Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Guest Post by Sunayna Prasad, The Life and Lessons of a Young Author


When Child Characters Need to Rely on Adults

A while back, I have watched a video about developing children’s novel characters. The person in the clip said that the characters have to make their own decisions at all times. She also said that adults should be kept out of the story as much as possible. I’d say, “Yes and no.” It really depends on your story’s setting and plot. If it’s olden times in history, when children were expected to have more independence and it was considered standard and safe during that time, then it make sense to keep adults out. Or if your story is set in another country that has different laws from the US about child safety and restrictions, then being 100% independent can work as well.

However, if your story is set in modern times, and in a country like the US, Canada, UK, etc., depending on your novel plot, it can be harder to keep adults out of the story. Of course, you shouldn’t have your child character ask his or her parents for homework help. But, depending on the kid’s age, they can’t do certain things too independently, otherwise, readers could expect CPS to show up at the character’s home.
Bringing me to the purpose of this post, I am now going to give examples of when a child character needs to rely on an adult.

1: Provide family income and shelter

This is an obvious one, even if it doesn’t play a role to your story. You cannot have a kid live by him or herself unless your story is set in a very poor place or a very old time, like an ancient civilization. But it’s just not possible.

2: Being Driven

Unless your character is old enough for a license, he or she is going to need to depend on an adult to drive him or her. That being said, they can still think about their own decisions while in the car or whatever vehicle he or she is in.

3: Having certain papers that require parent/guardian signatures

From legal documents to school permission slips, a child will need to have an adult sign these types of papers to make the story believable. Unless it’s necessary for your plot to have the kid forge the signature, he or she has to get an adult.

4: Being escorted in places forbidding un-accompanied minors

With so much security and surveillance today, it would be hard to have a child character go somewhere like what is mentioned above without adult supervision. Of course, this also depends on your setting. But if it’s modern times in a nation like the US, then it would only be believable if the kid is escorted by a grown-up.

Other than these exceptions, your child character should make his or her own decisions and be independent.

The Life and Lessons of a Young Author by Sunayna Prasad : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Life and Lessons of a Young Author

AUTHOR: Sunayna Prasad

ISBN/ASIN: B07FFBMS3V

GENRE: YA Non-fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 19

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Whether you are young or old, The Life and Lessons of a Young Author can offer those who dream of finding the right path in the world of writing and publishing. Sunayna Prasad shares her experience as a young author and discusses what went well for her and what she suggests to those who long for success.

Talking about her life as a published writer, Sunayna Prasad teaches you the rules of the writing craft and the standards of the publishing world, as well as additional tips and tricks. The Life and Lessons of a Young Author can help you choose your own writing and publishing paths.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The first impression when I got this book was thinking it was short, and wondering how many details it could contain. The title gave me little clue as to the nature of the book, but the summary answered some important questions. The impression I began with was positive.

REVIEW:

It is hard to come up with a book that details all the trials and tribulations of any particular journey. Once someone has reached a secure position in any field, it becomes hard to recount the struggles and bring them out in good detail. It is a gargantuan attempt to say the least. The author, Sunanya Prasad, has chosen to write this book that details the troubles of the initial stages of her journey while she is still traveling. And that was, in my opinion, a good attempt with fresh interesting perspectives.

The first person narrative of the book worked for me until the first few pages. When the author was detailing the initial stages, the struggles sounded very personal. Each and every author goes through similar kinds of struggles and will relate with every word in the initial chapters. The lessons learned from these were clearly portrayed and would turn out to be important advice for all authors irrespective of their age and experience. The organisation of the book was good, and the language was simple and lucid enough. The book covered all the interior details of what is basically a lonely journey, the writing process. This makes the book a must read for anyone who thinks they are struggling alone.

But there was a noticeable downside that cannot be ignored. The writing process is a solitary journey, but publishing is surely an effort that involves multiple people. Even though it is written by an author who has published many books in different means, the book does not detail the possible complications that might arise in the other legs of the journey. Concepts like editing and publishing rejection have been covered, but superficially, and from the author's single perspective. Since the book has been titled 'lessons' of a young author, it would have been better to include those other perspectives, especially a bit more information on how editing would affect a book, and what changes it might do to a raw and unpolished manuscript. This is where I felt the book lacked some crucial information, and sounded like a monologue from a single window. The book details very less, also, about post publishing marketing and sales, which are must haves for this title and what the book set out to do.

Overall, the book is a booster for anyone who writes. It tells you how you are not suffering alone, and either motivates you to finish your manuscript, or details what could go wrong with what you think is the perfect book ever written. Either way, it is a must read.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • Anyone who reads this book will realise that they are not alone in the struggle.
  • The book covers the most important conceptions about publishing that are otherwise shied away from. Special mention for that.
  • Content wise, the organisation is sequential and addresses many issues regarding publication.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The author's take on obtaining / getting reviews needs some polishing.
  • As an editor myself, though I agreed with her views on self-editing, there is a lot more to proofreading than what has been mentioned in the book.
  • The book is singularly written from one main perspective. Other perspectives would be helpful too.
VERDICT:

Must read for authors who are unaware of potholes on the road to publishing. Brownie points for the honesty in writing.

RATING: 3.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sunayna Prasad has been writing since she was six. She continues to write fiction and non-fiction today and has even won a Pacific Book-Review award. She lives in New York, and when not writing, likes to create art and cook.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback.

PRICE $1.99 for Kindle, $6.38 for Paperback.

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Friday, July 27, 2018

Guest Post by R D Maddux, Author of Boy on The Beach


It’s amazing what 39 years can do to a culture

There’s a span of thirty-nine years between the present day, San Diego, setting of my novel, Boy On The Beach, to the flash-backs of another era. So much of what our current West Coast culture is today was put in motion by the generation that came into their adulthood during the late 60’s and 70’s. 39 years ago, the riotous days of the counter-culture were morphing into the disco era. But in communes along the coast of California and the hippie hangouts in the Redwoods of Mendocino, the last hold-outs of the “free love” scene were still lost in the passions of their hedonistic choices. In some ways these two eras are completely different. But in some ways, not much has changed. By setting these two seasons in contrast and bringing the protagonist past into direct conflict with his new identity I think I’ve been able to explore a deeper conflict that our present society must deal with as it faces the choices it made years ago. Many believe that we are set on a course as a society where we eventually will have to “pay” for the sins of our past. Boy On The Beach sets in contrasts two eras. One where we’ve sown to the wind and one where there’s a tornado heading our way. It also unblinkingly addresses a possible payback that may be coming but hints as well at a possible hope-filled future our characters could never have imagined. 

Never thought this idyllic setting would work for a mystery

I love this wonderful city where I’ve lived for 30 plus years. The beach, the great weather, the great people. But I’m fascinated how all this idyllic world can be the perfect setting for mystery and intrigue. By putting the nightmare of unresolved issues from my character’s past and his hope of success here in San Diego, I’ve been able to create a story of intrigue and fascination that will leave the reader wondering right up until the last page. 

Building suspense can be a suspenseful process

The writer is always challenged with the tasks of creating suspense if they’re writing a mystery. But as I put the details of this story together I was personally amazed as the story built on itself to its surprising end. But in the process, I was faced with some big challenges. How do you take your average real estate developer and put him in a place where his life is suddenly turned around and he’s left in a state of uncertainty about his future? No, it’s not just having the bottom fall out of the market. No, it’s something completely different. You bring his past crashing down on him just as his dream project starts to come to fruition. Then you throw in a romantic element, not merely because you want to make the story more marketable but because it really works and it’s true to life. So how do you build the suspense? You reveal that current nightmares are not just dreams but a reality that you tried to forget and now it’s rushing back into your world and you can’t control it.

It’s great when your friends really like your novel

I’ve been amazed at my friend’s response to my novel. A lot of times, as an author, you have those friends who encourage you to develop your gift. They praise your writing, but you wonder if it’s sincere. Well when I released my latest novel I asked them to read it and give me their honest opinion. Well, when they started putting their reviews on the Amazon page where my book is marketed I was really stunned. So many of them gave their honest and eloquent opinions. There they were, those 4 and 5 stars. Not there merely because I was their friend but because the story really gripped them, and they couldn’t put it down. I was wowed and thankful. Now I just hope those readers who don’t know me will be equally impressed.

A psychological thriller set within the sound of the surf

Often when we think of the beach we think of a place of tranquility and refreshing. But I’ve used this setting to create a mystery of intrigue that even the gentle lapping of waves against the shore cannot dispel. I’ve wondered what would happen if I put my “everyman”, comfortably ensconced in the idyllic world of San Diego beach life and brought some of the unfinished business from his past back into his life. What will he do when confronted with the ghost of his younger years and hopes of success in the dog eat dog world of competitive real estate development in this southern California city. What will he do when his dreams run into the reality of the nightmares of his past.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

R.D. Maddux has story telling in his blood. Since he was young he’s always loved a good tale. He’s been writing seriously since he was in high school and college. His novels range from Mystery and Intrigue to Sci-fi/fantasy. With Boy On The Beach he’s set the story in modern America, to be exact, on the West Coast of California. He’s a native of the golden state and has been a resident of San Diego since 1987. Before that he grew up in northern California and lived in the Sacramento Valley and Bay Area with sojourns in some of the beautiful parts of our state.

Living in California for over 60 years he couldn't help but watch the way things have changed in our culture and the impact this coast makes on the rest of America and the world. So even though Boy On The Beach is fiction, like most serious novels, it is not without a context and comment on issues we all face in our changing world. It takes place in real locations that are very familiar to him and its characters, which are fictional, no doubt have their counterparts in the real world. Boy On The Beach is a story of intrigue, suspense, revenge, love and redemption with flashbacks to the era when sex, drugs and rock and roll set our culture on it's inevitable journey to our present day. This idea has been rattling around in his heart and mind for a decade and it's finally coming to the page.
Note: Readers Muse thanks the author for his wonderfully written post!


Boy on The Beach by R D Maddux : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Boy on the Beach

AUTHOR: R.D. Maddux

ISBN/ASIN: B06XJMD34B

GENRE: Mystery / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 304

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Andrew Foster, a real estate developer in San Diego, is a man suddenly haunted by his past. Memories, like specters from his former life of sex, drugs and rock and roll have come crashing into his current world of business in this sunny coastal city. The ominous, repeated appearance of a black SUV at the beach where he meets his sister each week, has triggered fears that it’s payback time for a bad choice he made years ago. ​

​To add to his frustrations, his hopes of a big breakthrough in the San Diego real estate market haven’t come to pass. He’s starting to wonder if his visions of success will ever come true when an investor offers to finance his dream project. Soon things start to fall into place for Andrew in business, life, and even love. He starts dating the beautiful and business-savvy Nicole but even with her at his side he can’t seem to shake the ghosts of his past. As the relationship with Nicole deepens, Andrew opens up to her about the many loves and adventures that have taken him from the crazy days of living in Big Sur and Joshua Tree to business success in San Diego. Her wise insights help him face the character flaws that have caused him to fail in his past relationships.

Rounding out his social life is his once-a-week task of assisting his sister with her nanny job watching a young boy named Chandler. They build sand castles on the beach and enjoy the beauty of nature together. But the now ominous weekly appearance of a strange car at the beach has awakened Andrew’s fears. Is the boy in danger? Or worse, has an enemy from Andrew’s past come seeking revenge and now Chandler’s caught in the middle?

A strange twist of events threatens to destroy Andrew’s dreams, but as he searches for answers, a sudden revelation offers hope of a future he never imagined. ​



FIRST IMPRESSION:

The book's cover was simple and straightforward, revealing only a bit about what kind of story this would turn out to be. But the summary is a bit more detailed, setting the scene and pace with care, giving the reader a clear picture of what the novel would cover. What piqued my interest in the summary was the detailing on the regret of one's actions in the past. When a lead character is anguished by a past decision, the consequences of which travel into the present, the novel should carry off not one, but two timelines with coherence. I was eager to begin reading the novel for this particular reason.

REVIEW:

One of the first things I would say about the book is positive. It is not easy to carry out different timelines with such ease, and mingle it with different points of view in the story. The author does both beautifully, even though sometimes it is hard to keep track. The story feels exactly like it should, highlights of an old man's long life, the mistakes, the attitudes, the redemption and remorse arc. This is where Andrew becomes simultaneously unlikeable and relatable because all people at some point have made mistakes that have made them regret for the rest of their lives. Those with stronger conscience feel the brunt of these past mistakes like an albatross around the neck. Those who read of Andrew and his life would see parallels not in his behaviour but in how the same life can mean two different things during youth and old age.

But where the book falters is in its uneven pacing. The narrative feels long, and though it is descriptive and beautiful, some things could have been left without such detailing. This rich prose does not suit the mood of the story in some places, lending the reader to confuse view points and lose track of the important crux of the story. The talented writing is a bit overdone, giving a bit more than readers would expect of the novel. And the extra bits are what seriously affect the speed of the otherwise thrilling tale. The narration would have been termed befitting for a different genre, but for a thriler, the book needs more action and suspense than detailing. The language was a treat to read, and has some memorable quotes that I would take back.

The book gets marks for being engaging, being true to the timelines it was based in, even with the alternating points of view. The experiences seem realistic, and totally believable. The book would have been a walk in the memory lane for anyone who grew up 40 years ago in California. It is for this reason that it may also seem a little off the mark for those who cannot understand the time period or the inside references that are scattered in the narrative in places. It takes a special kind of writing to make the readers understand, in vivid clarity, what life was like back then. The author wins in bringing the scenes to life, but also keeps doing it in places where it is not strictly necessary. The resultant of this writing is a book that can be cherished in subsequent readings for the words and descriptions but would dampen the excitement and the thrill of the reader the first time it is read.

The redemption arc of Andrew as a character becomes the focal point of the story. His justifications and remorse, his mistakes and regrets get the limelight. Omitting all the details in this review, the book is a treat that would either stay with the reader in all aspects, or take the reader tens of pages to get into the groove of the story. Overall, Boy On The Beach made to my good list, and I would read some parts of this book again, but that is only for the writing.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The book's message about our actions and consequences is worth remembering.
  • The ending gets a thumbs up
  • The timelines are woven seamlessly.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The adrenaline of the beginning slowly recedes into some heart clenching descriptive narrative. This slows the pace noticeably
  • The narrative is like a journal that not many can effectively follow. The changing view points can get confusing after a while.
  • The book uses some references of the time that might be missed by some readers, but this is not a deal breaker.
VERDICT:

Relatable, vivid tale of a man's life, his mistakes and their consequences. The book shall grow on the reader when read the second time and after.

RATING: 3.8/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



R.D. Maddux has story telling in his blood. Since he was young he’s always loved a good tale. He’s been writing seriously since he was in high school and college. His novels range from Mystery and Intrigue to Sci-fi/fantasy. With Boy On The Beach he’s set the story in modern America, to be exact, on the West Coast of California. He’s a native of the golden state and has been a resident of San Diego since 1987. Before that he grew up in northern California and lived in the Sacramento Valley and Bay Area with sojourns in some of the beautiful parts of our state.

Living in California for over 60 years he couldn't help but watch the way things have changed in our culture and the impact this coast makes on the rest of America and the world. So even though Boy On The Beach is fiction, like most serious novels, it is not without a context and comment on issues we all face in our changing world. It takes place in real locations that are very familiar to him and its characters, which are fictional, no doubt have their counterparts in the real world. Boy On The Beach is a story of intrigue, suspense, revenge, love and redemption with flashbacks to the era when sex, drugs and rock and roll set our culture on it's inevitable journey to our present day. This idea has been rattling around in his heart and mind for a decade and it's finally coming to the page.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $6.81 for Kindle, $14.95 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra : A Review


BOOK TITLE: A Cage of Desires

AUTHOR: Shuchi Singh Kalra

ISBN/ASIN: B07CVJ8S6Z

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 175

FORMAT: Kindle

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author for the book, the recommendation and her request for a thoroughly honest review.

SUMMARY:

'There's a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there's the kind that brings you down on both. You don't need the latter, because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back.'

Renu had always craved for love and security, and her boring marriage, mundane existence somehow leads her to believe that, maybe, this is what love is all about. Maya, on the other hand, is a successful author who is infamous for her bold, erotic books.

What do these two women have in common? How are their lives intertwined?

Renu's thirst for love and longing takes her on a poignant journey of self-exploration. The answers come to her when she finds the courage to stand up for herself, to fight her inner demons and free herself from the cage of desires . . .

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Since I had already read two books by Shuchi, I had an idea of what to expect where the writing was concerned. The summary was short and to the point, and the book cover gave me an idea of what the story may contain. The blurb that compares two contrasting personalities, how they will affect the lives of the other and what common points they might have, piqued my interest. The cover image is enticing, and reflective of the genre this book is based on, not revealing much but still garnering readers' attention enough to pick it up and read the book back summary.

REVIEW:

A Cage of Desires - is a very tastefully written piece of fiction that touches upon many cross genres including mild erotica, self exploration and women empowerment. The book is a bit of everything, but does not overdo anything. The story is simple yet profound, the narrative holds the reader with a lot more factors than just descriptions. What attracted me first to the story was how evenly it paced out. There were highs and lows, but they were all balanced throughout, not clashing with the pace of the plot or wrapping up with hurried and abrupt jumps between scenes.

Renu as the docile housewife who is stuck in a loveless marriage and has two kids, and who spends her days tending to her aged father in law and maintaining the household on the meager monthly income her husband sends, is a character who will stick in the readers' minds immediately. Anyone who has closely watched the big indian families of the past few decades can name at lease one Renu who is the spineless backbone of the household, the thankless woman whose days begin before dawn and end after midnight. It is with this character that the story draws its readers in. And in perfectly etching the confusions faced by a middle aged woman whose priority list does not include her own self, the author scores a brilliant tale. Maya as the bold author whose books are devoured by masses and who writes things most people cannot even begin to imagine, but love to read on paper - is the kind of woman who are admired from afar but not accepted up close.

The book follows Renu's life, and the twists and turns that happen when temptation crosses her path. The trajectory of Maya and her life is also brought out well, giving a contrast that highlights all the issues that happen in the Indian society. The story's biggest plus is the narrative, putting forward the erotic parts without crass details, having believable characters and shifts in their behaviour, and being totally unapologetic about conveying the stark realities of Indian marriages, social pressures and the double standards that come with them. Some parts are predictable, and the seasoned reader can guess the story's path before the actual suspense is revealed, but that was not the point of the story, which I guess was written to convey something else entirely.

Overall a book with good English, no major noticable grammatical flaws and smooth plot transition. I loved the narration and the characterisation though I could not find any specific character that I wanted to root for. The writing shone through with brilliance in some places, with a few profound words that could serve as good reminders about love and life.

Here are a few I liked.

Everything was in its place, and yet nothing was.

That's the thing about truth - it doesn't flinch, it doesn't falter, it sears and burns. And the truth singed her heart, scarring it in places she never even realised existed.

Is love about possessing someone? Is it about owning someone? Love is free, unfettered, like the air and water. Like our love is.

There's a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there's the kind that brings you down on both. You don't need the latter, because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back.

Not all stories have a beginning and an end, because they are not stories at all. They are journeys.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The book was bold without resorting to crassness. That is a huge plus.
  • The character transitions were believable and clear
  • The book was unapologetic about what it wanted to convey and did not shy away from detailing the troubles faced by some married women in patriarchal families in the country.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Two big suspense reveals are timed in such a way that the narrative itself reveals them indirectly a few pages before the actual mention. The suspense could have held on till the actual reveal to make the novel more interesting.
  • The individual characters are hard to root for, and lead the readers to not take any side clearly.
  • The story would have remained the same without the prologue, which served to quell the biggest question of the plot.
VERDICT:

Loved the boldness, the clean writing and the smooth pace of the story. Good read.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shuchi Singh Kalra is the Amazon bestselling author of two novels-Done with Men and I'm Big. So What!? Her short stories have appeared in Love across Borders, Stories for Your Valentine and NAW Anthology 2013. In her freelancing career of over a decade, Shuchi has written for major print and online publications such as Femina, Good Housekeeping, Hotelier International, Huffington Post and Home Review, among others. She has also been listed among the top women authors to follow on Twitter. Website: www.shuchikalra.com


Twitter: @shuchikalra

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Rs. 175.11 for Kindle, Rs. 225 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Guest Post by Divyata Rajaram, author of 'If You Only Knew Me'


Is personal experience in a city/ country an important factor that influences the location / setting of novels?
Personal experience can certainly influence the location and setting of a novel and in fact can have a significant impact on the story itself. The genre of If You Only Knew Me as a social drama interwoven with a thriller wholly demanded an understanding of the social context of the Non Resident Indian diaspora.
Having witnessed the various social pressures and challenges faced by this community first hand, greatly helped me provide a detailed description of the situations the characters find themselves in. I do believe this understanding also lent a further sense of gravitas to the writing. If You Only Knew Me also attempts to explore the emotions and feelings of the characters as they struggle with the “bird in a gilded cage syndrome” – a life of seeming luxury and ease which, instead of ensuring happiness is fraught with insecurities, angst and loneliness.
Friendships are tenuous to say the least which is also representative of the transient feelings and relationships one experiences in a home away from home. The choice of Dubai as an ideal setting for such a story is because it is a modern contemporary location, brimming with mystique, the machinations of high society and endless drama at every nook and corner.
Living in Dubai has always filled me with a sense of awe at how the city has shaped and twisted lives and careers much like the shifting sands of the desert as described in the novel. There are those who are the players and those who are played. But they are all subject to the changing tides and circumstances that drive them toward their unique destiny.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Origin of Miriam bat Isaac: Guest Post by June Trop


The Origin of Miriam bat Isaac

People often ask me how I came to create my protagonist, Miriam bat Isaac. The short answer is a book fell on my toe.

I was taking a course on Concepts in Chemistry with no idea for a paper about a significant early concept. In desperation, I wandered through the library stacks, hoping an idea would strike me. And something did. The book that fell on my toe opened to a page about Maria Hebrea, a Jewish woman from Ancient Alexandria who became the legendary founder of Western alchemy and held her place for 1500 years as the most celebrated woman of the Western World. I was in shock! How is it that as a chemistry student, I’d never heard of such a famous woman?

The answer was that as an alchemist, very little would be known about her. In fact, all alchemists wrote under a pseudonym to shield themselves from persecution. Although the tradition among all the crafts and mystical cults was to guard the secrecy of their work, persecution was a real risk for alchemists, who could be accused of and summarily executed for conspiring to debase the currency.

And so, the bad news was that I’d have trouble finding information about her for my paper. But the good news was that with so little known, I was free to invent a life for her. So, I gave her a name, a twin brother intent on becoming a gladiator, a servant who had an ear for gossip, a worldly potbellied dwarf who knew every sleazy waterfront inn, and a handsome jeweler who would introduce her to the League of Alchemists and a lot more.

 So, while Miriam bat Isaac, sleuth extraordinaire, is fictive, her personage is based on the once-famous but little-known Maria Hebrea. If you’ve ever used a double boiler, then you’ve profited from one of her many practical inventions.



The Deadliest Sport by June Trop: A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Deadliest Sport: A Miriam bat Isaac Mystery in Ancient Alexandria

AUTHOR: June Trop

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1626947559

GENRE: Mystery, Historical Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 242

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Miriam bat Isaac #3

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Miriam bat Isaac, a budding alchemist in first-century CE Alexandria, welcomes her twin brother Binyamin home to fight his last gladiatorial bout in Alexandria. But when he demands his share of the family money so he can build a school for gladiators in Alexandria, Miriam explains that he forsook his share when he took the gladiatorial oath.

When she refuses to loan him the money for what she feels is a shady and dangerous enterprise, Binyamin becomes furious. Soon after, the will of Amram, Miriam's elderly charge, turns up missing; Amram becomes seriously ill; and the clerk of the public records house is murdered. Could Binyamin really be behind this monstrous scheme? If not he, who could be responsible? And is Miriam slated to be the next victim?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The book's summary had just enough stuff to make me want to pick up the book. I initially began reading this without the idea that this was part of a series, but with the summary it showed me that it could be read as a standalone. The cover's theme fit with the summary and had the detailing required to match the summary. The single tagline was also impressive, making me want to read the book.
  
REVIEW:

It is a joy to read a book that has been written after a lot of research. It is even better if an author is able to transport you to a period in history you know very little about. The Deadliest Sport did that for me. The first things I noticed with the book were all the things that would make me want to read the other books in the series. It is fast paced, is actually well researched and is written seamlessly with a strong female lead. Nowhere in the narration did the book feel disjointed or jerky, even enough to remind me that this was the third book in a series, the first two of which I had not read.

Twins usually fall into one of two stereotypes - the close 'we complete each other's sentences' kind, or the 'we are polar opposites in our beliefs and behaviour' kind. Whether or not this is an actual twins' trait, fiction usually depicts one of these two kinds when the book is based on twins as leading characters. Miriam and Binyamin are of the latter kind, both with differing ideas of life, glory and work. Maybe it was specific to the time period with aggressiveness of gladiators, and the passive nature of alchemists, both of them stay true to their characters. I really loved the portrayal of Binyamin as the power hungry gladiator who has his sights set on Rome and Miriam as the woman who wants to keep the family and home intact, hoping that her brother would help. What happens when he does not, forms the rest of the story.

The book clearly has enough twists to hold its own, and the narrative is strong and keeps the reader engaged throughout without unnecessary stagnation. I loved that this book made me want to explore Miriam and her world more, mainly through other works of this author. The book also instilled in me a love for historical fiction with strong women leads, preferably based in the Roman Empire times. I consider this by itself the success of the book because it made me want to read more. The mystery element of the book took some time to grow on me, with the murders coming in at their pace, but nevertheless I could not really put the book down because the characters and the narration held me tight. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • I was totally new to the time period this book was set on, but I could see that the book transported the reader to that era through writing.
  • Miriam as a character stood out, and had a strong coherent narration throughout. It is easy to see how she was based on an actual person.
  • Though it was a part of a series I had not read before, I had no difficulty relating with the characters. Special mention to the writing for this. The integration from past novels was seamless.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • For the intriguing premise, the actual execution fell a little below the bar, with no real adrenaline surges in the narration, even with enough moments to create them.
  • Though it was really suited to the time period, the aggressive men / passive women concept could have been given a little respite. This surely would have made the book much more enjoyable than it already was.
  • The overall narration is good, but the book did fall flat in some places with long winding words that crammed information without action.
VERDICT:

The book made me want to read more from this author, and also others from this time period. It was successful that way.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, "The Steam Shavel [sic]," when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

"I don't remember how I spent my share," June says. "You could buy a fistful of candy for a penny in those days, but ever since then, I wanted to be a writer."

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students' imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling. Her first book, From Lesson Plans to Power Struggles (Corwin Press, 2009), is based on the stories new teachers told about their first classroom experiences.

Now associate professor emerita at the State University of New York at New Paltz, she devotes her time to writing The Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. Her heroine is based on the personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years.

June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICE $12.99 for Paperback.

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Friday, May 11, 2018

All The Way to Italy by Flavia Brunetti: A Review

BOOK TITLE: All the Way to Italy: A modern tale of homecoming through generations past

AUTHOR: Flavia Brunetti

ISBN/ASIN: ENTER ISBN

GENRE: Women's Fiction / YA Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 222

FORMAT:Digital / Mobi

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Until her dad died, Little considered herself a Californian. Now, thanks to half a letter, a symbol she can’t quite remember, and writer’s block, she finds herself back in Italy, the country of her birth. In a headlong rush to return to her beloved San Francisco, Little will journey throughout Italy, hoping to find the answers she needs to move on with her life so she need never look back. She’ll enlist the help of the woman who raised her, Sira, her father’s sister; but Sira has secrets she’s kept for decades, and Little underestimates the power of the country she fled years before.

In this powerful story of mixed cultures in a world trying to globalize, one girl’s struggle to leave her home behind will lead her back to the women in her family and the memories each of them has safeguarded through the generations. From war-torn Italy to the belpaese of today, All the Way to Italy is a tale for those in search of a balance between wanderlust and the necessity to come home, a reminder that although we may be fragments, we are never a lost cause.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

With the cover, and the blurb, the book had chosen to portray feelings everyone will relate with, and boy, has it been done well! All The Way to Italy, with its blue toned cover, random objects (that have been associated with romance and an old timey wanderlust since forever) arranged with cute animations, managed to pique my curiosity and interest. With its carefully chosen words, the blurb made picking up the book a no-brainer. From the first two elements, the book promised to be a piece of fiction talking about women and their secrets and travels - an interesting premise by itself, without bringing the romance into the picture. But with all those elements present, the book promised to be an unforgettable ride. REVIEW:

Migration has always done humans a mixture of good and bad, making the heart heavy with the familiarity left behind, while stimulating the brain with the opportunities that lay ahead. But with newer generations, the roots are tucked in deeper, making them a little easier to forget, and making it also easier to adapt to the new culture that feels more familiar and home-like than the original home at the root ever was. But some life changing events warrant tough decisions, and sometimes the answers to life's most puzzling questions may lie with what may be considered one's forgotten roots. Little is facing such a situation, and in her case, it becomes a series of life changers that involve secrets, revelations, emotional upheavals and the story of strong people who had shaped her directly and indirectly in many ways over the course of her life.

Revisiting Italy after her father's death, Little feels out of place, torn between the American culture she has gotten comfortable with, and the Roman roots she has in her blood. When a child is taken to an entirely new country and culture in the formative years, it takes a lot of convincing to feel a sense of belonging to the home country, while constantly being the alien in the country they had chosen to make their lives in. Little faces and expresses this dilemma very well, including the familiar but fake sense of comfort in the American life, but also the impossibly alluring life in Italy that is everything she must have had. The wounds in the present have causes in the past, sometimes going years backwards, and unless these causes are found and removed, the wounds may never heal. Soon into her life in Italy, Little realises that her life was not devoid of secrets, and her family holds a few shattering secrets that, when unearthed, would both test her resolve and beliefs and make her find strength inside herself.

The book drew me in from page one. Though I took my breaks in between to reflect on the words that had made an impact on me (and there were quite a few wonderful quotes that I would remember for some time to come), I could feel connected with the book throughout the whole time, even when I was not reading it. The writing style is descriptive and verbose and it draws the reader in and makes them hungry for more description about the place, and the culture that it is based out of. Almost all books, in some ways, make us remember a part of them in vivid detail, but there are a few which bring before us the place and the characters, alive and active. The novel was full of characters who had their own places in the story, not just as placemarkers. But with each woman the reader encountered, a layer was revealed in the intricate plot that leans heavily on human emotions, and descriptions.

The story has to hook the reader from the first, but if the beauty of the prose does not appeal to the reader, the story cannot hold the interest all the way through. The book could be termed a long one, leaning on descriptions more than the story, and the writing at places feels like it was keeping up with the descriptive nature, instead of adding much of value. If read in a flow, and with the reader engrossed in the book, this is a treat for the words it uses. WHAT I LIKED:
  • The 'Top Ten Points You’ll Hear Most Often If You Grew Up With Sira (Or, How to Survive Life)' part got me hooked to the book, and made me wish I could print it out and stick it somewhere I can read every day.
  • Special Mention to the Fragments from the Belpaese (the article section. I read it thrice, will read it many more times because it struck a chord.
  • The emotions, the writing and the way the story was taken forward, so that the pages were turned but the act never conscious, are all huge pluses for the book.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • As the name suggests, this book is also a guide to many things Italian. If you have a particular dislike for this kind of books, this is not for you.
  • The overall pace of the story can be termed as slow and reflective. For some readers this might seem like a dragging book.
  • The writing is consistent, but leaning towards a particular style, and if it does not draw you into it in the first few pages, the whole book will be similar.
VERDICT:

Overall a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and would read in parts again.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born just outside of Rome, Flavia Brunetti grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, eventually moving back to the Eternal City and confirming her lifelong commitment to real gelato. Flavia holds a Master of Arts degree in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from John Cabot University. Today she travels the world working for an international humanitarian organization and spends her free time writing and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso. You can find her city blog on Rome at whichwaytorome.com and her portfolio of published writing at flaviinrome.com.



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Guest Post by Flavia Brunetti, Author of 'All the way to Italy'

Note:

Readers Muse thanks the author for writing this interesting guest post.


The places in Italy I’m in love with (that became characters in my book)

Writing All the Way to Italy felt a bit like writing a love story to the country I had grown up so at odds with: no matter how much I didn’t always want to be there, there were places that always filled my heart, that felt (and still feel) like a healing salve. Writing a book was a form of homage, where the setting becomes a character in itself. Here are three of the ones I most treasure:

Baths of Caracalla (Rome): Named after the emperor Caracalla because he was ruler when they were finished, these gargantuan ruins are some of the most overlooked gems of the city. Visiting them during the daytime is fantastic, walking by them as the sun sets an experience you won’t soon forget. But my most beloved? During the summer, the Opera di Roma moves here for its summer performances, and it is life-changing.

Villa Gregoriana (Tivoli): In the book, Little spends a wondrous afternoon exploring this glorious park run by the awesome people of the FAI (Italy’s National Trust). Lace up your walking shoes and go from the ruins of ancient temples to exploring the waterfalls. You’ll come out feeling a little more cultured and a little more wild; I can never recommend this spot enough.

Palazzo Donn’Anna (Naples): Sitting at the water’s edge of this most colorful of Italian cities is a woman’s heartbreak holding fast against the sea. Palazzo Donn’Anna has one of the most romantic, broken stories in its past, and its poignant beauty against a setting sun is Napoli personified. I’m not going to tell you the story because Betty tells Little in the book, and wouldn’t you rather go read the book?! (Don’t Google! That’s cheating!)

These three, especially the last two, sometimes get passed over when people come to visit Rome, but I hope, when you come to visit us, that you have the chance to let them transform your trip. I’d love to hear what you think, or what your all-time favorite spots in Rome are—after all, in Italian we say: Roma, una vita non basta. Rome, one life is not enough.

Book Spotlight Tour: All the way to Italy by Flavia Brunetti




Book Details:

Book Title: All the Way to Italy: A modern tale of homecoming through generations past
Author: Flavia Brunetti
Category: Adult Fiction, 222 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction (can fit into YA Fiction as well)
Publisher: Ali Ribelli Edizioni
Release date: April 21, 2018
Tour dates: April 23 to May 18, 2018
Content Rating: PG for the occasional use of "for God's sake" and a few religious references (though very mild). No violence, no swear words, and no sex scenes.

Book Description:

Until her dad died, Little considered herself a Californian. Now, thanks to half a letter, a symbol she can’t quite remember, and writer’s block, she finds herself back in Italy, the country of her birth. In a headlong rush to return to her beloved San Francisco, Little will journey throughout Italy, hoping to find the answers she needs to move on with her life so she need never look back. She’ll enlist the help of the woman who raised her, Sira, her father’s sister; but Sira has secrets she’s kept for decades, and Little underestimates the power of the country she fled years before.

In this powerful story of mixed cultures in a world trying to globalize, one girl’s struggle to leave her home behind will lead her back to the women in her family and the memories each of them has safeguarded through the generations. From war-torn Italy to the belpaese of today, All the Way to Italy is a tale for those in search of a balance between wanderlust and the necessity to come home, a reminder that although we may be fragments, we are never a lost cause.

To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit Flavia Brunetti's page on Italy Book Tours.


Buy the Book:


Add to Goodreads


About the Author:

Photo credit: Roberta Perrone

Born just outside of Rome, Flavia Brunetti grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, eventually moving back to the Eternal City and confirming her lifelong commitment to real gelato. Flavia holds a Master of Arts degree in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from John Cabot University. Today she travels the world working for an international humanitarian organization and spends her free time writing and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso. You can find her city blog on Rome at whichwaytorome.com and her portfolio of published writing at flaviinrome.com.

Connect with Flavia: Website ~ Blog on Rome ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 26, 2018


a Rafflecopter giveaway