31 March, 2013

#BookReview :: Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon

From the heart of an intersex teen, one who must ultimately choose male or female—family or true love—comes the story of a deeply emotional and perilous journey home. This is a young adult novel unlike any other—an authentic portrayal of the issues faced by a child growing up with a sexually ambiguous body.

Jameson can be like other boys after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone Well, at least that’s what his parents always say. But Jamie sees an elfin princess in the mirror, and male hormones would only ruin her pretty face. For him to become the man his parents expect, Jameson must leave behind the hopes and dreams of a little girl. But what is so wrong with Jamie’s dreams that they can’t be her life? 

‘Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite’ is the story of Jamie, a Hermaphrodite. Though Jamie feels like a girl and thinks of herself as an Elfin Princess, her parents raise her as Jameson – a boy. Not wanting to hurt their feelings, Jamie creates a set of rules that gives life to Jameson and locks away the princess. But, when a medical student tells her that she should have been raised as a girl, the Elfin Princess wants to break free…

This turned out to be a really difficult book to read and review. It has managed to touch all the right nerves and makes me want to rant a lot. First let us cover the topic – this book is aimed at spreading the awareness about everything that has to do with hermaphrodites or intersex persons. Not everybody is aware of the facts concerning intersex people, myself included. While I had some general ideas and knowledge, I had absolutely no idea about the medical aspects and the treatment procedures. After reading this book and doing some side research, I can say that I am bit more aware.

Coming to the plotline, it is pretty simple as it revolves around Jamie’s life. Jamie had pretty much come to accept that she would be living her life as Jameson and that the little princess would have to be gone for good forever. But a person’s identity is what it is and it doesn’t simply change because of what people around want. So, when Sharon wants to be friends with her, the Elfin Princess within her sees a chance to breathe and takes it. The story then progresses on to Jamie discovering her true self and making some tough choices for herself. It wasn’t easy but she had friendship, love and help from different expected and unexpected corners to see her through. It was an emotional journey to take with Jamie. Seeing the clash between her own needs and her need to make her parents happy was tough.

This book also has some great characters. Kaylah deserves the first mention because she has the most tender heart and was the first person in Jamie’s life to accept her unconditionally. I absolutely loved her. Then there were Tyler and Sean who loved her too. Sharon and Lisa’s support were invaluable. But I guess Jamie’s mother deserves a special mention too. I could feel for her too as like Jamie she was caught between two ends too. On one hand she loved Jamie and wanted what’s right for her. On the other hand was her husband’s wishes and her religion. Even though I kept wishing that she would take a proper stand, I think it was kind of brave of her to manage to do whatever she could.

Another matter that has been covered in this book is that of religion. Jamie’s faith played a big role in how things turned out in the end. I have always believed that religion is a deeply personal matter – and if a person’s belief drove her to the right path, then that belief can never be wrong irrespective of what the world says. Jamie’s faith, with the help of the Gillespie’s, helped her through.

Overall, this book was an eye opener and I have learnt a lot from it. The struggle that Jamie had to go through, for no fault of her own, was heart wrenching. I wish that parents, and society in general, was more open minded and understand that God’s creation can never be wrong or defective and learn to accept people just the way they are. I just wish that the story had a bit more about Jamie’s interaction with her parents and classmates at college.

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By the way, its Ms.Lianne's birthday today. Drop by at the above mentioned details or leave a comment here to wish her a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

30 March, 2013

#GuestPost :: Why Horror? by Matthew Blake

Matthew Blake lives in Spokane, Washington. He has been a fan of writing and reading horror since he was a boy. He keeps busy between writing and his three-year-old daughter. He was a soldier in the US Army and attained a degree in web development after his time in the service. When he has free time he likes to play disc golf (a popular sport that a lot of people don't know about, you should try it if you haven't already,) and take long walks.

Visit Him at : His Blog I Twitter Account I GoodReads Profile

Hey there, IndieFever Reading Challenge members! I'm very excited to participate in a giveaway for my novel Awake!  You can find it, along with my other work, at www.amazon.com/author/matthewblake.  Thank you so much Debdatta, for giving me this opportunity. For my guest post, I wanted to share with you all an essay I wrote about why I read and write horror, simply entitled Why Horror?

Why horror?  I get this question all the time, particularly from my mother and grandparents. I think they think I’m talented, but just don’t understand why I chose to write in such a “disturbing” genre, filled with demons, monsters, and things that are “satanic” (grandparents are also quite religious, as people their age tend to be.) To be fair, my grandmother is offended even by people making out in my stories, but going the horror route certainly doesn’t seem to have helped.

The first story that I ever published was a short about two soldiers of opposing sides dying on a Civil War battlefield, a white confederate and a black federal soldier. It was featured on the website of a local paper that is popular in my city, and all of my family seemed to love it and the deep messages about racism and the pointlessness of war it contained. I do believe that they all assumed that I was going to keep writing dark literary/historical fiction, and were surprised to find that I thought of myself as a horror writer. Even when I wrote the story I thought of myself as that, I just thought that the story was dark enough without needing anything supernatural to make it horror.

So, getting back to the original question, why horror? Like a lot of people who write horror, it all goes back to when I was a kid.  I always liked scary stories as a boy. Early on, my family would go camping and tell scary stories by the firelight at night. I could never get enough of it. The first book I can clearly remember buying with my allowance money was Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, filled with the terrifying illustrations of Stephen Gammel (boo to the new illustrations.) While the stories and illustrations (particularly the illustrations) would terrify me to the point of sleeplessness, I couldn’t stop reading them in bed with a flashlight I’d snuck from the laundry room. I bought the other books in the series, and from then on there was never a chance that another genre would capture me the way horror did and does.

When I got a bit older, around third or fourth grade, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series exploded, and suddenly I wasn’t the only kid reading horror. It was hip. Never one to take a pretentious hipster attitude of getting mad that “my thing” was suddenly mainstream, I was extremely excited that my peers were enjoying the same kind of books that I read. I devoured every single Stine book I could get my hands on–not just the tween Goosebumps books, but also the books that he wrote for teens, such as the Fear Street series. I was practically forced to start reading the Fear Street series because I’d devour the Goosebumps books in an afternoon, and then have to wait three long months for the next one (or whatever ungodly release schedule it was RL Stine had.)

Frustrated at buying me a book only for me to finish it in an afternoon, my mother became determined to get me to start reading longer books. I’m sure some of it was because she knew my reading skill was higher than what I was using it for, but I’m also sure some of it was because the Goosebumps books were expensive, especially if your kid could read one in a few hours.

So one day she gets back from a yard sale after promising me a book with a (by my standards at the time) huge book with a disturbing illustration of a monstrous cat on the front. “Here,” she said, thrusting the book into my hands. “This should keep you busy for a while.” It was Pet Semetary by Stephen King, as some of you may have figured out. “This is way too long for me,” I said, having never read anything that was longer than about 100 pages in juvenile format (which is what, maybe 50 pages when compared to standard novel formatting?) The book was over 400 pages. “You’ll be fine, it’ll just take you a bit longer to read it. You won’t blow through it in a day like those Goosebumps books.” I then protested that the language was too complex, which she brushed off by saying “Those Calvin and Hobbes comics you read use just as complicated writing as this, and you read those fine.”

My 10 or 11 year old brain out of arguments (yes, my mother gave me Pet Semetary to read when I was that young,) I told her I’d read it, probably pissed that I wasn’t getting another Goosebumps book in the foreseeable future. Frustrated at practically being forced to read something that I thought was above my level, I sat down and started leafing through the book, sure that I wouldn’t like it.

But of course I loved it. It opened up new worlds of horror and disturbing events that I didn’t even know was possible. When a certain character dies at about halfway through (trying to stay spoiler-free even thought the book is decades old now and you should have read it,) I was absolutely devastated. It was almost too much to handle for my young brain, but not quite. While it scared the bejesus out of me, it also gave me a thrill like nothing else. It made Goosebumps look like the little kid books that they are. I read the book, reread it, and from then on would read anything from Stephen King I could get my hands on. I branched out into other adult horror as well, one of my particular favorites being Lovecraft, though it took me a few more years to really build up the reading comprehension so that I could understand the archaic language of his stories.

I love horror not because of all of the supernatural elements, but because of the human elements. Horror, to me, is just a device to put characters into extreme situations so that we can analyze and think about what people would do when thrust from their orderly world into a world that suddenly doesn’t make sense. What would a detective do if he started to suspect a serial killer was a vampire? What would I do if I were walking and spaced out while reading, only to look up and find that I’ve walked into some other dimension? What would someone do if they started seeing a demon following them everywhere they went? These are the kind of questions I think of, and it’s not the supernatural element that drives me so much as what a person would do when thrust into that type of situation. Horror analyzes the best and worst of us as people, what actions we take when confronted with the unexplainable.

And that is why I read and write horror. I've been sad that the genre seems to be slowly losing its popularity, and I hope that it sees a new golden age like was seen in the 1980's. We, as authors and readers, can help make that happen. I hope that next time you're in a bookstore, physical or online, you take a look at the horror section and pick something up there. 

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29 March, 2013

#Special Feature :: #AuthorInterview - Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla

Now Presenting:
*** SPECIAL FEATURE - March'13 ***

Photo Credit : Mark Allen
Los Angeles-based writer Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla was born in Kenya, where, at 13 years old, he published his first article in the national magazine VIVA. 
His critically-acclaimed debut novel, "Ode to Lata", was hailed by the LA Times as "an accomplishment" and The Library Journal as "brilliant." An excerpt premiered in the anthology, Contours of the Heart (Rutgers), and went on to win the 18th Annual American Book Award. Dhalla went on to adapt, produce and co-direct the novel into the feature film, "The Ode" which premiered at the Outfest Film Festival (2008).
His follow-up novel, "The Two Krishnas" garnered raves from peers, Lisa See, Chitra Divakaruni and his inspiration, Andrew Holleran and was published as "The Exiles" in India where it went on to become a bestseller.
He is currently developing "Embrace", a feature film based on love stories impacted by actual terror events from around the world. 

An Interview
The novel begins with “Desire is incapable of hypocrisy.” Is this the kernel of the novel? Can you comment on what motivated you to write this novel?
We cannot fake desire or dictate to it. Race, religion, age, sexual orientation - all of these are masks to cover the fact that ultimately, we are all the same. The two lovers, Rahul and Atif, represent these societal and communal polarities, but soon we realize that despite the differences, they are irresistibly and irrevocably drawn to one another and couldn't be more alike on a soul level. The Exiles (The Two Krishnas) is an attempt to transcend these oppressive notions, to expose how we are completely helpless and equalized in the face of desire and love. Hindu, Muslim, gay, straight - it doesn't matter. Ultimately we all want to belong, to love and be loved, and to be authentic. Truth is the oxygen of a relationship. A relationship based on lies and hypocrisy is simply on a countdown to destruction. 
My heart also goes out to all the women that enter into such marriages and end up unfulfilled, insecure and ultimately betrayed. Since the novel is told from all three perspectives – the husband, the wife and the lover – hopefully, it presents a balanced and intimate take and opens up a discussion on personal culpability and repercussions.

The Two Krishnas (AKA The Exiles) is indisputably cautionary. We feel for all the characters, route for them all, yet feeling helpless to prevent the inevitable, knowing there is no way this will end up happily.   
I suspect the reason we feel an affinity to all the characters may be because we not only get to know each of them intimately, but also, ultimately, accept our own culpability in their lives. We begin to recognize that we have created a world in which we have made it difficult for certain people to have a chance at happy endings. In a world where we judge others because they are different from us and deprive them of the right to live honest lives due to societal or religious pressures, we set the stage for deception. The Rahul Kapoors of this world feel it necessary to enter into what society has deemed normal, and shun what is natural to them because they have been brought up to believe that desiring another man is wrong. So, when we encounter women - a sister, an aunt, a girlfriend - that is devastated because her husband turned out to be gay, remember that we, as a society, have enabled this deception. We become complicit in the resulting tragedy.
Bestselling authors like Chitra Divakaruni, Lisa See and Bapsi Sidhwa have praised the novel. It has been described as a “classic tale of love and loss”, “timely” and “heart-wrenching.”  The theme of tragedy weaves through the novel and we are filled with the sinking feeling that it can’t end well for any of them. Are they all being punished for one man’s inability to face up to the truth about his sexuality? It this ultimately a novel about retribution? 
Rahul is the dutiful, compliant person in all of us. After mistakenly thinking that he can squash his desires, he has obediently followed the path that family, religion and society have prescribed for him. We all know such men.  The tragedy and blessing is that after years of following the plan, he finally encounters the one person that completes him in a way that nobody can, not even his wife, whom he undeniably loves.  But this epiphany, the courage to follow his desire, to be his authentic self, has arrived too late. So, would it have been better for him to never have found his true love and ended his life in a placid but unfulfilled marriage? Or to have finally surrendered to his passion and feel completely realized even though it may destroy others? That is his tragedy and the tragedy of all who have tried to suppress their true natures in vain.
But the novel is also about the repercussions of blind faith and refusing to face reality – whether in the man you love or the God you worship.  We know women who have turned a blind eye to red flags in the men they love. Women who have refused to acknowledge the proclivities of a man because they are steadfast in their vision of him, in what they think he should be or what they can make him. The novel calls for an awakening from such delusion. God or man, whomever you love, an examined faith while not as romantic as blind faith, may be the key to an enduring love.

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Mr.Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla has sportingly agreed to giveaway 2 Autographed Copies of 'The Two Krishnas' to the residents of US and 1 Paperback of 'The Exiles' to a lucky resident of India.
I have set up two separate Rafflecopters one for US Entries and one for Indian Entries. Please enter in the right Rafflecopter.
Also, please remember I will be checking the entries.
All the Best!
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28 March, 2013

#BookBlast :: The Guilty Innocent by D.N. Simmons

The Guilty Innocent

The Guilty Innocent is the second novel of the Darkness Chronicles Series. In this installment, Darian, the gorgeous, charismatic and charming master vampire of Chicago is framed for a crime he didn't commit, but why? His lover, Xavier, Natasha and a few others must travel halfway across the world to find out who and why before time runs out and all hell breaks loose! Original, sexy and gritty, the Knights of the Darkness Chronicles will suck you in and take you for a ride you won't forget! 

Purchase The Guilty Innocent on Amazon.

About Author D.N. Simmons

D. N. Simmons lives in Chicago IL., with a rambunctious German Shepherd that's too big for his own good and mischievous kitten that she affectionately calls "Itty-bitty". Her hobbies include rollerblading, billiards, bowling, reading, watching television and going to the movies. She has been nominated at Love Romances and More, winning honorable mention for best paranormal book of 2006. She has won "Author of the Month" at Warrior of Words. She was voted "New Voice of Today" at Romance Reviews and "Rising Star" at Love Romance and More. 

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Read Reviews by Bloggers - 
This is a very good length story and the author has put a lot of thought into the creation of a complex plot and well written characters. There is humor, angst, anger and tenderness between all the characters that gives the book a well rounded feel. Diane @ Turning Back the Clock 
The Guilty Innocent was an excellent read. It's packed with action, passion and vivid characters. If you love the supernatural genre, you'll enjoy The Guilty Innocent. Jessi @ Mamas Got Flair 
The Guilty Innocence is an addicting, sexy, mystery that's very hard to put down. D.N. Simmons crafts a fast paced world where the supernatural works and plays in one of my favorite cities, Chicago. ~Jen @ The Crafty Cauldron 
What more can you ask for than shapeshifters and vampires. Wouldn't life be devine stuck in a love triangle with 2 hot vampires. Lisa @ Mommy Read too Much 

D.N. Simmons is giving away a $100 Amazon Giftcard and everyone who enters gets an ecopy of Desires Unleashed. Fill out the form below to enter! 

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27 March, 2013

#BookReview :: The Fire Chronicle (The Books of Beginning #2) by John Stephens

After the tumultuous events of last winter, Kate, Michael, and Emma long to continue the hunt for their missing parents. But they themselves are now in great danger, and so the wizard Stanislaus Pym hides the children at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans. There, he says, they will be safe. How wrong he is. 
The children are soon discovered by their enemies, and a frantic chase sends Kate a hundred years into the past, to a perilous, enchanted New York City. Searching for a way back to her brother and sister, she meets a mysterious boy whose fate is intricately—and dangerously—tied to her own.
Meanwhile, Michael and Emma have set off to find the second of the Books of Beginning. A series of clues leads them into a hidden world where they must brave harsh polar storms, track down an ancient order of warriors, and confront terrible monsters. Will Michael and Emma find the legendary book of fire—and master its powers—before Kate is lost to them forever? 
Exciting, suspenseful, and brimming with humor and heart, the next installment of the bestselling Books of Beginning trilogy will lead Kate, Michael, and Emma closer to their family—and to the magic that could save, or destroy, them all

There’s a gap of time of a couple of weeks in between where book one ended and from where book two begins. After finding the Emerald atlas, the siblings, Kate, Michael and Emma are back at Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans. Kate has been having unusual dreams and has been trying to get in touch with Dr.Pym. Her gut feeling that something bad is about to happen comes true when the orphanage is attacked by screechers. Dr.Pym arrives just in time to rescue Michael & Emma while Kate time travels with a screecher in order to protect her siblings. From there on a new adventure begins as Michael and Emma journey to find the Second Book – The Chronicle or the Book of Life.

As the children of the Prophecy, Kate, Michael and Emma have a long way to go. The plot unfolds as Michael and Emma travel with Dr.Pym at the beginning. We find out a little bit more about their parents. Gabriel also accompanies them for most of the part of this book. As Michael and Emma travel together to find the Chronicle, we are introduced to another part of this world – a part that involves more about the Guardians, Elves and dragons rather than the dwarves from the first book.  
Kate on the other hand travels to a different timeline where she meets a dynamic young magician named Rafe. Their lives are somehow interconnected as it was no accident that Kate had ended up in that particular timeline. What does destiny have in store for Rafe and Kate? We also find out more about the antagonist – Dire Magnus who had only a fleeting appearance in book one. The history of Dire Magnus is interesting to discover. 

This book has a lot more action than the first book. I guess the reason being that in the first book the author had to set up a whole new fantasy world. While in the second book he has had to only add few more sides of it. But yes, the second book in the series is a perfect continuation to the first. While some mysteries are resolved, more are unveiled. We discover new characters and fall in love all over again with some of the older ones. For instance, in Kate’s absence Michael has to take over the ‘leader’ role and while he wants to do things the way Kate would have done, he soon learns to adapt.

The author has once again managed to enchant me with his world and his way of storytelling. Though it’s a series, the author gives us a summary of the first book in a paragraph in the second book. So anyone picking up the second book first, will be able to more or less follow the story. Simple language and keeping the characters true to their age make this world of Cambridge falls totally believable and loveable. The only drawback for me was that Dr.Pym and Gabriel’s actions in the book were at times predictable and gave me a sense of Déjà vu.

I am loving the way this series is shaping up to be and can hardly wait for the next book to release as its going to be Emma’s turn to claim her book and I just love her spunk!

To Find out more about this Book & the Author - Click Here

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26 March, 2013

#BookReview :: Reacher's Rules: Life Lessons from Jack Reacher by Jack Reacher, & Foreword by Lee Child

Reacher's own rules for life are brought together in this irresistible collection of quotes, life lessons and wisdom from the man himself.
As every Reacher fan knows, you don't have to break the rules if you make the rules. If you want to survive in this world nothing else matters.
Rule 1. When in doubt, drink coffee.
Rule 2. Never volunteer for anything.
Rule 3. Don't break the furniture.
Rule 4. Only one woman at a time.
Rule 5. Show them what they're messing with.

'I don't want to put the world to rights, I just don't like people who put the world to wrongs'
'Either you'll walk out of here yourself, or you'll be carried out in a bucket'
'I'm not scared of anybody. But I certainly preferred it when he was dead'
If you've read the books, you'll love this. If you haven't read the books, what are you waiting for?

As an ardent fan of Jack Reacher, I know all about his rules. But if you haven’t discovered Jack Reacher’s world yet, you are missing out something great and you have no clue to what his rules are. It’s simple really. As an ex-Military Police, Jack Reacher has vast experience in his life. Ever since he has dropped out of that career choice, he is impossible to track and that’s the way he wants it. But the rules he lives by are what actually makes the man what he is and capable of doing things that are usually out of a normal person’s capabilities. The foreword by Lee Child tells you as much.

The book is divided into chapters. Chapters are about rules about fighting to rules about coffee. Yes, Jack Reacher has rules for almost everything. Some of the rules are applicable in a normal person’s life, like the one about sleep that says, ‘Sleep as much as you can because tiredness causes more foul-ups than carelessness and stupidity put together’. Some are wise words, like ‘A courageous guy is someone who feels the fear but conquers it’. Some are again just plain humourous. 

I have been following the Reacher series quite closely and have read all the books in the series except one. So, I know about Reacher’s Rules. When I got my hands on this book, instead of reading it as a guide book to the person that Reacher is, I treated it as a quiz by trying to guess which rule was mentioned in which book and had a gala time. (Yes I am a nerd and a bookworm – so these kinds of things actually are fun for me).

The best part of the book is when some of the chapters end with “Things You’ll never hear Reacher Say’. They are straight out funny if you know Reacher as much as I do.

Please note that this is not a story or even a short story. It is more like a guide to the character and only fun to read if you have read Reacher Novels.

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25 March, 2013

#BookReview :: The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning #1) by John Stephens

The first thrilling book in the most exciting children's fantasy series since Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.
They were taken from their beds one frozen night, when the world was covered in snow. The silhouette of a tall, thin man has haunted Kate ever since.
Ten years on, Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in a string of miserable orphanages, and all memories of their parents have faded to a blur. Arriving at Cambridge Falls, the children quickly realise there is something different about this place - and Kate feels sure she has seen the dark, crooked house before.
As they explore, they discover an old, empty leather book. The moment they touch it, an ancient magical prophecy is set irrevocably in motion, and the children are thrown into a dangerous alternate reality of dark enchantments and terrifying monsters. Only they can prevent the terrible event that will ruin Cambridge Falls - and stop the world from falling into complete devastation.

Kate, Michael, and Emma have a very odd surname – P. That’s not all that is odd with them. They are sure that their parents are alive yet they have spent most of their lives in a number of orphanages all over the country. Kate, who was four years old when their parents left them, vaguely remembers their parents. The ginger hair of her father and her mother’s insistence that she takes care of her siblings are the only things that she remembers from that night when they were handed over to the first orphanage. Michael was two and Emma was one. Kate’s memories and Michael’s Book about dwarves is all they have. When the warden of their latest orphanage sends them off to an elusive place called Cambridge Falls, they expect to find yet another scrummy orphanage. Little do they know that what await them there are Dr.Pym and great adventures that will test them is the most dangerous ways.

Kate, Michael and Emma are really young but each of their personalities is well defined. I guess having to grow up in a number of orphanages has forced them to grow up early, but they haven’t lost the innocence completely. I love the way the way they hold out on the hope of being re-united with their parents even though circumstances may reflect differently. Kate being the oldest feels responsible for her siblings and as such her nature is that of a responsible caregiver first. Michael, who has very little memory of his parents, is enamored by the lives of dwarves because his only connection to his father is the book about dwarves. Emma has no memory of her parents and only knows her siblings. So the love of Kate and Michael and their opinions matter the most to her. Like all siblings, they fight and irritate each other to death, but when it matters the most, they stick up for each other.

The adventure that follows has loads of ups and downs and surprises for the siblings. But they persevere through it all. Interesting part of it all is the fact that the author has managed to keep his protagonists true to their age. Not one situation in the book made me think – ‘how could a kid manage this?’ Of course they had help when they needed the most and the side characters all fit in perfectly in the story.

The thing is that I am still suffering from Harry Potter hangover and couldn’t help but compare this book to the series. Dr.Pym reminded me of Dumbledore – a powerful wizard who liked his secrets. Gabriel, reminded me of the caring giant Hagrid – of course anybody would probably seem like a giant beside the young Emma. But I know it isn’t fair to this book which actually has the capacity to hold its own torch. A brand new fantasy world where there are ‘normal human’, witches and wizards and dwarves dwelling. There is an antagonist – the Dire Magnus, who can hold his own. 

It’s a fun adventure to undertake for a ride along with some really loveable characters.

To Find out more about this Book & the Author - Click Here

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23 March, 2013

#GuestPost :: Attack for posting a scene lead to devastation & then a new realization by George Hamilton

Some time before Carnival of Hope was published, I had a few scenes from the novel posted on a Brazilian website. It was the carnival scene where Thereza, the woman who my protagonist Tomas is in love with, wins a place on a bus going to the South, to what she believes is a job and a better future. Distraught, Tomas is only able to watch her leave, leading to their separation. In order to stop him suffocating in his own grief, his mother takes him to the house of candomblé, a religion which she believes in but Tomas has rejected, in order to witness a religious ceremony which she believes will purge him of his desire for Thereza.

I was not prepared for the barrage of attacks which came in once the scenes had been posted, many of them with a religious bent, but I am also sure that many had to do with the fact that I had depicted what real poverty was like in the North of the country. Tribal; 3RD World; Creepy; Uncivilized; anti-Christian and ignorant; … were some of the comments. One commentator remonstrated with me for having depicted the candomblé ceremony in one of the scenes. I explained that millions in Brazil practise it. In fact, on New Year’s Eve, up to 2 million Brazilians flock to the beaches in Rio, and many perform aspects of a candomblé ritual when they float offerings out to sea for Yemanja, goddess of the sea. “… although there is no possible way to stop ignorance in Brasil, there is no reason to glorify it,” I was tersely told.

I had not yet grown my writer’s armour of a thick skin, and I was devastated by the response. That caused me to put the novel away for a while, to try and work out what I had done wrong. I couldn’t even look at the comments about the scene again for some time. But as I started to learn more about the evangelical Pentecostal churches sweeping through the country to challenge the old faiths, of Brazilians uncertainty about whether they were a modern country (pre President Lula and rapid economic growth), it started to dawn on me: the commentators were not saying that the writing was bad, what they were saying was that I was embarrassing them and their country by revealing these aspects of Brazilian culture. But my intention of writing about it was not to embarrass, but to reveal the truth about a part of the underbelly of the society, which is part of what writing should be about.

With my new realization, I was able to return to the novel. I did not remove the scenes that the commentators had criticized. Instead, Tomas’ rejection of his mother’s candomblé religion was intensified, to become as critical as the Brazilian commentators on my scenes. In addition, in one of the final scenes, Tomas is in a struggle for survival, and like many who are not religious at these moments, he considers calling on his mother’s faith for help. Due to the comments my scenes had received and the intensification of Tomas’ views on religion in earlier scenes, I felt it was necessary to change the decision Tomas took at that moment. But you’ll just have to read Carnival of Hope to find out what that decision was.

In your country, would there be outrage at the depiction of religious ceremonies in a novel? Say, in India  from the Hindu or Sikh faith? Why do you think the response may be different to that in Brazil?

 About the Book
A poor idealist forced to teach in secret, and reluctant to abandon his mother. A determined young woman, desperate to escape the struggles and tragedies of a dangerous Brazilian shantytown. A carnival competition offering hope of a better future in the South... 
But what lies behind the sinister practices of carnival? 
What’s become of former winners who have disappeared? 
The route out to a new life is not as easy as it appears, and as the competition spirals into a corrupt and perilous deception, it plunges the young loves into a fight for their lives.

"Compelling and intelligently written." - Marilou George (Confessions Of A Reader)

"Heartbreaking in its portrayal of just how poor these people are" - Joo (KUF Reviewer)

"CARNIVAL OF HOPE is a love story that examines a society, warts and all, with an ending that allows room for the reader’s imagination and sense of wonder." - Susan Anderson, Author of Serfina Florio Series

"It was a heartbreaking story, but also a story showing the toughness of people in really awful conditions. The ending is perfect." - Julie Evett

About the Author
George Hamilton studied at the University of East London, majoring in development economics. He likes to know what’s going on around the world, to delve into the customs and practices of different cultures, and in Carnival of Hope, he turns his sights on the Nordestinos of North-Eastern Brazil. He currently lives in London, England.

Carnival of Hope is currently available at all Amazon online stores.

Connect with George Hamilton

22 March, 2013

#SpecialFeature :: #BookReview of The Exiles by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla

Now Presenting:
*** SPECIAL FEATURE - March'13 ***

Take a look at the previous posts

'The Two Krishnas' has been released in India under the title of 'The Exiles'.
In the tradition of A Fine Balance and The Namesake, The Two Krishna is a sensual and searing look at infidelity and the nature of desire and faith. At the center of the novel is Pooja Kapoor, a betrayed wife and mother who is forced to question her faith and marriage when she discovers that her banker husband Rahul has fallen in love with a young Muslim illegal immigrant man who happens to be their son’s age. Faced with the potential of losing faith in Rahul, divine intervention and family, she is forced to confront painful truths about the past and the duality in God and husband. The Two Krishnas draws inspiration from archetypal Hindu mythology and romantic Sufi poetry, evoking unforgettable characters to explore how, with a new world come new freedoms, and with them, the choices that could change everything we know about those we thought we knew – including ourselves. 

I’ll be frank and tell you guys that I was quite apprehensive about picking up this book. It is mainly because I have very little experience with LGBT literature. Oh of course I have read fiction novels where a supporting character was Gay or Lesbian, but never the protagonist. But so far my short experience in book blogging community has taught me to pick up new things with an open mind so as to enjoy and explore wider genres. So I agreed and man, am I glad now that I picked this one up!

The story explores mainly the life and journey of its protagonists – Pooja, Rahul and Atif. Rahul and Pooja hail from Kenya and they have a certain shared past before settling in L.A. The story begins at a point where Rahul is a well settled banker, Pooja is a homemaker managing her catering business from her own kitchen and Ajay is a typical teenager who is into gym and clubbing. While the disappearing sizzle of Rahul and Pooja’s marital life has left Pooja a bit confused and lonely, Rahul on the other hand finds solace in Atif, an immigrant from Mumbai.

Unlike my usual taste for exploring the characters of a story first, I would like to talk about the plot first. This is undoubtedly one of the best plotline that I have come across in recent times. Don’t get me wrong, it is not as complex as Da Vinci Code or as action packed as Bourne series or as mysterious as Sherlock Holmes novels. It is pretty simple and straightforward. But the different aspects of a common people’s lives covered that gives this novel an exotic feel. For instance, a person struggling to find their true identity, or a person finally embracing his own sexuality, or a person’s individual take on religion… The author managed to capture the different cultures and interlink them. The love scenes do not include any vulgarity but pure love and passion pours out of those pages. Human nature and raw emotions have been captured in a beautiful manner. There’s a hint of everything in this page turner – drama, romance, deception and honesty.

Now, a plot like that needs strong characters that can do justice to it. And indeed, our protagonists play their roles to perfection. While Rahul plays the most dominant role and is the link to Pooja, and Atif, these other two people play as important an important role too. Rahul’s past shaped him up and Pooja has been a true companion to him, but its Atif’s influence that finally brought Rahul’s character to its epitome. Atif’s brings in with him his own experiences, his status of an illegal immigrant and his involvement with Rahul takes him to a place where as a reader I was on a roller coaster ride. At the same time, Pooja by no fault of her own, is lonely and her life is difficult on a totally different level. Then there is Greg – whose religious beliefs seem to be distancing him from his family. There’s also Pooja’s gossipy neighbor Sonali and a few other minor characters. Each true to life and easy to relate to.

Everything is brought together with great attention to detail and careful prose in order to make this book what it is – A Must Read!

Contact the Author

Buy the Books

Mr.Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla has sportingly agreed to giveaway 2 Autographed Copies of 'The Two Krishnas' to the residents of US and 1 Paperback of 'The Exiles' to a lucky resident of India.
I have set up two separate Rafflecopters one for US Entries and one for Indian Entries. Please enter in the right Rafflecopter.
Also, please remember I will be checking the entries.
All the Best!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

20 March, 2013

#CoverReveal : Opal's Song by S.J.Byrne

Opal's Song by S.J.Byrne
Coming 2013 - Release date to be announced

A horrific accident on a rain slicked mountainside and permanent paralysis from the waist down.
25 year old Lily Wade has to relearn simple, everyday activities just to live a seemingly normal life.
Opal—a precocious child in her rehabilitation group—teaches Lily about living joyfully after surviving an immense tragedy and how to find peace within the pain.
To keep a promise made, Lily must dust off her once beloved cello and connect with the music she’s kept locked inside a velvet lined case for nearly a decade.

A Teaser

The headlights of Darren’s extended cab Chevy swung from left to right as he took the switch back curves much faster than normal. Lines of tension formed beside his mouth, and his usually relaxed hands clutched the black leather steering wheel in a white knuckle death grip. Something about the way he pumped the brakes wasn’t quite right, and the momentum of the truck was picking up instead of slowing down. 

Lily wanted to ask if everything was okay, but didn’t dare distract him from what was quickly becoming a dangerous situation. Deep ingrained reflex made her tug on the strap of her seat belt to ensure it would hold if the worst case scenario played itself out.

She’d ventured East with her boyfriend to explore and get away from the stifling rules of her parents. They had come into Western North Carolina via the Blue Ridge Mountains and immediately fallen in love with the place. Eclectic Asheville stole her heart with its combination of forward movement and backwards thinking. Only in that particular valley, surrounded by some of the oldest mountains in the world, could one community find the wherewithal to support so many varied lifestyle modalities. From the redneck–hillbilly descendants of the original Scottish settlers, to the new agers, dirty hippies, and flamboyant gays—Asheville catered to them all.

Lily wanted to share the exuberance of the area with her family, but suddenly feared the chance to do so would come at the cost of a glossy wooden box. Tears filled her eyes as she swallowed past a lump forming in her throat. She didn’t want to die.

“Aww, FUCK!”

Darren’s barely whispered expletive caught Lily’s attention as the tail end of the truck swung around. Suddenly they were facing the way they’d come. On any other day Darren would’ve calmly turned the wheel until the truck righted itself. For some reason the beast didn’t respond to his handling. The vehicle continued to spin until something in the front end snapped, and Lily stared in horror. One of the tires flew away from the truck, and in that instant she realized what people said was true—in the moments before death time slows down as the brain processes everything in minute detail. 

Bright headlamps illuminated the surrounding forest as the front end of the truck crashed down onto the road. Heavy metal screeching on asphalt filled Lily’s ears only to be replaced with the sound of trees snapping beneath the force of a full sized pick-up rolling down the side of a mountain.

Up became down, and Lily’s insides threatened to come out as she was jerked about behind the increasingly tighter band of her protective belt. If she’d been sitting next to Darren her head would’ve been spared the repetitive abuse of being tossed against the passenger window. Lily didn’t want to scream out her fear, but found she had no control over her vocal cords—her screeches of distress echoed in the confined space until the imploding windshield drowned her out. Shards from the window flew towards them, cutting her neck and face as they tumbled around inside the cab.

Everything stopped all at once. The crashing roll of the truck, the cutting of the glass shards, even Lily’s screams. The Chevy landed on its side with her hanging by her seat belt, staring down at the unconscious form of her boyfriend. The smell of gasoline filled the air and Lily felt the spike of adrenaline wash through her nervous system.

“Darren! Darren, wake up!” She yelled as loud as her constricted lungs would allow behind the crushing force of the nylon strap. “Darren, we have to get out of this truck!”

Darren remained unconscious, and Lily refused to give into the blind panic threatening to take over. Breathing deep she quickly surveyed her position and the quickest escape route. The windshield had completely shattered, making that the only way out of the wreckage as the door above her wouldn’t budge when she tried pushing it open. Grabbing hold of the oh-shit handle, she pulled the weight of her body off the belt and pushed the release button. Blinding heat zipped through her body as she crashed face first against Darren's side and was knocked out cold by the force of their skulls connecting.


Something wet trickled down the side of her face just before an excruciating pain exploded behind her eyes, and Lily knew she was about to have the mother of all migraines. She thought to press the heels of both hands against her throbbing eye sockets, but found her body remained motionless against the command. A soft moan beneath her was worrying, though she couldn’t think why. The muscle of her shoulder flexed involuntarily and a jolt of pain flashed down her spine, stopping abruptly in her hips. A deep breath meant to calm her frantic thoughts brought more pain and then the blessed blackness.


“Hang in there little lady. We’ve almost got you out.”

Lily whimpered as a sudden shock of agony rippled through her arms and torso, but the sound of someone talking eased her anxiety. She wasn’t alone—thank god. The voice became a life line she clung to with her mind until sweet oblivion pulled her back into its warm embrace.


“They rolled down the side of Mount Pisgah. From what I can gather she was pinned in place by her seat belt, until she managed to undo it and then fell against his side.”

The conversation felt a million miles away. Surely they weren’t talking about her. Before she could give it another thought, the air was filled with excited chatter and frantic movements. She wanted to open her eyes and see what was going on, but her lids were too heavy to lift. Moving the muscles of her body required a strength she didn’t possess and fear flooded her thoughts as she cried out in frustration. The air she pulled through her nose tasted strange on the back of her tongue. Oblivion stretched out its arms and Lily went into them without a fight.

Find out more about Opal's Song and it's release 
 by visiting SJ Byrne or Opal's Song on Facebook

A portion of all proceeds from Opal's Song will be donated 
to help children with disabilities... more information forthcoming.

About the Author
Living in the mountains of Western North Carolina SJ Byrne is just trying to make her way through the insanity that comes with creativity. Writing is her passion - life is her muse. Keep an eye out for new books due later this year.

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