought, and the author’s skill of plotting and maintain the story are some of the reasons as to why I have rated this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars.

I can honestly say that I have not read and enjoyed a book as much as this book. Whilst I think that the ending of the novel was not as strong as it could have been, I think that John Vikara is an inspirational writer whose ideas and thoughts are put across in an interesting, intense, and captivating way.

An articulate, creative and highly imaginative novel blending an array of themes and emotions with real life experiences. Hats off to the author of this guide. An enjoyable read for the right reader who shows a similar interest to that of the authors.

Pages: 141 | ASIN: B01N7YYC4T

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Travels with the Doggie Lama

Travels with the Doggie Lama by [Tanzer, Lily]

There is no relationship like the one between an owner and a pet. Each pairing is unique and has its own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies. However, there exists no bond stronger than the one between an animal and the owner when they have saved one another. That is the essence of the connection between Lily and Keisha. Lily, trying to make her way post-college and post-boyfriend, faces the heart-pounding fear and helplessness of a young woman who narrowly escapes a home invasion. On the heels of her ordeal, her snap decision to become the owner of a tiny and rambunctious ball of fur leads Lily on an string of adventures that change the course of both of their lives.

Lily Tanzer, author of Travels with the Doggie Lama, has shared her most intimate experiences with readers. These intimacies aren’t the normal ones; they revolve around the amazing connection she found with her puppy, Keisha. Their relationship goes far beyond a doting owner and a loving pup. Lily and Keisha are connected on a spiritual level, and it becomes increasingly clear throughout the book that Keisha is as much a soulmate to Lily as any human.

The author lays out, in no uncertain terms, the trials and tribulations of being a first-time dog owner. Her descriptions of the utter devastation caused by such a tiny force of a nature within the confines of a small apartment will hit home with every dog owner. Her doubts and financial fears resonate with any reader who has struggled to make ends meet while feeling the overwhelming desire to put the needs of one’s pet before his or her own.

Tanzer delicately addresses the relationship she has with her parents–another relatable element of her story. Readers are privy to Lily’s most embarrassing money struggles and her resignation when her father steps in to save the day. College graduates struggling to make their way and find ways to hide those battles from their parents will appreciate the author’s descriptions of her humiliation upon hearing from her banker father.

As a lifelong pet owner, I appreciate the way Tanzer traces the relationship between Lily and Keisha over the years and Keisha’s various reactions to the people in her life. It doesn’t take too long to begin picturing Keisha as more of a spirit than a dog. Her vibrancy and her complete dedication to Lily as she moves their two-person family across the country jumps off the page. When Lily’s life takes a turn and she finds love at last, Keisha is right there beside her to show her approval of the expanding family. And when Lily’s long-awaited pregnancy occurs, Lily’s concerns about coping with jealousy overwhelm her. There isn’t a pet owner-turned-new parent out there who won’t relate to the ride Lily takes on that emotional roller-coaster.

Tanzer’s book is well-written, easily relatable, and manages to show pet owners yet another facet of the owner-pet dynamic–one that extends beyond the closeness we all recognize and borders on the spiritual.

Pages: 366 | ASIN: B07BD2SBSH

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Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist

Grandma's Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by [JohnEgreek]A chance encounter in the park leads Yianni to develop a relationship with a family similar to the one in which he grew up and in need of the same love, unconditional support, and unfailing guidance provided him by his grandmother once upon a time. His recurring meetings with little Christina, her parents, grandmother, and brothers reveal more interesting and, sometimes, amazing coincidences between their family and his own. Eager to share the stories of his youth and finding more reasons all the time to reveal his most troubling and painful secrets, Yianni begins to save his newfound family while he saves himself in the process.

Right out of the gate, JohneEgreek strikes a powerful chord in Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist with his emotional reaction to his first encounter with three-year-old Christina. Yianni is clearly missing a piece of his heart due to the strained relationship with his son. The fact that he has never met his young granddaughter, Aubrey Rose, eats away at his soul, and the warm reaction he feels from Christina’s mother and brothers begins to fill that tremendous void. It is difficult to read without becoming overwhelmed with emotion at Yianni’s thoughtful reflections upon each of their storytelling sessions.

There exists an entire demographic of readers who will relate to Yianni’s description of his childhood. The abuse and unrelenting savagery with which his father throws his way from a tender age is unbelievably horrific. To find that Yianni is able to grow, thrive, and find a way to cope with his past is truly amazing. His story gives readers hope and provides them with a virtual shoulder on which to lean as they battle their own childhood demons.

Yianni’s grandmother, the basis for his strength, is a phenomenal woman indeed. She provides young Yianni with all the love and protection he needs once he loses his grandfather, his idol. The advice flows freely from her day after day, and she builds Yianni’s self-esteem when his father has beaten him down. Her words alone are enough to heal Yianni’s spirit.

The regular meetings Yianni has with Christina’s family are fascinating to say the least. I was stunned at the coincidences he discovered week after week between his own lineage and theirs. I felt as though the story was leading to an aha moment in which a secret relationship was revealed–that’s how coincidental and numerous the connections are. Story after story, Yianni builds a life with Christina and her parents–even her reluctant father, Ray. I have to say, I was more than pleased to see the final turn of events involving Ray and Yianni.

I give Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by JohneEgreek 5 out of 5 stars. To have so freely opened his life to the eyes and ears of the world is an admirable thing indeed. The years he spent being abused by his father and the time he spent living as the one sibling his father refused to love shaped JohneEgreek into a man who can heal others with his own stories.

Pages: 316 | ASIN: B077PLR98B

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Now You See Her Book Trailer

15-year-old Luke Gray is in shock—his girlfriend Lonnie is moving, and he can’t follow her. Before she leaves, he gets her to promise to wait for him until they are 18. With Lonnie gone, Luke falls into a whirlpool of depression and fear. He tries to stay afloat via sarcasm, 1970s music, and fantasy.

And then a new girl appears on the scene, Sherry, who seems perfect. Without giving up on Lonnie, Luke begins dating Sherry, and she keeps him on this side of insanity. His parents, though, notice disturbing changes in his behavior… and eventually Luke realizes that his relationship with Sherry has limits they can’t move beyond. So he befriends Julie, a clever, down-to-earth girl he quickly grows to love. But when Julie finds out that Luke has never let go of Lonnie, he’s forced to either try to find Lonnie or turn his back on her forever.

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Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul: A Conversation with a Touch of Class

Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul: A Conversation with a Touch of Class: Volume 1 by [Crawford, Keeshawn C.]

Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul by Keeshawn C. Crawford is certainly among the most interesting books I had the pleasure of reading this year, if not the best.  This piece of non-fiction is an apt example where in the author delves into a personal need of an individual for that special word of inspiration.

This book  has a clear vision of it’s purpose and direction and was a really good read. The focus of the writer is crisp and smooth. We are observing a world today that is experiencing more and more women raising their voice against violence and sexual aggression of men in power and influence. The first topic thus selected, aptly deals with the intrinsic build up of the common woman, and to take care of herself.

The subsequent topics have been laid out in a well-defined manner, starting with happiness, love and the concept of helping. The book further delves into other topics which form an important part of moral principles such as sacrifice, strength in troubled times, empathy, and many others. The author also touches on other equally important topics such as parenting, the ingredients for a well-nourished relationship, and accepting criticism constructively to become better. The author balances this with wise words of caution against weakness, ignorance and greediness.

There are many other word gems in this book as well, such as the ones highlighting wisdom of elders, the notion of self-respect, signs of a true friend, just to name a few. I was a bit bewildered at first at how much these moral principles influence, affect and shape our lives, and of those with whom we interact. The author however, seems adept in corralling these principles together with the physical constructs. I feel it important to point out that this book is not meant for speed reading to be just done away in a few days time. The real pearl of this work lies in soaking up the meaning in the words and continuously striving to build a strong mental platform upon which you can work to see your behavior change and be improved by the many areas which the author has pointed out in every chapter. The author fervently impresses upon the reader to conduct oneself in such a manner that would make it more pleasurable for others to follow their lead.

This book can be categorized as a self-help book, but it goes beyond and compels you to think and continuously strive to be a better individual and a good citizen. I am already looking forward for the next book from this author.

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A Victim of Circumstances

Arti Chugpai Author Interview

Arti Chugpai Author Interview

Phoenix tells the story of Sonam and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. What was your inspiration for this heart-felt novel?

I have been inspired by experience and observation. My family background has been similar, and I have closely observed the lives of urban well-educated women in India. Despite a progressive education and multifaceted skills, they are expected to conform to obsolete family norms and not allowed to make life choices. This is especially true for the year 1983, when the protagonist Sonam wants to extricate herself from an abusive marriage. Indian society then was full of paradoxes: on one hand was the evolution of a knowledge society and unprecedented technological advancement and on the other deeply entrenched dogmatic beliefs in gender stereotypes. Instead of sympathising with a woman who was a victim of circumstances, her family and friends blamed her for her misfortunes and ostracised her.

I felt that this novel confronted gender stereotypes in a bold way. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?

I have always felt strongly about the unequal playing field provided to women, even in the educated elite class, and the perception that they are appendages to male family members, whether father, brother or husband. Why should women be accorded respect only if they have empathetic men to battle for them? This discrimination is especially difficult to combat since one is pushing against one’s parents and closest family members whom one loves and respects. Through this novel, I wanted to highlight the need to cherish and support daughters as individuals regardless of the presence and status of their life partners.

I felt that Sonam was a multilayered character that was judged by her failings rather than her success. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

While her parents despair of what will happen to Sonam after she leaves her husband and judge her by her failure in relationship, she demonstrates exceptional skills and shines in her workplace as an achiever. Her personality growth from 1983 to 2017 despite all odds illustrates the triumph of the spirit over ostracism, bigotry, negativity and injustice. She is rejuvenated from the ashes, just like the mythical bird, phoenix.

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

My next book, tentatively titled ‘A Journey Within’ has a very different story though it also deals with women’s issues. The lives of 16 Indian women of varying age groups intersect when they go on an all-women’s trip to Spain and Portugal. As events unfold during and after the trip, each of them reaches a realization that changes her life forever.

Author Links: Amazon | Website | GoodReads | Facebook

Phoenix by [Chugpai, Arti]

Caught in an abusive marriage, Sonam Aggarwal finds no family support when she struggles to break free. However, with unwavering grit, she makes a place for herself in the world and rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her dead marriage to discover true companionship and professional success. 

The evolution of a knowledge society in India that places a premium on human knowledge and skills regardless of gender finally bequeaths her a coveted place in the sun. The novel focuses on the core strength of a woman that asserts her value despite external trappings and women characters who go through their individual struggle with the inevitable challenges that threaten their existence. 

Phoenix, a novel, traces the life of Sonam and her upper class family in South Delhi from 1983 to 2017. It highlights the curious paradoxes in Indian society: its global leadership in digitalization contrasted with antiquated prejudices and gender stereotypes.

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Phoenix

Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?

Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.

The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.

It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.

Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.

Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.

Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043

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