From an early age Rose Hemmings is asked to define love, a theme that is analyzed throughout the book and truly encompasses On Loving. While at the time she cannot compose a definite response, a single turning point in Rose’s life has her struggling to find the answer. She continues to question what love means as she narrates the story of her life.
On Loving begins with the tragedy of Rose’s beloved father, a man she attributes her love of literature, and who urges Rose to find the truth of her birth parents resulting in a spontaneous trip to Iran in search of answers. Just before leaving Rose’s world is once again shaken to the core as she comes face to face with a stranger who instantly steals her heart away. In a twist of fate, the two fly off to Iran resulting in a storm of emotional chaos involving family, secrets revealed and another man to drastically change Rose’s life forever.
For blatantly being a romance novel, On Loving rarely rears the exotic scenes of lust and passion. Instead, Lili Naghdi illustrates a love story shrouded in poetic anecdotes and literary quotes through the eyes of an A-typical surgeon inquiring every aspect of her ever-changing life. The story of Rose spans decades of heartache and misfortune, deep longing and joyous fulfillment.
However, I could never completely empathize with Rose. She shows all the signs of a well thought out main character, the author thoroughly explored the mind of Rose Hemming detailing all her faults and frustrations. I could tell Naghdi held Rose close to her heart while writing this book. The story is written in the first person, and like so, we are bound to watching Rose make decisions the reader might not completely agree with.
Overcoming these hiccups, I found steady glimpses of genuine understanding for several characters. Especially in the second half of the book, Naghdi beautiful vindicates the hurricane of emotions Rose has been building up throughout the story. Those moments of Rose carefully weighing her judgments, decisions, and feelings are true bliss. Moreover, the authors’ literary insight is phenomenal and while at times the call back to famous authors and poets is overdone, each example is carefully chosen perfectly matching the mood of the scene.
Any romantic or literary buff will wholeheartedly enjoy this book. Read the book and you will understand.
Pages: 483 | ASIN: B07NSJLJLZ
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A Dot You Are takes readers on a trip through the protagonist’s journey to rediscover his relationship with his long-lost father (and himself). What parts of himself are the results of his father’s actions when Antoni was just a child? Which parts were created through his own life choices and experiences? Our protagonist comes back to a long-lost world that is in direct juxtaposition from the one he was educated in and eventually realizes that he may not have ended up quite as far from his roots as he once thought.
For anyone who enjoys poetic storytelling full of imagery and metaphor, A Dot You Are, written by Manjula Wediwardana and then translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala, should certainly quench their thirst. The author does well to bring the reader into each of the compelling scenes throughout the story, but leaves plenty of room for the imagination to take over.
Antoni (protagonist) is on a mission to find his estranged father but has limited knowledge of where and how to find him. The village that he must go to on his search does, in fact, turn up the man he is looking for, but he finds many other things as well. Antoni’s journey back to the fishing village awakens certain aspects of his personality which then creates more questions than he had before. Duality is ever-present throughout the story which is a fact that serves Antoni’s role in the story well. He is an outsider with a deep connection to the village. Where there is divinity, there is also the mundane. Where there is warmth, there is also a sense of indifference and hostility. The author captures the nature of the world quite precisely while at the same accentuating the drama that makes it interesting and fun.
The beauty, the hardships, the simplicity, and complex human interactions all make up the experience of the fishing village. The examples of scenery that are described are so vivid that one can get a clear sense of the place. Having visited many fishing villages throughout Sri Lanka, I can say that the reader will finish this book with a deep understanding of what life for a Sri Lankan fisherman is like, what the village looks like, and how the daily activities of everyone unfold.
The atmosphere of A Dot You Are is aided by the language used throughout the story. Not only is there a heavy focus on a poetic approach focused on extracting beauty from everyday situations, but there are also phrases and manners of speech that can only be found throughout India and Sri Lanka. It is not overdone, however, and the reader can easily get a feel for the colourful personalities that make up the story. All in all, it is a magnificent read that has a bit of everything.
Translated into English by Dilini Eriyawala
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18 Cranes follows a young boy as he prepares for an important civil servant exam while being tormented by nightmares. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
The story was inspired by my own journey of learning about China, first through teaching Chinese students in Canada, and then through my eye-opening experience teaching and traveling in China.
Bing is an interesting character that continued to gain depth as the story progressed. What were some driving ideals behind his character?
Bing is a composite character, reflecting some the attitudes and behaviors I’ve observed in my Chinese students, but also embodying elements of historical and fictional persons I’ve read about.
This story takes place during the summer of 1630 in China. Why did you choose this time and place for your story?
The story takes place in the final years of the Ming dynasty, culminating in a monumental and highly consequential event that takes place in the city of Kaifeng in 1642. By starting in 1630, I’m building the necessary background for readers to understand the significance of the event when it takes place.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
18 Cranes is the first in a series of nine novellas, collectively known as, Kaifeng Chronicles. The second book, Mandarin Ducks, has been available for the past few months. The third book, Grand Canal, is scheduled for release in late January 2019.
In the late summer of 1630, 23-year old Li Bing writes the provincial level imperial examinations, the first step towards entering the Chinese civil service. He is tormented by a dream of 18 cranes, and as he awaits his exam results he seeks out insights from those around him to help him understand his dream. In the end, he learns more than he imagined.
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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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In the science fiction genre, many stories share similar plots. The authors, Grant Elliot Smith and Steven H. Stohler, in their co-venture, Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest, expertly utilize concepts from great sci-fi classics. With this they create a very entertaining story that keeps readers rooting for the protagonist, Rathen, and his crew throughout their quest to vanquish evil from their world and other worlds in the galaxy.
The story begins roughly a year after the first book left off in a dark scene where Rathen and his companions—Bandark and Rulo—nervously approach a terrible foe that is capable of destroying the group with his magical ability that allows him control of many elements and also the dead. The result of this meeting then forms a core group that joins in a quest in search of a powerful book called The Book of Ziz that will allow its wielders to vanquish a terrorizing deity known as Gothoar. The story has much more depth as the characters face personal issues and other forms of conflict as the story unfolds.
One concept that makes this book a great read is the discussion of social dynamics through the interaction of fictional races. The group contains several humans, a lich, a half-orc, and people from other worlds in their fold. Therefore, the authors found a way to talk about and resolve racial conflicts. The details of the story show that some people have to live in certain neighborhoods and have to be defensive regarding their heritage. Thack, a capable warrior who is half human and orc, has apparently had a history of racial persecution because he chose to live in an area away from his home where he has found acceptance, but with the introduction of a love interest, feels defensive about his mixed heritage to seek acceptance.
Other social issues like gender disparity are discussed. Caswen—a healer—and her sister Drynwen—a protector—feel gender bias in their organization and have to fight harder to receive missions than their male counterparts. This book seeks to show that the bias others hold can often overshadow dreams and skills. The sisters get their opportunity to sharpen their skills on the road. They find their niche amongst the team allowing them to shine brighter than many of their order back home.
Rathen is able to shed new light on old tropes. Most everyone is familiar with the hero and company on a quest to save the world from destructive foe. The story adds plenty of depth through the implementation of human nature with nonhuman characters and the exploration of human tendencies like the search for redemption, acceptance, contentment, immortality, and even revenge in some cases. Smith and Stohler did a fantastic job telling a story that goes much deeper than the words on the pages; their work sticks with their readers well after the words are read.
Pages: 282 | ASIN: B07HWNK13Z
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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.
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M.P. Prabhakaran takes readers across ten countries in Europe. The exciting journey is filled with amazing experiences, new trials, immense learning, and lovely interactions. Reading the book made me understand why the author modified English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s words and said: “The more I travel, the more I discover my ignorance.” Traveling the world is truly fun, at least that’s what I got from M. P. Prabhakaran’s book. I learned quite a number of things as I read.
The first city the reader is introduced to is Stockholm. The fact that the author visited the Swedish city twice confirms just how much he loved being in Stockholm. One can say that M. P. Prabhakaran is inquisitive in nature. That is perhaps the reason why he knows about a lot of people, their culture and the political climate in their respective countries. He is also charismatic and easy to talk to. I loved the conversation he had with the Swedish woman married to an Iraqi while riding a bus in Vaxholm. I empathized with the woman and her baby. I loved their conversation though. Mr. Prabhakaran knows how to keep the conversation going and that’s why the woman felt comfortable talking about her life with a stranger. The author’s conversations are among the things that made the book a lovely read.
It was interesting reading about the author’s encounter with the Russian Mafia on a St. Petersburg street. Being a target because you are a foreigner is no fun at all. There was a lesson at the end of it all; don’t put all your cards in one pocket. You would have imagined that his trip would have been smooth without any trouble. His harassment with the mafia was however just a little problem that was averted without the author being harmed. His trip was mostly pleasant, with only a few incidents that can be ignored.
From Stockholm to Bergen, to Helsinki, Prague, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and all the amazing places the author went made the story exotic, for someone that hasn’t been to all these places. Having to travel through all those countries in just 30 days is not a simple thing. The author enjoyed walking, taking the train and even flying to go see the world and learn about societies.
The author is knowledgeable in the political state of the countries he traveled. I admired that in him. I would be there reading about his beautiful trips, then out of nowhere, he would throw in a fact about the leadership of a country either in the past or present. I love that he reminded the reader of a little history that may have been forgotten.
I understand why M. P. Prabhakaran took to traveling in Europe. Given an opportunity, I would travel the world as he did. I loved that he also documented every interesting thing because I enjoyed reading his tales. “An Indian Goes Around the World – Ii: What I Learned From My Thirty-Day European Odyssey” is a lovely book that will make you want to travel.
Pages: 270 | ASIN: B0794N38FB
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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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Georgina Kemm is a woman driven to rediscover herself and heal the deep-seated wounds from her past. Her journey of self-examination leads her to Peru and to the somewhat beguiling arms of one shaman named Puma. After enduring the contemptuous complacency of her husband and battling the demons continuing to rise within her own psyche, Georgina finds herself almost inexplicably drawn to return to Peru following her best friend’s final fall from grace and admission of a friend’s ultimate betrayal. Her connection to Puma and the rituals in which she participates while visiting Peru haunt her and, in the end, pull her back to the place where her life actually began.
The Spell: The Shaman’s Lover Trilogy Book I is an autobiographical account by author Georgina Kemm. Georgina lays out her experiences in a simple but spellbinding manner. As she retraces her steps during the most painful years of her adult life using first person point of view, the reader is slowly absorbed into the events of those weeks in Peru and feels present in each of the mind-bending ceremonies.
Georgina weaves the most intricate details into her descriptions of the ceremonies and the intense and overpowering sensations she feels during each session with the shaman who seems to see right into her very soul. At times, I was left wondering how Georgina was able to survive her time in the wilderness of Peru, and I was always amazed as each new day began and she was still alive to tell about it. Though her tale is one of self-discovery, it is also one of endurance and immense amounts of physical and emotional strength.
One of the most effective portions of Georgina’s story is tucked neatly within the descriptions of her apologies to her husband and the inner battle she wages when she faces her own infidelity. Though she is angry with herself, she can’t seem to understand why. Georgina has communicated her own self doubt and feelings of inadequacies eloquently and powerfully for her readers.
Another powerful aspect of her tale is the relationship she has with her best friend, Sandy. As the weeks in Peru progress, Sandy and Georgina find themselves bouncing back and forth between confidantes and strangers. I was amazed at the way the two could seem to distance themselves from one another in the jungle thousands of miles from home. It is a true testament to the spell placed on both of them as the weeks went by. After seeing the way Book I ends, I fully expect to hear more of the strained relationship between the two women in subsequent installments.
Not often enough do we find individuals willing to come forward and bare their souls and show their battle wounds the way Kemm has done with this first in a trilogy. For her eloquent self-expression and her bravery, she is to be commended.
Pages: 308 | ASIN: B07D2N66WM
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Travels with the Doggie Lama shows the deep relationship that can develop between a dog and their owner. Why was this an important biography for you to write?
Keisha (The Doggie Lama) was my companion through some very important changes in my life (ending a long-term relationship, moving across the country, getting married, having a child, exploring spirituality on a deeper level). In the years after she was gone I would often remark to others that she taught me more about being an energetic being than anything I had formally studied. Her death was both a painful and a mystical experience and I found that when I would talk about her passing with others, it would often spark a long conversation about how difficult losing a pet can be. The loss of a being that holds such unconditional love for us is traumatic and difficult to grieve. “It’s just a dog” some might say, yet if anyone has ever connected deeply with an animal, the loss of that relationship can be incredibly painful.
In writing Travels with the Doggie Lama, I wanted to share the sheer entertainment that such a vibrant personality brought to my world but more so the subtle, life-changing connection that healed my heart and instructed, in some unconventional ways, the art of unconditional love.
I love the title of this book, how did you settle on the title?
Her nickname, “The Doggie Lama,” emerged during my study of yoga, partially as a term of endearment with my husband and I (referencing her constant assistance with meditations in the house) but also spoke to the lessons I was learning from her essence and her connection to Source energy (as any animal will do as they are so closely connected to nature and our true state). She and I physically traveled quite a bit during her life (including several cross-country moves) but we also shared internal travels together: changing and growing through life, exploring the energetic aspect of our existence, and ultimately discovering deep, unconditional love.
Memoirs cause one to reflect on their life in different ways. Is there something that you have a different perspective on now that you wrote this book?
At one point in the book I describe my realizations about what I had learned from an impetuous, loving dog. “We didn’t travel to the Himalayas to sit at the feet of a wise guru, seeking enlightenment. We sat on the floor of the spare bedroom beside one another, breathing in and out. The vast universe was right there behind closed eyes, an open mind, and a willing heart… No one would ever make a movie out of our journey; these were just the things of everyday life, the substance of the physical universe. But our connection had been an epic tale, in my opinion.”
In writing about the events of those fourteen years with Keisha I came to realize at a deeper level that it’s the everyday events, the small and seemingly mundane exchanges that create the fabric of our lives (not the big, momentous events we often seek out). Everyday life can be funny, exasperating, touching, and boring, but when reviewed through a larger lens, we can see the beauty and meaning behind the totality of those events.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
While I plan to write a sequel to Travels with the Doggie Lama, I am currently working on a fanciful trilogy showcasing the adventures of one of my current dogs, Darci (a Pekingese/Maltese mix). Her secret life as a WWII tank commander was exposed a few years back and details have emerged about her exploits in the European theater during the dark days of that global conflict. Her military prowess and rivalry with Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, from the sands of North Africa to the beaches of France, are detailed in these photo books. We plan an initial release in late 2018.
Life in the middle of a big city can be scary. Lily, a young professional living alone in Houston during the mid-1980s, experiences a frightening brush with a near-home invasion. The disturbing episode is the impetus to seek out a home security system: a dog. Fear pushes Lily to purchase her new companion without thinking through the details and she finds the new addition to her life just as unsettling.
Financial struggles, professional challenges, romantic wounds and the trials of being twenty-something all share the tiny apartment with Lily and her new puppy, Keisha. The carefree, adventure-seeking whims of Keisha are at odds with the order-loving, financially challenged Lily.
And yet the irascible dog may be just what the doctor ordered. Once Keisha trots across the threshold, where weeks before the faceless intruder had sought to gain entry, Lily’s life opens up in new, at times exasperating, ways and the adventures begin.
Lily and Keisha both push the boundaries of what’s expected of them and venture out to new venues and new experiences, causing Lily to understand that things are not always what they seem. As Lily begins a deeper exploration into her spiritual life she is shocked to discover Keisha’s talents may extend beyond her garbage loving, squirrel-chasing pursuits.
Join this pair on their journeys: external and internal, humorous and touching. Laugh with Keisha’s flagrant disregard for the law and social convention. Cry with Lily’s struggles. Dip into another level of love and connection and explore the non-spoken bond of soulmates.
It doesn’t matter if you are a life-long dog lover, or someone who has never had a pet; this story will touch your heart because it speaks of the transcendent power of love to bring true joy into our lives–whether we happened to be born with two legs or four.
Posted in Interviews
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