Saturday, August 3, 2019

Interview with Smitha Vishwanath and Vandana Bhasin: Authors of Roads, A Journey With Verses


Thank you, Smitha and Vandana for taking time to answer my questions.

Let me begin with congratulating you for getting your wonderful poetry collection out there. Wishing you the best for the success of Roads.

1.   How did this idea of a book of poetry originate? Any particular inspiration?

Smitha: I’ve written about the conception of ‘Roads’ in the book which tells you how the book originated.
Honestly speaking, I hadn’t thought I’d be publishing a book so soon. I say soon, because until 2018 March, I held a full-time banking job that gave me only enough time to write a post every week on my blog.
However, when I left my job and returned to India in July 2018, with my husband, who was transferred here, I had a lot of time on my hands which allowed me to write more. One thing led to another and it paved the way for this book. It’s pure ‘Serendipity.’ There’s no better way to explain it.

Vandana: I had been writing poetry for anthologies for about a year and that planted the seed of publishing my own book. I had known Smitha since 2017 through Wordpress and we liked each other’s writing. When Smitha happened to move to India, we met in Delhi at a literary event and we decided to work together. We first thought of writing fiction- short stories maybe (as suggested by few friends.) I have inclination towards inspirational and motivational writing, so we started working on inspirational stories. But, since poetry was our forte, and this was our first book, we decided to divert our energies to the genre in which our hearts believed.

2.   Have either of you been published before?

Smitha: My poems have appeared in a few anthologies and online magazines. Again, it all started after moving here. The first was in August 2018 where 3 poems were published in the anthology ‘Meticulous Men of Mettle,’ by Impish Lass Publishing House and subsequently others followed.

Vandana: My poems and articles have been published in numerous anthologies. Some of these are: She the Shakti, Muffled moans; Medley of melodies; Speak your mind; Petals of Love; Gems of Poessy; Ripples of Peace; Lyrical Dewdrops; World peace; The spirit of India; Speak your mind; Queen; Complexion based discrimination; Vasudha etc.

3.   Why poetry?

Smitha: I have been writing poems since I was a teenager, in my diary.
Incidentally, one of my parent’s family friends found a resume’ that I had sent to them in 1998, when I was looking for a job and strangely enough I had mentioned ‘Poetry,’ under hobbies (Don’t know if people actually write their hobbies any more in their resume’).  We actually laughed on seeing it.
So I guess it was only right that I should start off with a genre that I was most comfortable with.
Vandana: This is interesting. Unlike Smitha who had been writing since childhood, I discovered my inclination towards writing, only about three and a half years ago. After quitting my corporate career and staying at home for few years for raising my kids, my intellectual faculties were biting me hard. So I decided to join a creative writing course at British Council, without knowing what was in store for me. One of the session was on Poetry and our teacher (to whom I’m grateful till this day) showed us three pictures and asked us to write a poem on any one of them. There was one picture depicting a dancing girl that I couldn’t take my eyes off and words just started flowing on the paper. I wrote about 10-12 lines in the class and went home. But till next day, I felt restless as some lines kept buzzing in my head. The poem titled ‘Wings of Freedom’ is a part of the book. It was then that I discovered my penchant towards poetry, though I equally enjoy writing articles on women empowerment and contemporary issues (as evident in my poems too, which are often mistaken by the reader as my personal woes or experiencesJ)

4.   I love your little notes between poems. This is not the norm, but made the collection infinitely more enjoyable and personally relatable. How was this conceptualised?

Smitha: In my case, most of the notes were written at the time of writing the poem. You know: a feeling, an emotion, a pain; I would just pour it out through writing a poem and have this little note that helped clear my head. So when the idea of the book came up and we wanted to do it differently from the existing poetry books in the market i.e. make the poems more understandable and accessible to the average reader who is generally averse to reading poetry; we decided to add notes. I’m really happy it struck a chord with you. It means we got it right. Thank you for letting us know.

Vandana: We actually deliberated over the genre for about two months and then when we decided to go with poetry (which was close to our hearts), we thought of doing it with a difference. We wanted to present it to the reader in the form of an experience- the way we used to do on our blogs. The basic idea was to let the reader experience and understand the emotions that resulted in that particular piece of poetry. Categorising the book into nine virtues around which our life revolves, was also an outcome of that thought process.
If you feel that those little snippets added to the beauty of the verses, then we are really glad to know that their purpose has been served.

5.   If you had to choose one favourite poem from the other’s in the book, what would it be? And why?

Smitha: It’s funny because one of my friends’ who read the book asked me the same question and my initial answer was, ‘I like them all. Each holds a different memory so each one is special.’  It’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite kid, you know? Anyways, I slept over her question and the next day morning I sent her a reply in which I had chosen 5 of my 30 poems. They were, ‘I buried what we had,’ ‘Hush Daddy! Don’t Fear,’ ‘Miss you when you’re gone,’ ‘Courage to start from scratch,’ and ‘A Friend is Valiant.’ These are all poems that were the result of very strong emotions and maybe that’s why they’re very important to me. Answering her question has prepared me for yoursJ.
I like ‘Who Am I?’ and ‘ Let me Unwind,’ which I somehow always end up calling the ‘Coffee poem’. It’s a feel good, warm poem.

Vandana: This reminds me of the question that my two boys often ask me, “Mom, whom do you love more- me or my brother?”
All the poems carry a very strong set of emotions with them. The opening verse of the book that starts with, ‘On the blank page of life’ and ends with, ‘But I never fail to inscribe each day, as I never fail to breathe each day,’ describes my state while having to choose one J
Who am I’ is close to my heart as I often find myself debilitating over my identity in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of life as reflected in another favourite of mine ‘The conundrum of life.’ I also love the conflict portrayed in ‘Writer vs. Woman’ as I struggle to balance my personal life with my passion for writing and then reading a few lines of ‘Believe in yourself’ instils life.
From Smitha’s collection, ‘Second chance- when its’ worth your life’ and ‘Hush Daddy-don’t fear’ are close to my heart.

6.   How has co-authoring been? What were the trials and rewards?

Smitha: Co-authoring has been an amazing journey. I jumped headlong into it when Vandana proposed it. But when the idea sank in, I wasn’t too sure, if it would work. Fortunately, Vandana is a great partner to work with.  I’m not sure if I would have been as easy with anybody else. Having worked in and managed teams for 20 years, I know how difficult it can be. And since writing a book is a creative process, it can be a lot tougher. Also, I believed writers’ as most creative people could tend to be a little cranky or even a tad bit egoistical. However, working with Vandana eased all those niggling doubts I had, when I began. The rewards were ample. We focused on our individual strengths which complemented the other.  Vandana’s great at managing excel records and she is extremely patient when it comes to fixing and re-fixing the document. This is not one of my strong points. So she handled this very efficiently and allowed me to sit back. On the other hand, when it came to the cover, she gave me the freedom to alter the colours and the image sent to us, by the Publishers. Also, being a first book, having another person on the same journey helped. Because the truth is, it can get lonely along the way.
I think, she’s set the bar pretty high for anybody else to work with me.
At the end, I think our strengths worked for us and I hope the readers feel the same when they read the book.

Vandana: Writing is generally a lonely road and its challenging to attune to or trust other writer with your thoughts and ideas.

Co-authoring with Smitha has been an incredibly beautiful journey in itself. Being a novice, I had never imagined to strike chords with someone in the literary field, especially with someone whom I hadn’t even met personally. But working with Smitha was like reliving my youth days. We were so different in our habits and interests and yet perfectly compatible. We discussed for hours, we laughed heartily, we interrupted each other to share our thoughts, we argued to reach consensus and we patiently waited for each other’s availability (that was very critical as we both have families!). We ensured that every word that went into the book appealed to both of us, without thinking it was her poem or mine (no matter how long the discussion went). It was ‘our’ book. The trust we had in each other gave us the confidence and strengthened our bond. Of course we had concerns, but we always clarified them in time. Since both of us had been from corporate world and that too same industry (banking), we knew the importance of communication and this ensured that there was no scope of misunderstanding. I’m grateful to God that our paths crossed and paved the way to ‘Roads.’ I proudly call her my ‘Writing Partner.’

7.   Do you have any tips for people wishing to co-author books? What do you think is the one major requirement for this to be successful?

Smitha: For all those who want to co-author a book, its’ really important to know yourself first. Go for it only if you’re comfortable working in a team. You have to be ready to listen sometimes and to let go at others. It can’t be ‘My way or no way!’ Secondly, choose your co-author well. In mine and Vandana’s case, we had been following each other’s blogs for over 2 years and so we knew what to expect from each other. Also, we respected each other’s individual styles which you’ll see is not the same. Respecting and being flexible I think, is a major requirement.

Vandana: Trust and patience are the two key elements of every relationship. You have to trust that your interests are aligned and you must have the patience to accept and respect other’s choices and ideas. Harping on strengths of each other and ignoring the weaknesses can only foster the relationship. Each person is unique and we should not try to find our mirror image in our partner. You must respect other’s writing style and not construe one as superior or other as inferior.

8.   Why ‘Roads?’

Smitha: We thought of 50 -60 names before ‘Roads’ came up. It was always really ‘Roads,’ just in different words. But the meaning was the same – which was to showcase life’s different hues. Every day we’d come up with 10 different names and every night we’d sleep over it only to wake up to not liking any of the names we previously thought of. Somewhere in between, we even said, ‘What’s in a name?’ But, the answer is ‘There is a lot in a name.’ When ‘Roads’ came up we decided to follow the same process of sleeping over it. First day, we woke up and we still liked it. And when we liked it, on the second and third day, we knew we had found our name. ‘Roads,’ metaphorically depicts our journey through life while stating that one must keep moving on with courage, strength and hope.

Vandana: This brought a smile to my face J
I can’t tell you the number of titles we deliberated upon. I have an excel listing all the titles! Every day, we would come up with few names and Smitha would speak it out loudly in her sweet accent. We would then try to connect and feel the title. And next day, one of us would say, ‘You know what, I think this isn’t what we want. This doesn’t portray our poems correctly. Let’s think more.’ Even our families got tired of our title suggestions. We wanted a name that indicated the journey of life, the challenges, its varied hues (I remember having stuck with ‘Hues of Life’ for many days!) And this continued for many days until one day we came up with ‘Roads.” And when that stayed with us for few days, we knew that’s what we wanted our book to be titled!

9.   What inspires poetry? And how is it different from prose?

Smitha: Anything can inspire me to write poetry. It could be as simple as my children arguing with each other, a change in the seasons, a conversation with friends or a newspaper article. For me poetry writes itself. But when it comes to prose, I would need to structure it, think about what it is I want the reader to focus on. It’s a more deliberate process.
However, saying this, the truth is, I can’t write only poetry or only prose. And therefore, I write both: poetry and prose, in my blog: https://lifeateacher.wordpress.com

Vandana: For me, poetry is everywhere.
Every streak of light, every ounce of nature, every emotion, every experience, and every breath of life inspires poetry. You just need to be in the frame of mind and you can seek inspiration from the most mundane things. I have written poems on uninteresting topics like lizard, shoes, closet, eagle, to nature represented by ocean, hills, sky, to emotions evoked by love, to experiences to woman, to relations and what not.

To address the second part of the question, poetry warrants expression in few words. You should be able to express your feelings in carefully articulated words that touch the reader in the manner you want. In prose, you have the liberty to elucidate same thoughts in as many lines as you want. Rather the reader expects you to elaborate your thought process.
I write both as I feel both demand and expand your creativity.


10.                Are we looking at any works on the cards from you? Please tell us about your future projects.

Smitha: I would like to write Fiction maybe in the future. Maybe a collection of short stories or just a novella. But that’s going to take some time. For now, I’d like to get ‘Roads’ rolling because I strongly believe it’s more than poetry and it has the power to make a difference in people’s lives.

Vandana: Well, I was planning to work with Smitha on our next poetry collection but she has some family commitments in the near future. So not sure if we will be able materialize that as of now. So I haven’t clearly planned anything. I might start working towards another inspirational book.


Roads: A Journey with verses is a collection of poems on various topics, published by Notion Press. 


Blurb: 


"Roads" is a poetic rendezvous that takes the reader on a panoramic journey, making one pause, ponder and celebrate life.
The book is a light, alluring read that instantly strikes a chord and elevates one's spirits. A trove of 60 poems, it is quilled with beads of nine virtues: Courage, Wisdom, Serenity, Love, Hope, Strength, Joy, Compassion and Gratitude. The verses encapsulate life's ebbs and flows while prompting the reader to enjoy its simple pleasures.
"Roads" is a book that you would want to keep on your bedside, for a quiet read before retiring for the night or for the morning wisdom to seize the day. With poems revolving around emotions that each of us experiences, "Roads" very easily develops a personal connect with the reader that is defiantly refreshing.
"Roads" is a journey with verses. Take it on yours.

It can be purchased in the following links.

For Paperback :



Friday, June 28, 2019

Winter Frost by Lauren Carr: A Review




Book Details:

Book Title: Winter Frost (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery Book 2) by Lauren Carr
Category: Adult fiction, 290 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Cozy
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: January 28, 2019
Tour dates: May 1 - June 28, 2019
Content Rating: PG (It's a murder mystery and there is mild violence. Very mild swearing no F-bombs. No on-stage sex scenes.)

Book Description:

It all started with a chance encounter in the city with Blair, his late wife.

Chris Matheson and the Geezer Squad, working under the guise of a book club, dig into the events surrounding his late wife’s supposed death halfway around the globe. A state department employee shoots himself in the back three times. A CIA operative goes missing. A woman is targeted by an international assassin three years after being declared dead in a terrorist attack overseas.

Nothing is as it seems.

In his most personal cold case, Chris fights to uncover why the state department told him that Blair, the mother of his children, had been killed when she was alive. What had she uncovered that has made her a target? Who terrified her so much that she had gone into hiding and why are they now after him?

To read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr's page on iRead Book Tours.

Review


Yet another Carr thriller package! Similar brilliance, engaging storyline, interesting characters, and of course, the style that has earned her good fans.

I had read the first book in the series, Ice, only recently, and fell in love with the smoothness of narration and the new set of characters. So this book felt like stepping into the next episode immediately after watching the first episode. Though I was not using the cover to decide if I'd go with reading the book, it still was a perfect fit, as usual, with not much data but still is fitting. The blurb is fantastic, short, and intriguing. It highlights and sets in place the important events that will fill the book. 

As I would always say about Carr, she has the ability to write books that make the readers feel familiar with the characters, root for their favourites, and be impressed by how much can be unearthed. Having read the first book in this series only recently, reading this book felt like the continuation I was lucky to get immediately. 

I have often read books with cold cases before, or at least relevance of current case with some older case. Police procedural thrillers often have this reference cases plot to increase the interest. But I have to say I love Carr's version of cold cases the best, hands down. The more personal they are, the better the effect for me, and be it with Faraday or Matheson, (her protagonists), this plot element makes readers love the corresponding impact the closeness will have during investigations, giving them the emotional angles behind cold cases.

It is only with Carr that pets would do some really sensible actions, infuse humour and show intelligence beyond expected in the plots. The book's Sterling is no exception. This book (without giving away spoilers) is as usual one with good twists, interesting language and keeps the readers turning the pages not just to rush through to the ending but to actually enjoy and imbine every word, seeing as they could not put down the book in between.

The blurb already kicks up the readers' interest, and only reading the book could tell you if the answers are satisfactory, and the explanations are fitting.

Yet another winner from Lauren Carr, undoubtedly.


Buy Winter Frost:


Meet the Author:
 
 
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 6, 2019


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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

ICE by Lauren Carr : A Review




Book Details:

Book Title: ICE by Lauren Carr
Category: Adult fiction, 380 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Cozy
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: April 25, 2018
Tour dates: May 1 - June 28, 2019
Content Rating: PG (It's a murder mystery and there is mild violence. Very mild swearing no F-bombs. No on-stage sex scenes.)

Book Description:

The clues for a close-to-the-heart missing person’s case heat up when Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on the cold case.

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappear, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

To read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr's page on iRead Book Tours.

Review


In one line: Reading ICE felt like revisiting a familiar place with a new companion. 

I have always been a fan of Lauren Carr's quick paced books and interesting mysteries. I am a personal fan of the Mac Faraday series, and it was therefore not a difficult choice for me to pick this book up when the chance came my way. And it did not disappoint me.

In view of spoilers and comments, I am not comparing the two series of books. But since I had already read another series from the same author, I have to comment on how this book is entirely different and makes it a worthy reading experience. 

The book deals with a cold case that has to be opened after ages to lift the cloud of suspicion that had fallen on Chris Matheson, resulting in his exit from the town despite being cleared by the law enforcement. When cold cases are opened, it is usually because something similar had come up, or fresh evidence has come to light about crimes that happened ages ago.

Lauren Carr knows how to deal with this effectively, bringing out fresh murders that happen in similar methods, and also give importance to cases from the past that need to be solved if the present cases are expected to make sense. I absolutely love the way she keeps the readers hooked to the action with her gripping narration.

Instead of just one primary brain, this story involves a club of sorts, the Geezer Squad that is by far the most interesting group of people I have read about in books. I love their brains, and their approach to the crimes, not to mention how the connect the dots and the invisible ley lines with seemingly unrelated events.

Lauren Carr's usual style is comforting to read, with interesting animals, people with wry humour, and the interesting squad of people. It makes me happy to realise that this is the first book in a series, meaning that there are more to come. I am already onto the next book in this series.

Overall, the book can be read in one sitting, and that is praise to the narration too, which never slackens or reduces the pace. The language is easy on the mind, not resorting to unnecessary words. And if ever you are confused about the number of characters, Lauren obligingly provides a character list that can be referred to from time to time. But with the way the book is paced, the need for this is very minimal.


Special mention for creating another different group of characters and for the ability to think of and pen down many mysteries, providing the proper clues and conclusion. Fans of Carr should not miss this.

Buy ICE:




Meet the Author:

 
 
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 6, 2019


a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Demon's Crystal by Lenard Hale: A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Demon's Crystal

AUTHOR: Lenard Hale

ISBN/ASIN: B07Q5D65CX

GENRE: Science Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 299

FORMAT: Digital / Kindle

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone (Sequel coming up)

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author and Debdatta Sahay of ddsreviews.in for this review copy

SUMMARY:

For Eric Frost, Madagascar is a place of beauty and learning. A researcher in bio-robotics, Eric finds the sheer variety of flora and fauna fascinating – but when he finds Unseen Madagascar, an unassuming book by a missing British author named Richard Walters, Eric learns that there’s more to the nation than meets the eye.

The text speaks of an island off the coast of Madagascar known only as Demon Island. There, the author suggests, lives an isolated and hostile tribe of natives who seem to jealously guard something held deeper in the island’s interior.

Eric, along with his friends Ivy and Max, pledge to get to the bottom of the mystery. They travel to Madagascar and begin to plan a journey out to Demon Island, but instead they meet the mysterious Daniel, a self-proclaimed American explorer full of dark warnings and vague stories. He eventually agrees to help Eric and his friends get to Demon Island, but at a price…

THE DEMON'S CRYSTAL is Lenard Hale's thrilling first novel, and is sure to appeal to fans of sci-fi and adventure alike.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The cover was interesting, and the blurb set the scene immediately in my mind, making this an obvious choice to read on a dull evening. When I got a chance to pick this book up, I was immediately impressed by the blurb, wondering what uncommon thing could come out of a common premise. 

REVIEW:

The book begins like the usual thrilling script of a science fiction novel. A forest, a dark night, a mystery find, and abrupt silencing by unknown entities. I found that the beginning (in fact the entire first half of the book) kept me thrilled enough as I tried to remember the characters, second guess the stories and find out what was wrong and who was behind it. I had settled myself to read a version of earth-space dystopian science fiction, but the book surprised me. The story was intriguing enough with twists and turns that kept the interest alive.

The premise itself is deceptively simple, a secret trail that consumes those who go in search of it, and leaves no trace. Someone else follows him and uncovers new information that sheds light on the mysterious disappearances. But to try to bring 'Demon's Crystal' to fit this premise is an injustice to the wonderfully concocted story. The book wins in taking a familiar premise and spinning an interesting story behind it. While I was not entirely sold with the science fiction aspect of it (a fair few technical terms included), I really loved how the story progressed. Some terms did remind me of Latin spells (a mixture of fantasy, maybe?) but overall the book was written and packaged well.

True to the author's declaration about 'westerners' being the unchallenged authorities on all things science-fiction, the story does seem to work well in the way he has presented it, with western characters in western settings. But even through all that, the story transcends its need to be identified with a particular nationality. Special mention to the intelligent use of time relation, (a year ago, and this year, etc) instead of saying an actual year. This makes the book practically timeless, making it good enough from vintage to futuristic. I really appreciate how the book carried that off well.

The language is decent, the writing good. But the book could have really become a better read with another round of proofreading, for there were obvious typographical errors, especially near the climax, as that seemed to have been wrapped up quickly. I would rate the book positive for the attempt in decent sci-fi, and the engaging storyline and smooth language, but I wish the author had handled the sequence of events in a more streamlined manner. This is not a major complaint but still was significant enough to mention.

Hoping to read more Indianised sci-fi from Lenard Hale. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • An interesting, decent attempt at science fiction. This book has proven that it does not have to be in 'a distant planet a thousand years into the future.'
  • The pace is even, and the book manages to hold the reader engrossed.
  • The language is smooth.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The characters (and their backstories) needed some fleshing out.
  • A seemingly rushed climax that falls flat for all the pull of the book.
  • The book is not exactly an action/adventure thriller. But more technical. That needs to be advertised clearly.
VERDICT:

An interesting attempt, with an engaging storyline and smooth narration.

RATING: 4/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback.

PRICE Rs. 69 for Kindle, Rs. 315 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Book Review: Crimes Past by Lauren Carr





Book Details:

Book Title: Crimes Past by Lauren Carr
Series: A Mac Faraday Mystery (Volume 13)
Category: Adult fiction, 322 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: October 16, 2018
Tour dates: May 1 - June 28, 2019
Content Rating: PG (mild violence and sexual suggestion)

Book Description:

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of a former colleague’s daughter, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case—even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former friends was the killer.

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

Review


I had only recently read the first book in the series, and it is a giant leap (though a very familiar one) to the latest in the series. Neither I nor my blog need any introduction to Lauren Carr or Mac Faraday, and I really do love the series and the author's narration style. This book was no exception, as it followed a similar set up with already familiar characters that did not take me any time to get used to or profile as characters.

So where did the intrigue come from, then? The blurb of course. By subtly indicating that the culprit or perpetrator of a cold case is a dear friend, the stage is set with the suspense of knowing what next. The book begins with the list of characters, which is a unique style but the author's usual, and a very helpful reference.

This book follows the classic style of a whodunit, linking the events spaced out by sixteen years. The past crime happens during a wedding while the bride and groom are killed in their room before the celebratory dinner. Mac Faraday is assigned the case which becomes a cold one with no leads. But sixteen years later, a victim's child is getting married again, and Mac Faraday finds himself in a place where he has to doubt everyone, for the guest list includes people who were there on that fateful day. He has to suspect and analyse people he had known for a long while, understand that anyone could have been the killer and hunt for answers that have the potential to completely sweep him off his equilibrium.

As a character, Mac perfectly displays his confusions about having to doubt the very people he'd trust, casting shadows on sources of lights, making him second guess his moves and reorder the facts to create a big picture as each new piece falls into the slate. This slow build-up keeps the story absolutely engaging and interesting.

The book is narrated well (usual Carr style), and has enough good twists to keep the reader guessing until the final reveal. The story makes the reading worthwhile because the narration is quick and clean, not delving in too many tangents or confusing story jumps. There were more than two murders to be investigated, and the story never dipped in pace. Lauren Carr is a writer who plugs the loopholes and wraps up her stories nicely and this book is no exception. The characters are also fleshed out, and even a pet dog has more substance than most other protagonists in other novels.

This twisted tale of love, lies, subterfuge, and crimes of passion is a brilliant, worthy read for fans of thriller novels. Carr does not disappoint, and she maintains the suspense until the last possible moment, giving the necessary explanation in the epilogue, which was my most favourite part of the book. Overall, brilliantly written, made the reader in me enjoy another good thriller.

To read reviews, please visit Lauren Carr's page on iRead Book Tours.



Buy Crimes Past:


Meet the Author:

 
 
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Guest Post by Barbara Casey, Author of VELVALEE DICKINSON: The “Doll Woman” Spy



VELVALEE’S DOLL COLLECTION

Velvalee began collecting dolls in 1934 at the age of 41 when a friend gave her a pair of native dolls from the Philippines. As other friends began giving Velvalee dolls, her interest in collecting dolls grew. Doll collecting was then a burgeoning pastime supported by local clubs, specialty dealers, and avid hobbyists. Distinctly an adult activity, primarily women collected dolls for their beauty, for associations, and for memories they invoked of dolls they had in their own childhood. These same reasons for collecting dolls continue today, which makes it one of the largest hobby groups in the world.

Velvalee continued to build up her collection, acquiring an array of foreign, antique, and rare dolls. Confiding she was “tired of accepting orders from others,” she started publishing a list of her dolls that were for sale as early as 1939, and she joined the Doll Collectors of America with its headquarters in Ft. Edward, New York. She also became a member of the Toy Collectors Club of New York, the parent company of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC). However, after passing a resolution in September 1944 that its members had to be “true 100 percent American,” the UFDC removed Velvalee from its membership roster a month later because of her traitorous activities.

Within a short time after moving to New York Velvalee opened her own doll shop specializing in rare and antique dolls, first out of the apartment at 680 Madison Avenue, and eventually in October 1941, she moved her business to the fashionable and spacious storefront located at 718 Madison Avenue.

          The Valvalee Dickinson doll shop catered to collectors throughout the United States and overseas who were interested in foreign, regional, and antique dolls. Her clientele, which eventually numbered up to 20,000, included movie and Broadway stars, assorted social celebrities, as well as affluent men and women of the carriage trade. The prices she charged these collectors for her highly sought-after dolls started at a minimum of twenty-five dollars, with some of the more rare dolls fetching well into the thousands of dollars.

She also worked hard to make dolls available at lower prices for her more pedestrian, less prosperous customers. In a large ad she placed in Doll News, the official newsletter of the National Doll and Toy Collectors of New York, she advertised 7-inch cloth dolls from Palestine at five dollars for a group of three; Japanese ichimatsu dolls from 10 to 14 inches at ten dollars to eighteen dollars; Chad Valley royal children dolls, 15 to 18 inches for ten dollars to fifteen dollars; and a preprinted cloth doll pattern for one dollar.

An aggressive and creative marketer, Velvalee wrote several articles for The Complete Collector, a specialized journal for antique collectors. The somewhat lengthy, florid subtitle for these articles was “A Monthly Discourse on the Fine Arts for the Contemplative Man’s Recreation.”

It was primarily through Velvalee’s frequent correspondence with clients and other doll collectors that gave her doll store the most notice, however. All of her letters, note cards, and other stationery were written on customized blue stationery embellished with a scarlet border and letterhead advertising her business in “Dolls – Antique – Foreign – Regional – Playthings.” The brochures she mailed out, written on the same customized blue stationery, were also embellished with a scarlet letterhead and a border of international dolls which boasted: “We have dolls from nearly every country in the world and state in the United States.”

It was through her chatty correspondence that Velvalee became a target of the FBI and she was eventually charged with espionage. Many whispered that it was her dolls who had talked and revealed her crimes. Today, her dolls continue to talk and collectors pay top dollar whenever a Velvalee Dickinson doll goes up for auction.

Book Review: Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy by Barbara Casey




Book Details:

Book Title: Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy by Barbara Casey
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 184 pages
Genre: True Crime / Historical / Biography
Publisher: Strategic Media Books
Release date: April 2019
Tour dates: May 27 to June 7, 2019
Content Rating: PG - Velvalee Dickinson is appropriate for all ages.

Book Description:

Velvalee Dickinson was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from Stanford University, married three times, and then in the early 1930s moved to New York City where she eventually opened her own exclusive doll shop on the prestigious Madison Avenue. It was there that she built her reputation as an expert in rare, antique, and foreign dolls. She traveled extensively around the country lecturing and exhibiting her dolls while building a wealthy clientele that included Hollywood stars, members of high society, politicians, and other collectors.

When medical bills started to accumulate because of her husband’s poor health and business started to fail with the onset of World War II, she accepted the role as a spy for the Imperial Japanese Government. By hiding coded messages in her correspondence about dolls, she was able to pass on to her Japanese contacts critical military information about the US warships. After surveilling Velvalee for over a year, the FBI arrested her and charged her with espionage and violation of censorship laws. She became the first American woman to face the death penalty on charges of spying for a wartime enemy.

Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy is a carefully researched glimpse into the “Doll Woman’s” life as a collector of dolls, and as the highest paid American woman who spied for the Imperial Japanese Government during World War II.

Review


I have previously read two fiction works of Barbara Casey, 'The Cadence of Gypsies' and 'The House of Kane', so I was familiar with her style and liked the language enough to pick this book up when the chance came.

Biographies are always more interesting than regular books with respect to the content because there is always that underlying feeling that we are reading the story of someone who actually lived and did the things described in the book. But as is often the case, the biographies err on one of two extremes: becoming too descriptive that some parts look fabricated, or being too bland and just sticking to the reported facts.

But this book manages to break that norm, easily flowing between fact narration and description, making the entire reading experience an engaging one. I finished this in one sitting. The first factor that determines the success of any biography is its presentation, and this wins in that regard because it presents history in an interesting manner. Of all the things I love about the book, the most important ones I should mention is how I did not even know of this woman before I began reading, but the book made me think I really knew her well. I had, at least, obtained a comprehensible idea of the person that she would have been after I finished reading. In that, the book succeeded.

Secondly, I have always wondered how and why biographies have to resort to factual reporting. Most are one dimensional, focusing only on the character and the major events in their life. But this book transcends that, giving the reader a wholesome idea about the country and the time period, mingling them both into a wonderfully fluent narrative.

The book is well researched, and it shows clearly. Not to mention too much about the story, or give away spoilers, the author has clearly taken pains to collect authentic information about a secretive character who drifted into mysterious oblivion and made the story into a novel-type narration. Overall the language is smooth to read, the book holds the readers' attention well and makes them want to keep turning the pages to know more.

A brilliant effort save a few issues, but not mentioning them because I want to focus on the appreciation for this effort.

To read reviews, please visit Barbara Casey's page on iRead Book Tours.


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Meet the Author:



Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, as well as book-length works of nonfiction, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Her nonfiction true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly, has been optioned for a major film and television series. Her nonfiction book, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, is under contract for a major film. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency.

Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband, and three pets who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

Connect with the author: Website


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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Song of Atlantis by Brian Power: A Review




Book Details:

Book Title: Song of Atlantis by Brian Power
Category: Adult Fiction, 322 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Brian J Power
Release date: December 2014
Tour dates: May 13 - 24, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (No explicit sex scene or excessive profanity)

Book Description:

A shocking discovery leads one scientist down a dangerous path in Brian Power’s compelling debut novel, Song of Atlantis.

When Amon Goro, the master architect of Atlantis, discovers a way to harness the earth’s forces into an infinite source of clean energy, it seems destined to change civilization as we know it.

But 4,500 years later, Atlantis exploration team leader Palen Golendar is brutally captured by a Native American tribe in modern-day South Dakota—derailing any hope Atlantis held of utilizing its energy secrets.

Eight thousand years in the future, Native American anthropologist Gordon Tallbear and his team of highly skilled researchers stumble across a connection between the recent discovery of Golendar’s remains and an intricate cavern system deep in the mountains of Antarctica…a connection that finally reveals the Atlantean secret of perpetual energy.

While Tallbear and his team plan to recreate the energy source that will change the world, a wealthy group with deep ties to carbon-based fuel producers decides this newfound energy source must be destroyed—and they will stop at nothing to assassinate the researchers in order to bury what they know.

Can Tallbear’s newfound knowledge survive?

Review:


Age old events with historical significance affecting people across millennia. This is the core concept of the book. While it is true that most legends are a combination of fact and fiction, it takes a special talent to build a conceivable story spanning millennia, with intertwining threads that connect every seemingly insignificant event. Song of Atlantis was that book which attempted this herculean mission and succeeded for the most part.

When I first saw the cover, there was not much I could gather from it except the single point of focus. But as I delved into the book I realised that the cover being simplistic was just the author's way of getting the reader to focus on the simple, straightforward point that formed the crux of the entire story. And once I began, the book did flow freely. I loved the fact that the language was really good, and the writing pleasant to read.

The book worked for me because it managed to keep the readers interested and stayed true to the genre it was written in. A sense of disbelief, shock and sometimes wonder are possibly frequent reader reactions. The lost land of Atlantis, the pyramids of Giza, and in the modern days, the powers that be, who do not want the earth-shattering secret to get out. And the novel follows the typical route for a sci-fi thriller, but it wins because of the unique presentation that made it obvious that the story was well-researched and written over time with many revisions to correct loopholes (as the author mentions in his note). The effort put into making this book believably surreal is evident in the way it is presented.

I loved many things in the book, especially the seamless flow of the story timelines, and the characters who seem to have multidimensional development, overall making it a pleasant read instead of wondering what tangent the book was taking us into. As a seasoned reader, I had to control my urge to cross-check and verify the accuracy of historical 'facts'. But even that need reduced with time, seeing as the book kept me turning the pages with a consistent speed.


Though it did take me some time to get used to the switching timelines, the reading was made much easier with the easily identifiable, fleshed out characters and subtle changes in the narrative style. The main positive point for the book is the writing, while the mild minus is that despite best efforts there are mistakes that seem to jump out randomly. They are not huge/significant enough to disrupt reading but are noticeable nonetheless.


In bringing out the darker side of commercialisation of natural resources, the author has done a wonderful job. Keeping the action alive amidst a descriptive narrative is an interesting takeaway from this book. Overall this is the kind of book I shall read at leisure again when I am searching for something to stimulate my brain. Would definitely be interested in reading his next work.


To read reviews, please visit Brian Power's page on iRead Book Tours.

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Meet the Author: 


Brian Power is an educator who has taught at both the high school and college levels. He earned a BS degree in English and Secondary Education, and an MA in International Relations. A retired corporate consultant and trainer, he is also a retired Marine Corps Reserve Lieutenant Colonel who served for 24 years on both active duty and in the reserves. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife. SONG OF ATLANTIS is his first book.

For more information, please visit his Website.

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