The Ambitious Pyramid of Kush by Justin Kuku is an emotional novel that chronicles the life of a young immigrant man from Sudan as he follows his hopes and dreams for a better life in the United States. The title of the novel pays homage to the ancestral kingdom in Sudan, one that the main character, Tokia’s, African family feels closely linked to, as they struggle against the oppressive Islamic regime that is in power in present-day Sudan. Reading this novel opened my eyes to the deeply painful realities of life in Sudan, including religious oppression, limitations on personal freedoms, and the violence that the government enacts on its citizens. In addition to the heart-wrenching picture that Kuku paints of life in Sudan, he also describes in vivid detail the challenges that immigrants face in the United State due to many reasons outside their control, such as the prejudices of others, language and cultural barriers, and the complicated American legal system.
Though the novel is presented as fiction, it is hard not to imagine that Kuku has drawn on some of his own personal experiences as an immigrant to the United States from Sudan, based on his touching introduction to the novel. The Ambitious Pyramid of Kush begins following Tokia as a young man in Sudan, and follows him to Egypt and ultimately to the United States where he attempts to begin his life anew. Throughout the novel, Tokia develops friendships and relationships with those around him. Some of the best supporting characters in the novel are the women in Tokia’s life, including Katira, a Sudanese woman he befriends on his way to Egypt, and Rashida, a young woman he meets in the United States. In addition to these three main characters, the novel is interspersed with many short-lived characters who have minimally developed backstories, which made it somewhat difficult for me to keep up with each individual and how they related to the overall plot.
With Ambitious Pyramid of Kush, Kuku has identified a very compelling story of one person’s strength, perseverance, and love. The story of Tokia is interesting; however, the book can benefit from an editor. While I found the strength of the protagonist, Tokia, to be inspirational, and I appreciated the personal insights into both the trauma of life in Sudan as well as life for African immigrants in the United States, I would have appreciated more engaging dialogue and prose.
Though the plot of Ambitious Pyramid of Kush is interesting – and I think that the story of Tokia’s life would make a compelling movie – the book reads like a report due to minimal descriptions and the terse conversational exchanges. In reading Ambitious Pyramid of Kush, I felt that Kuku has a wealth of stories to tell, not only Tokia’s, but also those of all the supporting characters.
Pages: 182 | ASIN: B08P262JK6
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All Things Small by Norman Schwartz is a charming literary fiction novel following the journey of Nathan Epstein in the city of Rome, an innocent, directionless American tourist struggling with everyday interactions in the local language. Nathan is wandering the streets after quitting his job and he is trying to make his way through the city with the help of a popular guidebook. While placing an order in the restaurant he unexpectedly encounters Sergio. The chance meeting helps him find an affordable residence, means of living, and even an opportunity for new life. But where will it all go? Is everything as good as it looks like or is something else going on? As the quote in the book by Cicero goes, “The beginnings of all things are small.” More important things will happen, for better or for worse. Only time will tell.
Author Norman B. Schwartz gives readers a thought provoking contemporary story that is takes readers in unexpected directions. The characters, the scenes, and the plot all come alive with the authors easy yet engrossing writing style. The book has a a fascinating aura of mystery that permeates the story, as well as a bit of melancholy as beauty and gloom are contrasted well in this riveting story. I enjoyed how the author provides a sharp contrast between shiny famous monuments and the dark underbelly of the city that is full of crime and lust.
Another fascinating aspect of the book was the generous sprinkling of Italian language; I felt that it adds to the exotic appeal and increases its authenticity. The graphic depiction, architectural details, and sharp and imaginative presentation of it all makes the reading experience immersive. While I thought the book was a bit slow to start, it eventually picks up and takes readers on a well written and entertaining ride that is full of alluring characters.
All Things Small by Norman Schwartz is a highly captivating book that keeps you engaged and yearning for more. If you love historical events, picturesque landscapes, architecture, and a mesmerizing story of human experiences in a foreign land, this book is for you.
Pages: 210 | ASIN: B08ZS9CXCQ
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In Who Okayed This?! The Riveting Life of Grant Davis, Philip E. Barrington tells us the story of Grant, a man that experienced various interesting and intriguing things during his life. The book serves as Grant’s diary, through which he tells the reader his thoughts and the many life changing events that he experienced since he was a young boy.
Grant’s life is far from boring. In the book we follow him as he travels around different cities and countries, trying to make something of his life. He meets intriguing new people all the time, some of them become friends and helped him grow, some of them become terrible enemies that almost succeeded in ruining his life. Grant endures many betrayals, yet never gives up, always looking to find something better for himself to enjoy life to the fullest. Family, friendship, love, travel and the search of a career, are aspects that are deeply involved in most people’s lives and that are explored and shown in this book through Grant’s riveting life.
It was interesting following the different events that Grant had to go through in his life, there are so many things that are talked about in the book. Relationships, health issues, problems with the police and the law, corruption and family life. The author shares the many adventures that Grant had that would change him forever, from meeting new people to traveling to new places to discovering secrets of the universe, a set of fascinating events that allowed Grant Davis to find his life purpose.
I enjoyed reading about Grant’s story and finding out gradually the varying life changing events that he went through where he met interesting, odd and even threatening people that made him explore new things all the time: his life was truly riveting. However, I wanted these things to be explored more, and explained further, in the book. The book reads like a diary, which means that we don’t get too many details about the events and the people that were described in the book. Nevertheless, the book was still enjoyable and it was stimulating reading. In particular, I was intrigued by the themes that were explored near the end of the book, a series of mystical, soul-searching events that Grant came in contact with to possibly change his future, and other people’s futures, for the better.
Is it fully fiction or are there real life events mixed in the story? Who knows, it is up to the reader to figure out how much is fictional and how much is the author’s real story, so if you want to try to find out, you must read the book first. Who Okayed This?! The Riveting Life of Grant Davis is an interesting and easy read that illustrates the good and the bad that can be found all the time in every person’s life path.
Pages: 241 | ASIN: B08VKSQT36
Decanted follows a vivacious young woman as she learns making wine and the perils of love. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
My daughter, the delightful and endlessly funny Samantha Sheehan, who created and produces Poe Wines Pinot Noir, Ultraviolet Cabernet, and a 95 point organic vermouth under the MOMMENPOP label is my total inspiration for Decanted. Like the novel’s heroine Samantha Goodyear, my daughter quit her job at a big five accounting firm to go to France to learn everything she could about making wine. Like the main character in Decanted, she then moved to Napa and took a bookkeeping job at a winery before launching her own wine brand that’s sold across the US and in many countries around the world.
Samantha is a compelling character that was fun to follow. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I wanted to draw my main character as a young woman who, though she’s a total product of modern times, has a tremendous love and respect for those who came before her. Samantha also has a tremendous work ethic, and never veers from her quest to achieve her dreams.
Wine making and wine culture were intriguing parts of this novel. Why was this an important aspect for you to include in the story?
Many people would like to understand more about wine culture and the winemaking process but don’t know where to begin. My goal in writing the book was to seamlessly give readers a fun wine education and illustrate what separates a great wine that reflects what nature intended from a tricked up brand with ingredients and flavors added by the big corporate wineries to sell the most bottles possible.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is my novel Fore Play, a comedy set at a Los Angeles country club that will be available this coming summer.
From author Linda Sheehan, who’s part of a Napa wine dynasty, comes a story of grapes, wine, first crushes, and juicy redemption. Dreading the desk job that awaits her after high school, eighteen- year-old Vivian Goodyear takes off for pre- World War ll Paris, where she supports herself as an artist’s model.
Flash forward to modern day Manhattan where, inspired by Vivian’s courage, her grand-niece Samantha leaves her pressure cooker career to work the grape harvest in France. There, between picking grapes in the vineyard and crushing them in the cellar, she gets lessons in the art of making wine and in the art of making love. But when her world is turned upside down, a link from Aunt Vivian’s past could right it in a tale of being on top, sinking to the bottom, and coming up for glorious air.
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Decanted is the story of bored millennial wine enthusiast and super palate Samantha Goodyear. When Samantha gets the opportunity of a lifetime to visit and work on one of the finest vineyards in France, she drops everything to go. Samantha returns to the United States and begins to build her own wine empire from a special gift left to her family by an older relative from World War II. But disaster strikes and the possibility of love once again enters the picture. Will she take the opportunity and will her business survive?
This emotionally charged book that radiates the aura of leisure and gives the reader a beautiful picture of sunny California, historic France and miles of vineyards. Author Linda Sheehan gives readers a light romance that is humorous at times and not too bogged down with heavy drama, although there is plenty of it it’s always refreshing. The flashbacks to the past and Aunt Vivian’s story are wonderful too and provide extra insight into the culture and art of winemaking that shapes Samantha’s life. The one thing that makes this novel stand out from other contemporary romance novels is the wine culture that is used as a fascinating backdrop to some stimulating scenes and alluring characters. The characters are all distinct and have their varying degrees of interest and class in the world of winemaking. There are the snobs, the hard workers, the casual enjoyers, and all are represented effortless yet realistic way. Samantha in particular is a compelling protagonist. She is a relatable millennial who is stuck in the rat race and trying to make a living, figure out life, and manage issues between her parents. But the truly amazing and likable things about Samantha is how she pursues her passions with abandon, all the while staying true to her herself. It is so refreshing and unique to read a protagonist so ready to think, act, and pursue her true self and her desires.
Decanted is a wonderfully realistic and intelligent new adult romance novel revealing a well-researched wine culture that’s effortlessly entertaining. I enjoyed the rich and detailed explanations of the natural views and taste or smells of the food and drink in the book. This book is a paradise for the gastronomically inclined. I highly recommend this as a light and refreshing read to any who dreams of the French campagne, soleil, et bon vin.
Pages: 265 | ISBN: 978-1-68433-703-3
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Author Biku Ghosh shares a detailed account of amazing life lived over six decades and reaching all corners of the globe. Biku Ghosh beautifully describes cities and landscapes. Ranging from ancient cities to modern landscapes such as New York. Amazing architectural descriptions are a fantastic feature in this book, whether it be the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Empire State Building or the ‘quirky’ and ‘tacky’ hotels in Las Vegas. He vividly describes many natural settings such as the “copper colored Colorado River,” African deserts, and the Niagara Falls. Biku Ghosh briefly describes his work, but mainly focuses on the sights, food and people he encounters.
As one of Biku Ghosh’s interests is mountain climbing his climbs feature throughout the memoir. Some of the climbs described include: the Himalayas, the highest peak in the British Isles and Mt Kilimanjaro. He describes his joy when reaching the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Eventually we hear of Ghosh’s climb to the Everest Base Camp. He writes a detailed description of the trip, split into the various stages and mountain heights. Aside from mountain climbing he also describes completing a safari in Africa, raising money for a Breast Cancer charity, scuba dives in Sorrento and the Great Barrier Reef, paragliding and skydiving in New Zealand! There are also photographs throughout the memoir, adding color and bringing life to the story.
The author’s mode of transportation is also a feature of this book. Ghosh describes the type of transport he takes in each journey, from public trains in India, electric buses in Paraguay to taxis in New York. Airplanes of various sizes from large long haul planes to a 12 seater plane to traverse the Grand Canyon. Bus rides vary from local buses, to 45km trips through forests and canyons. All of this really gives you a front seat view of the entire trip, not just the highlights.
As well as his transport and activity details, mouth-watering meals are a constant in this story: dosa, samosas, yoghurt, roti, Ethiopian coffee and popcorn, boiled shrimp, French Onion soup, almond pastries and numerous servings of ice cream to name but a few! The inclusion of food and meals adds to the depth and authenticity of the memoir.
The memoir is organized in chronological order, which makes it very easy to follow. At the beginning the sentence structure is quite long and cumbersome, however as the memoirs progress the writing becomes more natural and easier to read.
Around the World in Sixty-Five Years is an extensive memoir filled with vivid visual descriptions of exotic locations. The travel is extensive, and the anecdotes are always interesting, as are the activities, food, animals and people described. This is an engrossing memoir that will show you how much beauty there is in the world, and inspire you to travel.
Pages: 512 | ASIN: B08P7LQ9JS
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Love and Other Moods follows a young woman who has to start life over in a foreign country where she learns a lot more about life than she expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Much like Naomi, I left the U.S. in my early twenties and moved to China, a country I had never stepped foot in. The move was initiated by a job, but later was motivated by romance. Both would go up in smoke after a short while. Although the novel is very much fictional, there are some elements that are inspired by real-life events.
Naomi is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
We meet Naomi when she is in her early twenties, having just left New York and is embarking on a new chapter of her life in an entirely foreign country. But the adventure is off to a rocky start when things don’t pan out as planned.
I think personal growth happens most often when we’re thrown out of our comfort zones and into unchartered waters. That’s what happens to Naomi. At the same time she’s adapting to her new environment, issues from her past continue to confront and haunt her. She struggles with juggling the balance between forging ahead and letting go of regrets. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.
The story explores the city of Shanghai as well as the different people and relationships Naomi has. Was there anything you pulled from your own life and put into the story?
Yes. This is very much an “own voices” story. After I moved to Shanghai, my grandfather revealed that his father had once lived in Shanghai as well, during the World War Two era. I myself had lived in China for nearly a decade, and had worked on projects for the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.
Shanghai is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to, and I’ve traveled to over thirty countries. There are contrasts abound in every corner—east and west, old versus new, modern meets tradition. Every day I was meeting somebody interesting, from all walks of life, all corners of the globe. There was endless inspiration from the streets of Shanghai, from its inhabitants, architecture, cuisine, history, etc.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is a children’s book, and will be published sometime in 2021. My kids are very excited about this!
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First Steps to Fly Fishing is the definitive book on fly-fishing and provides invaluable, and actionable, advice readers can use to the fishing technique or begin their fishing journey. Why was this an important book for you to refresh for modern readers?
There were a couple of reasons. First, the original book was considered one of the “go-to” books on fly fishing in its day. Its patient, step-by-step approach to one’s first foray into this sport/art is worth preserving in a world where many times people automatically believe that text from a hundred years ago must ipso facto be bad, inaccurate, outdated, or just plain wrong. Not the case here. The basics of fly fishing 100 years ago have, to a high degree of correlation, synergy with those of today (i.e., e.g. to catch fish you need to know how to read the fish, the water, the weather, the flora, and the fauna. How to present the fly, and so on.) So a proven voice from yesterday, matched with updated tech information from today to me represents value for today’s reader/fisherman.
What were some goals you set for yourself as the editor in updating this book?
To preserve a classic on fly fishing for today’s audiences while at the same time updating the work to reflect contemporary technologies and definitions in particular. To preserve as much as practical, Michael’s ‘voice’ — so as much as I could I left his words and phrasing alone unless my copy editor and I were concerned it might cause confusion for a contemporary reader.
What was something that was new to you and that you learned from this book while working on it?
I wasn’t aware just how pervasive the use of horsehair and silk was in fishing back in the day. On the other hand, bamboo rods were quite the thing back then and these days they are back-in-style — back to the future, as it were.
What were some parts of the book that were included specifically for the modern audience, and what were parts that needed no revisions?
There is quite a bit of new material in this book. Just a quick list of the new parts would include:
- The History of Fly Fishing
- The images of the flies
- The introduction by noted Fly Fishing expert Joshua Bergan
- The period-specific advertisement images
- The basic fly fishing knots and loops illustration
- All of the content on the contemporary fly collection list
- The Glossary of Fly Fishing
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