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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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Despicable Ruthless Bosses

Muriel Ellis Pritchett Author Interview

Muriel Ellis Pritchett Author Interview

Like Peaches and Pickles follows Georgia as she fights to maintain her position in a work place that is quickly changing. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Throughout my long career in journalism and communication, I never worked anywhere that did not have politics. I never understood politics or learned to play the game. I was always horrified to see workers caught up in politics and crushed alive. I always thought that if I did the best job I could do, if I always tried to exceed my boss’s expectations, and if I stayed as far away from office politics as I could, then I would be fine. However, I soon learned that was not true. I wrote this book for all women who have ever been caught up in office politics, but especially for those women whose lives were forever scarred by despicable, ruthless bosses.

What I liked about Georgia’s character was that she continued to develop throughout the story. What was your inspiration for her character?

I was inspired by the strong women I met over the years whose lives became ensnared in office politics. Women who fought back against wage discrimination and sexual harassment. Women who were vilified for trying to bring about positive changes in the work place.

I really liked how I could relate to the office politics in the story. What experiences from your own life did you bring into the story?

Like all authors, I draw from my own experiences. It was my naivety when it came to back-stabbing office politics that often got me into trouble. I worked 10 years at a major Southern research university, so I definitely had experiences of my own to weave into LIKE PEACHES AND PICKLES, like political hires, wage discrimination, sexual harassment, fraternity hazing, arrested athletes, and campus scandals. I mixed my personal experiences with stories I heard from faculty and staff members at universities and colleges across the United States and Canada.

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

I am currently working on the third book in my “fruity” series–tentatively titled ROTTEN BANANAS. It is about a recently retired university professor who moves to a retirement complex for a safe, no-stress life full of Bridge games, yoga, water aerobics, music concerts, art classes, afternoon tea, and shopping trips to the Mall and Walmart. But one morning as she looks at her Bridge partner and counts up 40 points in her hand, she decides she wants more than that. So she signs up for a Caribbean cruise on the Emerald Dream, where she meets a stowaway, tangles with drug smugglers, gets kidnapped, and becomes involved with a “hottie” secret agent. What could be better than this?

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Like Peaches and Pickles by [Pritchett, Muriel Ellis]The university’s selection committee nominates Georgia Davis to become their first woman vice president — a job she’s coveted for more than a quarter century. But the university’s new president, Paul Van Horne, sours her plans by ignoring the committee and hiring Carl Overstreet, his old college buddy instead. In spite of her outrage and better judgment, Georgia begins having romantic feelings for the despicable scoundrel who is now her boss — at least until he fires her. But Van Horne and Overstreet soon learn that a Southern peach like Georgia does not go quietly into the compost bin. And Georgia discovers that revenge can taste as sweet as romance. Like Peaches and Pickles — a deliciously wicked story — will make you laugh, love and cheer for one Southern peach with a pit of steel.

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That’s a Tricky Question

Sally Forest Author Interview

Sally Forest Author Interview

Choose: Snakes or Ladders follows Mitty who comes up against sexism and classism and must challenge others’ prejudices while fighting her inner demons. What was your inspiration for this provocative novel?

I didn’t have any articulated inspiration for the novel. It started as a short piece and grew seemingly by itself. I thought it was about an innocent young girl in the 50’s. I actually didn’t know that I felt so strongly about class issues and sexism. Nor about sexual safety of young people. My main conscious focus was on her struggle to find a way through the internal and external restrictions. As a former therapist, it has always saddened me that many women, particularly in the 50’s, were denied natural pleasures because of a culture of ignorance and shame around female sexual activity. As well of course, of career advancement.

What I really enjoyed about Mitty’s character is how well developed she was but continued to transform throughout the novel. What were some obstacles you felt were important for Mitty’s character development?

Her main obstacle was the extreme shaming and ignorance of the fictional sect in the novel. Another strong obstacle was Mitty’s lack of anyone who could help her come to some knowledge and understanding. I loved Violet’s attempts to inform her. The struggle is linked to the development, through ups and downs, of her self-worth – another essential ingredient in a life of achievement, pleasure and love.

I think you did a great job of illustrating that female beauty and sexuality can often be a poisoned chalice. Why do you think this is an important, especially with today’s #metoo movement?

I was amused by Mitty’s character as a woman who was beautiful and sexually arousing without her knowing it. And heartened by her innate sensuality. Perhaps if young women were educated properly and allowed to have awareness and acceptance of these factors, they would be less vulnerable in the face of male assertion of power in all ways. A lot of work needs to be done to educate men, particularly in self-awareness.

In the sequel all these themes continue to build strong plot threads, together with some surprising twists in Mitty’s life path.

What life experiences of your own did you put into the novel, if any?

That’s a tricky question. A life experience of teacher and counselor helps to build a wide understanding. Personally, none of the events as depicted happened to me, although fragments of similar occurrences have been combined to build a different fictional history. For example, my much loved grandmother had overcome a restrictive religious background, while still quoting many homilies to me, with a wry smile. Otherwise, sometimes just a few words overheard will trigger a scene. So there is a basic truth in it all.

Author Links: Amazon | Website

Choose: Snakes Or Ladders: A Psychological Coming-of-Age Novel by [Forest, Sally]“Choose: Snakes or Ladders: A Psychological Coming-of-Age Novel” from hot new contemporary fiction author, Sally Forest.

This is “a well-plotted tale of human growth, sexuality, and self-discovery which will be enjoyed by readers of women’s fiction and literary fiction alike.”

Mitty is a young girl brought up in a punitive sect who escapes to a typist job in the city – a step to fulfilling her dreams of being a lady. She is hampered by deep fears of hell and punishment, and utter ignorance of the facts of life.

The 1950’s – sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not in the small towns of Australia. There were lots of jobs, clothes and wealth in the cities but this threatened the values of the past – a culture where men desire and decide, while women love and serve.

Miss Mitty Bedford knew the outside world through Hollywood movies at the local Pictures, only to find in real life that there can be nasties behind smiling, beautiful faces.

A stalker’s attack clashes with her newfound joy in sensual self-discovery inspired by a crush on her boss, and her love for decent, loving, traditional Col. She writhes between shame, repentance and joy. 

Mitty wants a career and respect, but what path must she choose? She needs love, but does she want freedom more?

This emotional and dramatic journey to win trust, love and independence, will keep readers turning the pages, as well as provoking questions that still apply today.

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An Alien on the Run

Roxanne Bland Author Interview

Roxanne Bland Author Interview

Invasion follows a vampire, mage and a werewolf as they try to prevent an alien invasion. How did you come up with this unique and thrilling idea?

For that, we have to go back to The Underground, to which Invasion is the standalone sequel. I wanted to tell more of Melera’s story (the interstellar assassin) than what was depicted in that first book. So, I have an alien on the run from her nemesis, who is determined to recapture her and possess her battlefleet. When she returns to Earth, what are the high stakes? Does she just resume her existence on her hidden base, doing what she’s fated to do? No, because there’s no urgency. There has to be a clear and present danger from without. And what could be more of a clear and present danger than a potential alien invasion of Earth?

I really enjoyed that each character was unique and well developed, which led to some very interesting relationships. Did you plan these relationships or did they grow organically?

Again, we have to go back to The Underground. The Underground is where those relationships developed. I didn’t exactly plan them; they more or less grew organically. I mean, I had an idea about these relationships, but I didn’t map them out—I simply wrote and watched them unfold. That’s the way I write—I don’t plot anything out. I have an idea where to start—point A, if you will—and I know I have to get to point B and then to point C. How I get to these points is completely unknown to me. That, for me, is the joy of writing, that act of creation.

This novel was fun to read. What was the most fun scene for you to write?

That would have to be the BDSM scene. I had to do research for that one. I read books on the roles of the dominant and the submissive. I learned that to be a good dom is hard work. I also learned the rules of etiquette in group settings, and things like that. I visited a couple of clubs on open house night, where we were treated to a tour of the facilities, mini-lectures and demonstrations. One night, I won a gorgeous, hand-tooled leather spiked collar at a silent auction. Anyway, I met some fabulous people who were more than willing to talk to me about how to write the scene so that it rang true. I even ran it by a couple who gave me pointers. A great group of people, really. Their lifestyle isn’t mine, but it was a wonderful experience that really opened my eyes.

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

I’m working on a sequel to a book I wrote a few years ago, entitled The Moreva of Astoreth. It’s funny—I never intended to write a sequel to The Moreva, but so many of my readers strongly suggested that I do so, well, how can I disappoint? I hope to have it finished within a year, maybe by the spring of 2019. My day job takes up a lot of my time, and I’m still working on how to balance the marketing and writing thing. I mean, I’m either all in, or not. I know there’s got to be a better way, a smarter way—I just haven’t figured it out yet.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Invasion by [Bland, Roxanne]Kurt, vampire Master of Seattle, Garrett Larkin, mage of Balthus Coven and Parker Berenson, alpha of the city’s werewolf pack, are in a world of trouble. Already divided by love and jealousy, the three discover their auras are inextricably bound, the result of a spellcasting gone terribly wrong. Each one’s aura has been invaded by the auras of the others, and the consequences are both frightening and deadly. Worse yet, Shen’zae Melera, interstellar assassin and Parker’s love, has returned to Earth with dire news: she didn’t return alone. She’d been followed by her nemesis, Mag Beloc, and his fleet of warships. Even if Beloc recaptures her, Melera knows that Earth will suit his purposes, and that his presence may well become permanent. Drawn together by choice and fate while doing what they had to do, can Kurt, Garrett, and Parker now find a way to undo the magick that binds them, and with Melera, stop an alien invasion before it begins?

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The Woman Behind The Waterfall

The Woman Behind The Waterfall by [Meriel, Leonora]

Lyuda was a lovely seventeen-year old girl with a potentially bright future. This was until she met Vova and the course of her life changed forever. Later, Vova would leave her orphaned and with a baby to care for. She was in pain and alone but she had a child. This meant she could not cry openly. Therefore, she tried to find momentary happiness at the bottom of a glass of Samohon.

Angela is a happy child. She is blissfully unaware of the harsh realities of life. She often wanders in her imagination without a care in the world. What does a seven-year-old girl have to worry about anyway? One day her night spirit appeared and warned her of an impending darkness. She did not understand this but the meaning soon became apparent. With the help of her grandmother, she embarks on a mission to make her mother happy again. Her mother needs to be reminded of the joy she derives from having Angela in her life. When all is said and done, Angela can finally grow up without being held back by her mother’s past. She can move on out of the dark envelope that is her mother’s mistakes.

Leonora Meriel successfully evokes intense emotion with this book. It is so sad and devastating to watch a child wish to be happy but hold themselves back to cater to their parent. She writes with vivid clarity and details the excruciating struggles Lyuda goes through. The author’s description of the Ukrainian countryside transports the reader to Lyuda’s little house with the lilacs outside. The Woman Behind the Waterfall is a good book about a mother’s desire to maintain her sanity. Not for her own sake but for the sake of her child.

Not enough stories explain, in heart wrenching detail, the struggle that mothers go through. Especially single mothers. This novel, to me, was told with an air of reverence. I’m always looking for books that take me beyond the words and transports me into new characters with interesting stories to tell. What you’ll find here is a story about people and passion and the moments that test both of them.

This book will leave you in tears. The story will ignite an urge to hug your mother and express appreciation for all the times she gave up her own life for yours.

Pages: 264 | ASIN: B01M078MOF

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With Angel’s Wings

With Angel's Wings by [Collins, Stephanie A.]

With Angel’s Wings, by Stephanie Collins, is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. Written as a third-person account with name changes, the author describes each and every obstacle encountered as she struggled to come to terms with her daughters’ challenges while simultaneously dealing with a long string of physicians, specialists, and therapists. Laura, as the author calls the young mother, fights an uphill battle from the moment she is told her days-old infant has a heart defect–the first of many. While facing a seemingly unending barrage of personal hurdles, Laura somehow learns to cope with the endless physical and emotional demands placed upon her family by tiny Hannah’s diagnosis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome.

This author’s life story as a work of fiction is almost indescribable. I do not believe I have ever read a book that kept me as breathless and as anxious as this one. Laura’s laundry list of traumatic events ranging from her newborn’s purple feet and hands to her seizures lasting for hours on end is mentally exhausting to read. Her life is so full of twists and turns and drama surrounding Hannah’s diagnosis and subsequent health scares, the author has no need to embellish with flowery language and lengthy stretches of narrative. There is, literally, no room or time left to dress up her text. This book reads as a journal of heartache peppered with true love.

Collins is honest and open with her feelings about her daughters’ diagnoses. As Laura, she sugarcoats nothing. As strong as she is, Laura reveals her vulnerability as an overwhelmed young mother. The reader aches to watch her contemplate, time and again, a way out. Her frustration as a parent fighting her way through the healthcare system is one with which many readers will be able to relate. In addition to her day-to-day battle with fevers, seizures, hospital visits, and mounting financial woes, Laura faces the virtually indescribable audacity of an ex-husband who lacks not only both sympathy and empathy but a soul, as well.

As a parent and a teacher, I have never read a more authentic and touching account of life as a mother or a more revealing account of what caring for a child with special needs truly entails. Emily’s early signs of autism hit home with me as a teacher. No one knows the struggle of helping a child on the autism spectrum like a parent. Laura begins accommodating for Emily’s needs long before her diagnosis. She modifies, plans, and tries to remain several steps ahead of meltdowns from early on in Emily’s life. Parents of children with autism will appreciate reading about the way Laura intricately weaves a web of plans on a daily basis to compensate for Emily’s developmental delays.

Though the book is primarily focused on the battle to save Hannah and come to grips with her many needs, the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the relationship Laura develops with Daniel. Daniel, the one shining light in her darkest days, is a rather unlikely saviour. Their love, apparent from early in their friendship, is one that only intensifies through the rigors of identifying and finding ways of successfully coping with all Emily and Hannah’s needs.

There aren’t any options for stars beyond 5, so I am restricted to giving With Angel’s Wings 5 out of 5 stars. The author’s life story, now Laura and Daniel’s as well, is an absolute must-read for any parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child with special needs. There is a love like no other born out of a relationship with these children, and Stephanie Collins has handed readers everywhere the key to unlock hearts and minds and build a better understanding of the struggles faced by many of our family members and friends who have children with special needs living lives like Laura’s.

Pages: 304 | ASIN: B01DL9AXAI

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Losing our Humanity

Jerry J.C. Veit Author Interview

Jerry J.C. Veit Author Interview

Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?

Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.

Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature.  The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.

I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.

The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.

The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?

Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.

The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.

I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?

Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.

It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.

Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.

I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future? 

I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.

In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.

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Into the Night by [Veit, Jerry J.C.]

In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.

While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.

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Away From Home

Away From Home

Away from Home by Joanne Clairmont is a very real and heartbreaking look into the troubled thoughts and insecure feelings many children and teens experience when part of the foster care system. As an experienced foster mom, Clairmont has dealt with a number of heart-breaking cases of fostered teens feeling lonely, isolated, and abandoned upon entering her home. She writes vividly about the struggles and emotions those in her care have faced, and the unseen turmoil brewing within them as they are placed into yet another new environment. Oftentimes sorrowful, Away from Home is an important read in understanding the ups and downs of the foster care system by those directly experiencing it.

A short book broken up into six sections, Away from Home shares Clairmont’s foster care experiences in poem form. Each section contains several poems related to a specific type of foster child, such as The Unsettled Teenager and The Challenging Teenager. Most of the six sections share the pain and loss of security many fostered teenagers can relate to when thrust into a foster situation. The last section, titled The Independent Teenager, completes the journey of emotional growth of the foster care teenager and consists of more uplifting and positive poems.

I appreciated that the author could interpret the actions of her fostered teenagers from the first night they arrived at her house until they had grown and moved on with their lives. I found the poems in The Unaccompanied Minor and The Unsettled Teenager especially easy to connect with due to their complete realization and understanding of how a teenager would feel upon entering a new foster placement. They presented a personal psychology into the effects of the instability and adaption foster children must cope with through no fault of their own.

I especially liked how the author construed the emotions of a new placement in “Don’t know if I am coming or going.” It was a simple and realistic take on how a newly placed teenager may feel upon arriving in a new place after enduring several former placements. It captures the frustration and identifies the protective wall that has been built up to shield the fostered teenager from experiencing any more emotional loss.

While there were many poems that hit the mark in eliciting a feeling or emotion when read, there were also a few that didn’t do it for me. “It is not cool” and “No school today” seemed like unfinished thoughts or small snippets that could have been better fleshed out. I think the book would greatly benefit from some additional structuring and the addition of more personalized images.  The images in the book are generic and vary in artistic design. More simplified, original artwork would do wonders to visually present the ideas and feelings of the poems.

Overall I thought Away From Home really presented the emotional psychology and depth of the foster care system and those who live it. It created a descriptive and realistic picture for those who may not be familiar with the tragedy and distress many teens experience while in foster care. Aside from the few issues I had in reading, this book was an intense, creatively written study of an important subject.

Pages: 52 | ASIN: B077QLBKSC

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Like Peaches and Pickles

Like Peaches and Pickles

Like Peaches and Pickles follows Georgia Davis as she fights to maintain her position in a work place that is quickly changing. Georgia has worked her whole life for her success. But just as her career goals are about to come to fruition the new University President hires an old friend of his. New Vice President Carl Overstreet quickly sets himself up to be the sour pickle in this story. Easily unlikable, but somehow, Georgia has a romantic connection with the man that the rest of the staff is plotting to overthrow. With her job on the line, and soon her reputation, Georgia is faced with the adage; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

While Georgia Davis fights to maintain the success she has we get to see office politics play out in a entertaining yet believable way that leaves Georgia endearing. If you’ve ever worked in an office then you can easily place these characters into your own workplace. Far too often have I seen people like Carl Overstreet walk over people like Georgia Davis in my career. It’s nice that this book looks at those relationships and expands them in a story that moves along quickly with smart writing and easy prose.

While Carl sets out to, seemingly, directly offend everyone, somehow, Georgia has romantic feelings for him. I don’t want to ruin things here so I won’t say more, but I will say that things don’t end up the way you think they might, which was a nice plot twist for me and one of those small examples that kept me turning pages just to see what happens next.

Georgia is doing all that she can to remain a great team player and save the public face of the University. Unfortunately, members of her team have concocted a way to get the Vice President fired at the cost of their most valuable team member, Georgia. I enjoyed the soft of internal office war that breaks out as people begin to realize that others are plotting and scheming; that could end up giving the University a bad name.

I liked that this book felt familiar to me. It allowed me to easily empathize with the characters. It’s so hard not to give away so many juicy details here, but rest assured, you will want to read this book for yourself. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great drama in a professional setting with a hint of romance.

Pages: 256 | ISBN: 1612969798

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From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

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