31 October, 2013

#BookReview :: Allegories of the Tarot by Annetta Ribken

22 CARDS...
...each an individual splinter of the human psyche.
...honing each splinter into a story of triumph and decay, arrogance and humility.

Stories of the brightest lights and the darkest corners of the weirdest minds.
22 cross-genre worlds.
22 portals into the Universal.
Only one way to get there.
Allegories of the Tarot
An Anthology of Symbols and the Human Experience. 

This is an awesome collection… Really. As usual, I was a little skeptical while picking up a book of short stories because very few short stories can actually satisfy my book-wormish curiosity. Mostly I am left feeling cheated because I always need to no more – it happens with novels too.

I have very little knowledge of Tarot yet these stories practically spoke to me. Based on the cards of Major Arcana, this series of stories embodies the factors that these cards stand for. Sometimes the stories physically feature a card and sometimes they just signify each card. As a result each story is unique – they can be classified into different genres ranging from sci-fi to horror. Each story being written by a different author has a different narrative style too. So while, there’s a theme to tie them together – the stories stand apart from each other. Also the common denominator in all these stories is the fact they are all well written and fascinating on their own. 

It is difficult to point out just one story that stood out for me… but my favourites were Phoenix by Laura Eno, The Moon by J.H.Sked, On the Shoulders of Muses by Jessica McHugh and Transformation by Timothy Smith. 

Buy this Book

 I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

30 October, 2013

#BookReview :: The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma...and other hauntings by Manish Mahajan

The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma…and other hauntings’ is an anthology of 12 ghost stories mostly set in India, and is meant for an audience with a penchant for the supernatural. Even with the constraints of a short story, each tale is rich in details and these dozen stories cover all the time tested classical elements of ghost fiction writing. From the story of the young man who inexplicably vanishes to the epic tale of the haunted Peepal tree in Rajasthan; from the true story of a ghost station in West Bengal to the medieval legend of the scary well on a remote island; from the mysterious tick and cross markings in a graveyard to the haunting music coming from a locked room… this collection of supernatural tales serves to be a perfect literary cocktail for night time reading.

This book is a collection of 12 short stories with some amount of paranormal touch. 12 stories told through 60 odd pages leaves very little scope for me to tell you about each story without giving out some spoiler. So instead of reviewing each story separately, I will review the book as a whole. And frankly, when I accepted this book for review I had no idea about what to expect from it. Ofcourse, ghosts of some sort would be part of each story – but what else? Would it be like Ahaat, the old TV series that always had me in splits or would it be more like Conjuring, the recent movie that everyone seems to swear as ‘really scary’? Would it be Stephen King material, that’s guaranteed to be freaky or more like Goosebumps series, that did give me goosebumps as a child but now I find it merely entertaining.

This book stands apart from all of the above mentioned books. For starters, the author has limited his story telling to a couple of pages and that I find a great constraint. How can you introduce and develop characters, set up the environment and then tell a story within those few pages? Well, an author attempting at short stories has to be a master of words to be and an outstanding story teller to able to be able to accomplish this else it would just leave the readers unsatisfied. Manish Mahajan has indeed mastered this art. His language and narration style has no flaws and each story ends on a satisfactory note. Not all of the stories are scary. Some are ironic and some are simply tragic, yet all of them have that eerie feeling you look for in a horror story. Each story is different from the other guaranteeing that the reader will find something to like. My personal favourites were The Secret in the Photograph, Raag Bhimpalasi and Her Unkept Promise.

This book will hardly take a couple of hours of your time, but it will be time well spent and Manish Mahajan is surely an author to watch out for! Get your copy Now!

Buy this Book

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

29 October, 2013

#SpecialFeature :: Advice and Content: A Writer’s Thoughts and Words by Timothy Jay Smith

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

About the Author
Timothy Jay Smith lived in Jerusalem for two and a half years during the rollout of the post Oslo peace process, assisting Palestinian businesses regain market access. Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust leading to an international career that has seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through war zones, and stow away aboard a “devil’s barge” for a three day ocean crossing that landed him in an African jail. Smith's awards include the Paris Prize for Fiction, and the Stanley Drama Award. 


What’s the best and worst advice on writing that you ever received?
Let me start with the bad advice, because I had plenty of that when I started writing. Basically, three things were said that delayed my finding my own ‘voice’: don’t use semicolons; don’t use the ‘F’ word (or crude language in general); and don’t use words that people have to look up. 

Fortunately, I got past all this advice. When you read the excerpts below, you’ll see that I am a fan of semicolons and dashes. I tend to write fast-paced stories, yet occasionally using sentences that are longer gives fluidity to my style, and creates opportunities for more poetic language or descriptions—which attract people to my work.

In terms of foul language, it felt completely dishonest to avoid it. For a lot of characters it was out of character. There’s a reason why we say that someone who swears a lot ‘has a sailor’s mouth.’ Sailors swear. So do soldiers and angry fathers. I’m conscious not to use crude language gratuitously, but to avoid it altogether? Phooey that!

Unknown words big and small? Sometimes an exotic word is the right word. Allen Ginsberg, who used the word “dithyrambic” in a poem, died the year I started writing A Vision of Angels, so in homage to him, I appropriated his word to describe a rabbi. That’s an unusual situation, though, for choosing a word. I love language, studying it and learning where words come from, so occasionally an unusual word finds its way into my work. I’m conscious, though, not to overuse them, but if an author sends me to the dictionary a couple of times, I’m also appreciative of that.

Best advice? Trust your reader. They will remember things. They do not need to be reminded of the set-up for an action or scene. It means, you don’t have to tell what they have already seen, and you always want to avoid telling something (rather than showing it) whenever you can.

What’s your response to negative reviews?
Writers need feedback, and if it’s negative, there’s more to learn from it than constant praise. We seek feedback from other writers and friends while working on a piece, and I regard reviews in the same way. They are feedback, good or bad, on a particular novel or my writing in general. I’ve never had a really devastating review, and where reviewers have faulted my work, it’s often things I have already considered. As a writer, you make choices that are not going to please every reader.

Do you have advice for aspiring writers?
In fact, there are four things I’d like to say to aspiring writers:

Never forget that writing is a craft to be learned and constantly honed. A writer needs a good dose of imagination and inspiration, but you have to understand the craft itself—from sentence structure to story structure—to be a good writer. That doesn’t mean, don’t break the rules. It means know them well enough to break them successfully.

Writing is not an occasional thing. You either work at it, or you don’t. You can’t take something like a novel, fiddle with it for a day or two, then put it aside for a week and make progress. You will always be retracing your steps trying to figure out where you are.

You need to have an idea what your goal is as a writer. Do you want a handful of colleagues to admire your blog, or do you want to become an international bestseller? Because the levels of effort are very different. If you are trying to break-out, the competition is enormous, and today’s authors are asked to do many things publishers used to do routinely. It’s a full-time job with lots of overtime.

There is no better life than a writer’s life. You can take your work anyplace. It is constantly engaging and fulfilling, and creates endless opportunities for interesting life experiences. I became a writer as a second career, and I have never looked back.

So, please share with us some excerpts from your books, and tell us why you have chosen them.
Before I start, let me say that excerpts, including my novels’ entire first chapters, can be read on my web page.  Here are the links:

A Vision of Angels: http://www.timothyjaysmith.com/novels/a-vision-of-angels/a-vision-of-angels-excerpts/

Cooper’s Promise: http://www.timothyjaysmith.com/novels/coopers-promise-novel/coopers-promise-excerpts/

At book readings, I select a dozen or so excerpts to convey characters and story, and that’s too many for this setting. So, I am choosing four from Angels and one from Cooper’s Promise that try to set story, theme and mood. Here they are:

From A Vision of Angels, a scene that introduces the main American character’s internal goal:

Breaking free, he sprinted towards the smoke changing his film while dodging traffic. He reached the torched bus as the first emergency vehicles arrived with their sirens blaring and blue lights flashing. Flames engulfed the vehicle and its unlucky passengers, some still seated upright as their flesh melted away. Everywhere the wounded moaned while stunned shopkeepers, standing in piles of broken glass, watched forensic teams start the discouraging task of picking flesh off walls with oversized tweezers and dropping them into cloudy plastic bags.

The scene was all too familiar to David. Somalia, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan. He’d covered their wars—wars all nourished by ancient carnage. Unexpectedly war had become the story he was destined to tell. Mogadishu had been his first story—the shittiest assignment given to the cub reporter—where he discovered the broken humanity that the war had swept over. Children lost to their mothers. Farmers lost to their land and families to their livelihoods. The young men forced to fight and the girls forced into prostitution. David had been telling war stories ever since, not afraid to explore what others were unwilling to find behind the front lines—though he’d been there enough times too.

Wars only stopped when they became too personal and David had decided to personalize each one. He prowled hooker alleys, drug dens and black markets using his reporter’s camera to capture the images that would wake up the world to each war’s own misery; not its carnage—that was ancient news—but its toll on people taking detours to survive. When it got back to headquarters that he had been prowling Kabul at night masquerading as an Afghani deaf mute, his editor ordered him home and David balked. He had his own war to fight: the war against wars, and he decided to cover the one war that had spawned so many others. The war for the Holy Land. A war so old that it had lost its human face.

David had decided to give it one.

The medic tagging body parts.


The bloodied woman on the litter.


The dazed boy holding a cone with ice cream dripping off his elbow.

Click! Click! Click!

From A Vision of Angels, a scene that conveys my principal Palestinian character’s bittersweet life:

Nothing had devastated Amin’s mother as much as losing her lemon groves. When the trees were in their fullest bloom, after supper Yasmin would stand in the yard exclaiming how they smelled their sweetest at night. In moonlight you could see their milky flowers running over the hills. They still owned a smaller if meaner farm—Amin’s intended dowry—and his father, despite his ruinous state, managed to call in enough favors to build a new home on it worthy of the Mousa name. His mother asked Rashid to clear an area for a small grove, and the next day the foreman arrived with a truck full of saplings, claiming most came from the old garden. How that was possible they couldn’t guess yet all hoped it was true.  

They made a celebration of the day. Home for the summer, Amin participated in deciding which trees to plant where. Yasmin, always full of superstitions, hung a beaded amulet in the branches of the first tree planted and tossed coins onto the soil around it.

Rashid had brought a pine that he wanted to plant in the middle of the grove. Amin’s father was pleased with the tree, which the foreman explained was a rare species for the area, growing taller and sturdier than the local scrub varieties; though he was unconvinced about Rashid’s chosen spot for planting it, thinking it would look orphaned amidst the lemons. Rashid finally won the day arguing the pine would give enough shade to prolong the blooms on the closest trees. Amin’s mother was thrilled. What could his father say?

Rashid enlarged the grove over the next seasons, and the pine grew tall and straight benefitting from the same special care that Yasmin gave her lemons. Like a giant sundial its shadow moved around the grove as Rashid had predicted, providing enough protection that the lemons indeed bloomed all year round.

From A Vision of Angels, a paragraph that describes Beirut as I first knew it in the early 1970s: 

Beirut’s Mediterranean sauciness was a relief after the gritty, windswept hills of Amman. Sa’eb would stroll past the seafront hotels listening to snatches of French as long-legged and scantily-dressed women stretched in chaise longues. Polished cars sped along the corniche; behind their tinted windows, Saudi princes and less noble men rode to assignations where they could indulge in pleasures off-limits in their native lands. The burnt-earth smell of hashish mixed with tobacco smoke in the nightclubs where belly dancers inspired noisy crowds and oil money gambled in the back. Drugs and politics pulsated through the city. Easy dealing Beirut. Paris of the Middle East. A freewheeling frenzy gripped the city. As diners in fashionable restaurants compared snowfall at European ski resorts, in the surrounding neighborhoods, the fedayeen were organizing their private armies and jockeying for loyalty in the world’s most fractious country. Sporadic gunfights spiraled out of control. Guerillas stormed the glitzy hotels, and from their penthouse terraces arced mortars over chichi boutiques into warring neighborhoods. Stunned families stared into open air as their apartment facades crumbled into the streets.

From A Vision of Angels, a paragraph wherein my main Israeli character ponders what he might have done differently to avoid a terrible fate:

The day’s withering light seeped into the kitchen. Jakov sat at the breakfast table staring at its hard white surface as he would search a palimpsest waiting for answers to be revealed. What could he have done differently? What could he have done for this day never to have come? His questions conjured a host of remembrances and what-ifs, but nothing that directed him along a new path or to a different destination. Had he been too lenient with Rachel, ever-ready to please his baby girl? Or absent too long during Mishe’s growing up years, allowing seeds of rebellion to be sown? Memories, snippets of conversations, vignettes of their childhoods and teenage years intermingled and coalesced, his chronological clock suspended as Jakov wondered if things would have been different if he had said that then, or been there when, or listened better or loved more, or or or.... All these fragments, these distilled moments that take on profound meaning in hindsight were nothing more than simple stitches in life’s whole cloth, and Jakov knew that each stitch he examined would be sewn and knotted again should time’s wheel reverse itself, for the unraveling in the present could not have been seen in the past. He was shaken to his soul by the certainty that their wretched fate was the sum of naïve actions.

Finally, from Cooper’s Promise, a scene that conveys a sense of the book’s place, gritty mood, and main characters. (When Lulay says “I talk-talk him into using one,” she is referring to a condom.)

Lulay didn’t give her john a good-bye anything. She was done with him and needed her ice water, and Juma had a nice tall glass of it waiting for her. Crossing to the bar, she dodged come-ons from guys who knew she hadn’t had time to spit out the last one, and she couldn’t quite believe it, her expression said. She was still girl enough to have that look. 

Handing her the water, Juma gave her a look that asked if everything was all right, and she said something that amused the barman and made him shake his head. Lulay took a mouthful of water, and leaning her head back, gargled it before swallowing. She took another sip, and swiveled on her heels, legs akimbo, zeroing in on Cooper. She always knew where to find him. She had Cooper radar, and she knew he’d seen her walk out with her john. She puckered her mouth like she was going to send him a big kiss with lips newly painted crimson, and instead squeezed out an ice cube like a turd into her palm. 

The power came on and the jukebox flickered to life, spinning a seductive beat. Lulay’s untrained body, still a girl’s body, still a body remembering before her bleeding had started, and she could almost see womanhood but hadn’t yet, that was the body that danced first, that found firm footing as she shook her glass at Cooper like a voodoo charm. Even the men slumped at the bar perked up for this dance of the Black Lolita. She rolled her chilled glass across her forehead, cooling that hot girl’s body, cooling scenes seen by a woman, and that was the body that danced next—her woman’s body. She swaggered into that woman’s dance, moving her feet to a second beat, shutting her eyes in remembrance of every ass she’d grabbed and every night she’d swallowed. 

When the lights flickered off again, Lulay rescued another cube from her glass and dabbed her neck with it like wet kisses washing away the johnny slobber. That cube melted fast, so hot was her little body; the next cube pressed to her face hardly touched her cheeks before turning into ersatz tears. 

Again an animal cry threatened to escape Cooper’s throat, so tormented was he by her wretchedness, and he pushed through the beery couples until he stood in front of her.

She held out her glass to him. “Do you want some ice water, Cooper?”

He shook his head no. What look Cooper had on his face, he couldn’t say. Despair? He felt it. Fear? Impotence? Determination? He felt them all.

“Why did you start wearing lipstick?” he asked.

“Juma gave it to me.”

“Did you have to put it on?”

“You don’t think I’m pretty?”

“I think you’re prettier without it.”

“He didn’t hurt me,” she said, and when Cooper asked who, her eyes landed on her last john. He was swilling beer at the bar and exchanged no notice of recognition. “I talk-talk him into using one. That’s why he takes too long. It slowed down his come-come.”

“How did you convince him?”

“I told him it makes men bigger.”

“That’s good,” Cooper said, chuckling appreciatively. “I hadn’t thought of that strategy, and it’s a good one. Men always want to be bigger.”

“Men are big enough,” she said, not having to look too hard to find several leering at her. Everything was emerging on Lulay all at once; hips, lips, tits all getting fuller and rounder and making her more and more desirable. “The next time he’ll hurt me,” she said. “It takes him too long and he has to pay more. It’s too expensive not to hurt Lulay.” She reached into her glass to retrieve the last ice cube and slipped it into one of his many pockets. “Free me, Cooper,” she said, and left him to go back to work.

With her tears melting in his pocket, Cooper watched the girl push her way to the bar. She didn’t need to try to seduce, she did so naturally, and she brought every man around when she slammed her glass of ice water on the long counter and said, “Make it a double” as if that African beauty knew a good time.

She brought Cooper to his knees, and on his soul he swore he’d set her free.

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3 kindle copies of winner's choice of either A Vision of Angels or Cooper's Promise

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26 October, 2013

#BookSpotlight & #AuthorInterview :: AJAYA - Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan

AJAYA - Epic of the Kaurava Clan will release on 1st December, 2013

THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. 
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. 
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. 
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…

An Interview with the Author

Tell us about your journey as an author so far.
It has been a fascinating journey. It is nice to know that people are reading, loving and sometimes hating my books. It is fun to live out one’s passion

How long did it take you to plan and research for the book?
Asura, Tale of the Vanquished, the story of Ravana and his people was a product of six years of travel and research.  I have used a lot of folk elements in the making of Asura. The same research was helpful for my second book Ajaya, epic of the Kaurava Clan too as it is based on Mahabharata just like Asura was on Ramayana

What was most difficult stage for you – research, writing, getting published or marketing?
Research is the most difficult part, followed by getting published. If research is not alright, no Publisher would touch you, especially when you are writing stories based on mythology. Writing is something I love, and so it is easy, painful and enjoyable at the same time. Marketing mostly happens through word of mouth and I do not generally worry about it.

What was your expectation from ‘Asura’? How similar or different was the actual response to the book?
Any author aspires to be a best seller. If someone says he wrote a book not for becoming a best seller, he is lying. I hoped for a best seller and I still feel it has a long way to go. I am an ambitious writer and I want everyone who is literate to read my stories. So far Asura has done very well, crossing 1.2 lakh copies in 18 months and still being in TOP 20 lists. Asura is getting published in 10 languages and so is Ajaya.

There is always that one person who hates your book – how do you deal with it?
There are many who hate my book and there are many more who love my book. I can accept both. What I cannot accept is indifference. Then, I rarely write about a subject which anyone can be indifferent. So either the reader will love my book or hate it. There is no middle point about my writing

Retelling the Indian mythology seems to be ‘in’ and readers are responding too. Why?
When I started my research for Asura, the trend was for light comical college romances. By the time I had finished writing Asura, mythology had become the ‘in thing. A story is a story, irrespective of what genre.  I did not write mythology because it is an ‘in’ thing.  I am a man with a story to tell, nothing more, and nothing less.

You do have some strong competition in the genre – and by taking the lesser taken road you are setting up a bigger challenge to yourself – don’t you think so?
There is no competition for writers. It is not like film industry, where when one super star’s film is released, it may kill the prospects of his competitor. In writing, a person who reads another author’s book will also read my book and vice versa. Maybe the reader will pick up the other successful author’s book today and mine after three weeks, but I am sure she will pick up mine too.
The challenge is to write today better than what I had written yesterday.  The challenge is to come up with new ideas and tell a fascinating story. If there are 20 writers who can do that at a given point of time, all the 20 would sell equally well.  

First ‘Asura’ and now ‘Kaurava’ is coming up – why are you drawn to the other side of the story so much? Is it because it is less explored or is it because you are more attracted to the so called ‘villains’ or is it a mix of both?
It is less explored and more fascinating.  It is just fun to think like a Ravana or a Duryodhana and the entire epic can be seen in a different light once we do so. I enjoy nothing better than that.

What can we expect from ‘Kaurava’? Is it going to be stand alone or a part of a series?
It is going to be in two parts- Ajaya, Roll of the dice and Ajaya, Rise of Kali. Ajaya is not just going to be Duryodhana’s Mahabharata like Asura was Ravana’s Ramayana. Ajaya is going to be much more than that. I hope my skills have improved compared to Asura. Ajaya , I have used multiple protagonists and I think this will add more pace and colour to the narration

Is there a message that you would like to send out to your readers?
My message is my books. If I have the capability to give a message in two or three lines, then I would not be writing 500 page books, would I? About my new book, Ajaya, epic of the Kaurava clan, I would only say that it will see Mahabharata through the eyes of the defeated. It is the epic of Kauravas. It is about Ajaya, the unconquerable ones, as against Jaya- the story of Mahabharata

AJAYA - Epic of the Kaurava Clan will release on 1st December, 2013

#BookBlast :: Destiny (New Avalone #1) by Andrea Buginsky

Elena Baxter has spent her life desperately wanting to fit in. She’s used to being teased and taunted by the popular girls, but when she celebrates her sweet sixteen birthday and receives two amazing gifts—the power of telekinesis, and the truth about her heritage—she has high hopes that things will change. But her wish does not come true, and Elena is bullied just as she was before, only this time her hurt feelings and frustration boil into something even she cannot understand. When an explosion hits, chaos ensues and she learns that her new power just might be bigger than she is. 
She embarks on a journey to a secret island to learn how to control her powers, and she’s thrown into a different world, one where she just might be able to fit in. What Elena learns about her heritage forces her to face her past – and the demons it created – head on. 

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Elena was getting upset as she defended her family’s honor. She wasn’t thinking about where that might lead. She wasn’t thinking at all.

“Why, Elena, I didn’t mean to upset you.  I just meant that-“

“I know exactly what you meant, Barbara Thomas! You think your family is better than anyone else in this town. You always have. Just because your dad happens to be the former mayor’s son doesn’t mean you own this town and everyone in it! I’m so sick of your mock sentiment when all you really feel is that you’re better than everyone. You’re no better than the rest of us!”  

As she yelled, things around her felt funny, and she realized she heard screaming. She looked around, and was startled to see everyone staring at her, horrified. She took a deep breath, and realized what had happened. She let her emotions get away from her, and her powers erupted.

The only words she could think of to describe the scene around her were total chaos.  Every locker had burst open, and the entire contents – books, folders, papers, pictures, mirrors, backpacks – had come flying out. The posters on the walls were scattered everywhere. Most of the students and teachers were picking themselves up off the floor. Elena knew her powers had gotten totally out of hand, and she made everything around her fly out of control, literally.

She heard footsteps walking toward her, the only sound in the hall. She looked up and saw her counselor, Mrs. Adams, walking toward her. She gently took Elena by the shoulder and guided her to her office. She looked back and saw Barb and the other Bimbettes staring at her, as well as everyone else in the hall. 

About the Author:

Andrea Buginsky is a freelance writer and author. “The Chosen,” a middle-grade fantasy novelette was her first book, and was followed by “My Open Heart,” an autobiography about growing up with heart disease. “Nature’s Unbalance” is the second story in THE CHOSEN series. Andrea is currently working NEW AVALON, a YA fantasy series. Book 1, "Destiny," is available on Amazon

Connect with the Author:

Tour Schedule:
24th October

25th October

26th October

28th October

1 Digital copy of The Chosen by Andrea Buginsky to the best reviewer of this tour
1 Digital Copy of Destiny

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25 October, 2013

#BookReview :: Last Call by Michele G. Miller

You are cordially invited…”

Four words that spark the fear of God into any gently bred, single southern woman.
When Savannah Guthry receives an invitation to her cousin’s wedding back home in Charleston, South Carolina, her first thoughts aren’t of flowers and dresses. Instead, she's reminded of the groom: her first love and the reason she ended up at a college 500 miles away from home.
Determined to show up and dazzle not only her ex but her spoiled cousin too, Savannah allows her friends to set her up on a series of dates looking for Mr. Right. Wrapped up in her memories of the past and the drama of the present, Savannah doesn’t recognize a pattern in the seemingly random events that occur around her. There is a dangerous threat looming in the shadows, and if she's not careful, she might lose more than Mr. Right.

Savannah Guthry hails from the famous Guthry family. She usually hides her true identity from people because of the expectations that it raises. When she receives a Wedding Invitation to the wedding of her cousin and her ex-boyfriend, she is in a fix. Her friends set her up on numerous blind dates with the hopes of finding someone who she can take to the wedding to impress her family and show her cousin & ex-boyfriend that she had long since moved on from their betrayal. The memories of her past and the drama of her current situation is just not enough to keep her from noticing the new Hot Aussie bartender at her favourite joint. Gage turns out to be a funny, observant, sensitive knight in shining armour as he helps her get out of various situations. But will Savannah be too late or will she finally find her Mr.Right?

Savannah seems to have the most rotten luck when it comes to men. The two in her past were simply jerks, and the blind dates set up by her best friends seem to be creeps. But that is made up by her good luck when it comes to friends. She is portrayed as this smart and tough girl who has her own mind. But some of her decisions and dialogues really drove me mad. Gage is a super awesome hottie who is JUST PERFECT from every aspect that one can think of. The plot is very much predictable even with the author inserting an unknown stalker who trashes cars and makes threats – but if you pay attention, you will easily figure out who this stalker is. I liked the author’s style of writing and narration which was consistent with her previous book ‘Never Let you Fall’.

But yes, this story reminded me too much of Debra Messing & Dermot Mulroney starrer The Wedding Date. Just replace the escort from the movie with bartender in the book and Best Man from the movie with Groom in the book!

Overall, even with the gaping similarities, this was fun to read!

About the Author:

Michele is the author of the Amazon bestselling Coming of Age Fantasy- Never Let You Fall, The Prophecy of Tyalbrook Series and the New Adult Romantic Suspense, Last Call. She is currently working on the second book in The Prophecy of Tyalbrook Series, Never Let You Go.

Having grown up in both the cold, quiet town of Topsham, Maine and the steamy, southern
hospitality of Mobile, Alabama, Michele is something of a enigma.  She is an avid Yankees fan, loves New England, being outdoors and misses snow.  However she thinks southern boys are hotter, Alabama football is the only REAL football out there and sweet tea is the best thing this side of heaven and her children’s laughter! 

Her family, an amazing husband and three awesome kids, have planted their roots in the middle of Michele’s two childhood homes in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

#BookReview :: Love,Films and Rock n Roll by Swayam Ganguly

Fate throws together three young men travelling on a train from Jamshedpur to Kolkata. 
Sunil is a graduate from FTII who wants to make a mark in Tollywood by directing his first feature film. 
Sameer aka Sam, is a software professional working in Silicon Valley. 
Dipankar aka Dipsy, decides to focus on music after being expelled from IIT on a false charge of peddling drugs.
Dilemmas, disillusionments and desires blend to tell their tales in this delightful novel,which although reflective of the carefree ways and the fun loving spirit of the younger generation also attempts to encourage them to incorporate the sense of values which are synonymous with our Indian culture.
And they bind one and all through Love, Films and Rock n Roll! 

In India, train journeys are considered to be fun because of the way strangers become friends for those few hours and most of them never meet or keep in touch later on. Such a train journey brings together Sunil, Sameer and Dipankar together and they bond over food, music and movies. Their connection is sort of instant and they exchange numbers to stay in touch. And that they do. The storyline then covers their journey with all the ups & downs and twist & turns that their lives have to offer them.

Sunil is a recent graduate from FTII who wants to direct quality films in Tollywood. He is smart and witty. He turns out to be a hardworking – whether to get a foot hold in the film industry or to maintain his relationship with Tanya. He is a truly lovable guy. Sameer is an NRI who is back home for a trip with a mission to find a nice Indian wife for himself.  It’s a twist of fate when he falls in love with the matchmaker herself! Dipankar gets kicked out off IIT on drug dealing charges and come back to Kolkata to pursue his long time dream and passion in music. Three very different people come together to give life to this story. The only common thread between them would be their awesome sense of humour. There are side-characters that are all equally well-developed and not one of them can be pointed out as unnecessary to the storyline. The plot has uniqueness in the sense that it depicts the mentality, the aspirations and the struggles of the modern generation. The author has fictionalised true tales from the lives of very common people and has kept things believable.

I have to say this… I accepted the review copy without any expectations other than taking a pleasant trip down the lanes of my hometown Kolkata. But I was hooked with the reference of Satyajit Ray  in the very first line of the book. (Yes, I am typical Bengali, who swears everything literature and movies by the name of Satyajit Ray) Then Sunil’s explanation of ‘Goopy Gyne, Bagha Byne’ had me in splits… And well then onward I was a goner. But the very reason of my liking this book is also the reason for my questioning its reception to the general mass. As a Bengali, I understood every reference and every joke in this book. But I doubt if they will be as funny to the non-bengalis who have never stepped in and experienced this culture. Even with the translations provided to the baul song, I don’t think it will mean as much to others like it would mean to a Bengali.

For me though Swayam Ganguly has made me laugh me like a maniac, be tensed and praying for the characters and in the end celebrate the lives of these characters as if I was one of them!

About the Author

Swayam Ganguly is a media professional and creative consultant who has worked extensively in Bangalore and Mumbai and is currently based in Kolkata. Apart from writing fiction, the author has also worked on abridged versions of novels and other content for different publishers. He is also the Creative Director, Content, for the website of the Mumbai-based online toy store called Yellow Giraffe. He has an avid interest in music and films and has directed the popular award-winning, regional band hunt reality show called ‘Band E Mataram’.

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24 October, 2013

#BookReview :: Undercover in High Heels (High Heels Mysteries #3) by Gemma Halliday

Secret affairs, hunky gardeners, and housewives desperate enough to bare it all... welcome to Magnolia Lane, TV's hottest new prime time show. A place where L.A. shoe designer Maddie Springer should be in fashion heaven. That is until the body of a rising young starlet is found dead on the show's set. Now it's up to Maddie to sift through a leading lady with a secret, an actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a sexy cyber scandal, and one tabloid reporter who'll stop at nothing to get the story of the century. Not to mention Maddie's hot-cold relationship with the case's familiar lead detective, Jack Ramirez. In a world where secrets, lies, and deception can earn you an Oscar, Maddie plays the role of a lifetime to catch Hollywood's hottest killer. But if she doesn't watch her step, Maddie's fifteen minutes of fame just may be her last.

Maddie Springer gets herself involved in the production of her favourite TV show – Magnolia Lane while her ‘partner’ Ramirez gets the job of keeping an eye on one of the lead actors because of stalkers and threats made. But Maddie being Maddie, undercover part of it doesn’t really work out well and things fall apart all around. She gets kidnapped and guns shoved into her face while there’s death on the sets and secrets being revealed all around. But Maddie may have gotten herself into something that is way over her head and will she be able to get out of it time?

Okay, so in this book Maddie is so all over the place that I would have thought that she had taken my ‘dobby reference’ in the review of the previous book in the series personally. Only I do happen to realize that this book was written way before I had even started to read the series – so that’s not the case. I wonder how she gets so much time off her job to get into so much trouble! But there is some development in terms of the characters in the story and it was much welcomed after the somewhat ‘stuck’ feeling in the first two books. Also, in terms of the plot, this book is an improvement over the first two – lesser holes and inconsistencies. I am glad to see the series finally maturing.

This series is still not for hardcore mystery buffs. Its more in lines of chic-lit and comedy since the series’s USP is the author’s sense of humour that she portrays through her characters. Light read  and fun.

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23 October, 2013

#BookReview :: Killer in High Heels (High Heels Mysteries #2) by Gemma Halliday

L.A. shoe designer Maddie Springer hasn't seen her father since he reportedly ran off to Las Vegas with a showgirl named Lola. So she's shocked when he leaves a desperate plea for help on her answering machine - ending in a loud bang. Gunshot? Car backfire? Never one to leave her curiosity unsatisfied, Maddie straps on her stilettos and, along with her trigger-happy best friend, makes tracks for Sin City in search of her MIA dad. Maddie hits the jackpot, all right. She finds not only her dad, but also a handful of aging drag queens, an organized crime ring smuggling fake Prada pumps, and one relentless killer. Plus, it seems the LAPD's sexiest cop is doing a little Vegas moonlighting of his own. In a town where odds are everything, Maddie bets it all on her ability to out-step a vicious murderer. She just hopes her gamble pays off... before her own luck runs out.

Maddie Springer is back and so is her dad who had run off to Vegas with a showgirl.

Maddie is left in shock when her always absent dad leaves her a message that ends with what sounds like a gunshot. Irrespective of her misgivings, she takes on a trip to Vegas with her friends in tow to make sure that her father is fine. But Vegas has a lot more in store for her than she could ever imagine – Knockoff shoes, a stalking reporter, the mafia and yes, Ramirez!

I know that Maddie isn’t a professional detective, but just gets into situations, and I don’t expect her to solve a case like Poirot or Sherlock or even Miss.Marple. But she gets on my nerve at times when is too thick to pick up on the clues that practically screamingly stands out right in front of her - like Dobby in his bright mismatched socks would in the muggle world! But then again she turns into this sweet and heart-warming character with her antiques and you can’t help but like her. And Ramirez’s job description is a bit overboard! I loved Marco in this book. The plot has quite a few holes in it. But the author makes up for most of it with her quirky sense of humour that is infused in her style of writing. Not much has changed in terms of character or plot from book one and I am starting to feel that this series is not meant for hardcore mystery fanatics.

However, it passes off as a light fun read as long as you don’t pick it up as a mystery genre book.

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22 October, 2013

#SpecialFeature :: “Character-ize This: Putting Characters into Stories” by Timothy Jay Smith

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

About the Author
Timothy Jay Smith lived in Jerusalem for two and a half years during the rollout of the post Oslo peace process, assisting Palestinian businesses regain market access. Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust leading to an international career that has seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through war zones, and stow away aboard a “devil’s barge” for a three day ocean crossing that landed him in an African jail. Smith's awards include the Paris Prize for Fiction, and the Stanley Drama Award. 

What comes first for you: plot or character?
They often arrive simultaneously because typically I want to tell a story about something. The Middle East conflict in A Vision of Angels, blood diamonds and human trafficking in Cooper’s Promise, the changeover from communism to capitalism in Poland, and the Greek economic crisis in my novel-in-progress. It’s my intention to humanize these events, so I always have to think: whose story do I want to tell? And what is that story?
In A Vision of Angels, I set off to portray how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict plays out on all sides, so I needed multiple perspectives and ended up with four families. Often, to weave conflicting sides together, I need an outsider who has easier access than locals across boundaries of every kind. In Angels, it’s my journalist who can cross borders when Israelis and Palestinians cannot; and in my new novel it’s an FBI agent working undercover as a novelist who gets villagers to talk to him.
Cooper came about in a very different way. I wanted to write about blood diamonds and human trafficking, and decided to touch on both in the same book. In a previous work, I had created two characters who had teamed up to solve a case—a straight white FBI agent and a gay black CIA agent—and as much as I tried to team them up again, every storyline that I came up with felt contrived. After weeks of struggling with the plot, I decided simply to write the opening scene that I had visualized.

My CIA guy would walk into a bar in Africa. That’s was as far as I had gotten. So I wrote it, and in that bar he picked up Cooper Chance—an Army sharpshooter, a deserter from the war in Iraq, a man with a good heart. I knew I had met my protagonist, and that particular CIA character disappeared entirely.

Please explain a little more how you create your characters. Are they based on real people you’ve met on your travels, or do you make them up?
Sometimes I have a ‘model’ in mind, someone I’ve met, who serves as my starting point for a character. Often I will use his/her real name to give me a point of reference, then change it as soon as my character starts to evolve. There’s a point where characters start to create themselves, and that’s one of the exciting moments for me. It takes time, though, to get to that point.
My principal characters always evolve to the point that they no longer resemble their original model. What I love is that some of the other minor characters stay very close to their originals. In Angels, the old painter with two-clubbed feet was my neighbor in Jerusalem, though I fabricated his story of the white bird cages. In fact, in Angels, there is a whole cast of people I met while living there, and hopefully they won’t all recognize themselves! In Cooper’s Promise, it’s the police chief and his sidekick who were the guys who arrested me in Africa, and I met Lulay in a bar in Africa when I was Cooper’s innocent age.

Is there a character created by another author that you wish you had created?
I have a love affair with Greece, so who springs instantly to mind is Zorba, a now-iconic character created by Nikos Kazantzakis. I actually have a very minor Zorba-like character in my new novel, and he’s a lot of fun to write.
In a bigger perspective, there are pieces of literature I wish I had written. To me, because its structure is so compelling, in addition to its incredible writing, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is close to one of the most brilliant books I’ve read. Someday, I want to write my own dystopian novel, but think that the two best I have ever read and wish I had written are Waiting for the Barbarians (Coetze) and A Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood). There are some famous scenes I’ve also wanted to rewrite. One is ‘Gladiatorial’, the wrestling scene/chapter in DH Lawrence’s Women in Love; and I have, in fact, done that. Another, in cinema, is the last scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which inspired the final scene in one of my screenplays. 

Are there any personal quirks shared by your characters?
Coffee. My male protagonists are all addicted to coffee. 

Which do you find easier, writing male or female characters?
I’m a guy, so it’s always more a stretch to write women characters.

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?
To say a character has been modeled on me would be taking it too far. Are there pieces of me in my characters? Yes, in many of them, and sometimes I don’t realize it until later. There will be a moment when I’ll sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s me’ or ‘Is that what my subconscious has been thinking all along?”
Hermann Hesse called it ‘the instant of recognition’ in his novel, Steppenwolf. The main character enters the Magic Theatre and a mirror shatters into the many pieces of him—pieces that reflect different ages and traits. He sees himself as made up of all those disparate images, and I see myself in the same way. Sometimes consciously, but frequently not, pieces of me end up in a lot of characters.

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