Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Robert Eggleton

It isn’t very often that I receive review/spotlight request for a book with such a unique premise – its contents addressing child abuse and mental health against a backdrop of     SciFi/Fantasy cross-genre. I am so pleased to feature Rarity from the Hollow on my blog today.

Rarity from the Hollow  

Synopsis2Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. The second edition was released on November 3, 2016.

praises

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.” Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”  – Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

About the Author:

Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was release on November 3, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Buy Links : 

Amazon     Lulu    Dog Horn Publishing

Connect with Robert:

Website Facebook Twitter 

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Here’s a guest post from the author about writing books with emotional triggers.

courage-n-spirit

Do you cry during sad or uplifting scenes in books or movies? Some people are so sensitive that they weep during fund-raising infomercials for Save the Children or another heart-felt cause.  

Good fiction, unless you are a total narcissist and unable to feel empathy, does trigger emotions on some level. Since adolescence is often a period of strong egocentrism, and since empathy is an acquired skill that develops as we mature, young adult content often prompts basic feelings – romance, excitement, or anger using plot and action. Whereas, literary fiction tends to be more complex and prompt contemplations about emotionally charged issues long exposures to the content, such as the book/movie Precious or The Color Purple.

People who avoid triggers of strong and complex emotions may be considered by some to be “faint hearted.” Some individuals are so faint hearted that they faint when there is no medical explanation, such as at the sight of blood, a condition that may have neurological roots: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/838. They avoid, for example, horror movies or books because the content causes them to feel so uncomfortable that it could even cause nightmares.

Other people appreciate and pursue the powerful emotions triggered by some fiction. We each have individualized comfort zones, often reflected in our entertainment choices. In general, however, some psychologists believe that people should strive to break out of their comfort zones: http://lifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705.  

Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary social science fiction novel full of tragedy, comedy and satire. Here’s what one book reviewer concluded after reading it, the second of two Gold Medals: “… Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” —  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow

Emotional triggers prompted by fiction may also be related to warm or harsh personal memories. Memories of very bad experiences, such as rape, car accidents, war, child maltreatment, can traumatize a person. For example, one of the characters in Rarity from the Hollow begins the story as a war damaged Vet having returned from the Gulf War with PTSD. There is also one violent scene in the story, a flashback of domestic violence. And, there are references to child maltreatment and puns about sex (no actual scenes).

Perhaps more important than parental guidance advisories meant to define adult content appropriate to youthful consumers, book and movie reviews play an important role in helping people scarred by trauma, not merely the faint hearted, from unpleasant experiences in entertainment. We each take one step at a time in putting our bad memories to rest.  

While some degree of cautionary statement is appropriate to advise potential readers of Rarity from the Hollow, the early tragedy amplifies subsequent comedy and satire: “a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

As a retired children’s psychotherapist, the novel was written to be a fictionalized road map from victimization to empowerment, especially for those victims still symptomatic after having been involved in mental health treatment or currently involved in treatment. This story is pure fiction, based on people that I’ve met during over forty years as a child advocate. It is not a self-help manual. It is a genre bender that uses science fiction as a backdrop.

To readers who have PTSD and who decide to check out Rarity from the Hollow, I do recommend please reading beyond the third chapter. Several book reviewers privately disclosed to me that they had experienced emotional trauma, and one publicly disclosed for the first time that she was a survivor of rape: “…As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing…taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/

If you decide to read Rarity from the Hollow, yes, I hope that your emotions will be triggered. Its mission is to sensitize readers to the huge, world-wide, social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric science fiction adventure. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention. “If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe…I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go….”  http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html
If you decide not to read Rarity from the Hollow but want to help maltreated children, there are several ways to contribute. There are hundreds of under-funded emergency children’s shelters all over the U.S. Google to find one, and then send an unwrapped anonymous gift to a kid, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all shapes and sizes. It is the Holiday Season. Furthermore, some community-based providers of social and mental health services are likely to be concerned that there could be cuts in federal funding of their programs under the new administration. Your help may be needed more than ever before.

 

Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Chuck Barret – Why Cyber Terrorism

While cyber-terrorism is featured as a plot quite often in films, it is still not seen much in adult fiction books. In this post, author Chuck Barret talks about what prompted him to pick this theme for his latest book in the Jake Pendleton series- Disruption.

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Why Cyber Terrorism?

Since my latest thriller, DISRUPTION, has been out (October 25, 2016 release date), I’ve been asked numerous times why I picked cyber-terrorism as the main theme of the book. I say to them, why not cyber-terrorism? I mean, it’s in our faces every single day. You can’t open a newspaper or listen to the news without hearing about another cyber-attack somewhere in the world. It’s a daily occurrence. Many times a day, if truth be told. Other than the recent elections that dominated the news for a few weeks, cyber-security is THE hottest topic in this day in age. And it’s one that is extremely important to everyone except the most technologically challenged.

All of the examples of hacking in DISRUPTION are accurate. Most have already happened! Many are realistic threats that our nation, as well as many other nations, fear could happen anytime. Just look at the elections, our government took extreme measures to prevent any attempt by foreign entities to hacking the election results and plummet this country into total chaos. Much worse than how anyone might have felt about who won the election. This would have shaken our trust at a much deeper level.

The dark world of hacking is a fact of life we must live with every day. Currently, there is no way to avoid that threat. Certainly, we can and should take every precaution available to us, but we aren’t free of the possibility of being hacked. And won’t be for a very long time.

When crafting the storyline for DISRUPTION, I consulted a man who has been a vital part of my research since my second novel, a man who became the character of The Toymaker, and is now the boss. We discussed conspiracy theories and political implications of cyber-warfare. We discussed, in pain-staking detail I might add, encryption technology and how that technology could be turned against a country. Actually, I came away more paranoid about cyber-security than I did going in.

I took what I had and weaved a storyline around it. It is plausible. It could happen. And this should scare the hell out of you. Cyber warfare is real and it is looming on our horizon.        

The greatest threat to our country right now is not nuclear warfare or aggressive threats by Russia or Islamic State. Cyber-security is the greatest threat to our country today. Or rather the lack of it.

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Thanks Chuck and good luck with Disruption!

About the book:

Disruption (Jake Pendleton #4)

There are two types of people: those who have been hacked and know it, and those who have been hacked and don’t know it.

Former Naval Intelligence Officer turned secret operative Jake Pendleton finds himself in a pulse-pounding race to stop a cyber-terrorist from releasing a string of the most heinous cyber-crimes the world has ever seen. Crimes that could render the world’s advanced technology useless.

Jake teams with his partner, Francesca Catanzaro, to track down their only lead, a white-hat hacker in Italy known only as The Jew. A man who might hold the key to stop a group of black-hat hackers from causing worldwide chaos—tag named Disruption.

After a search of the hacker’s flat in Rome turns up empty, Jake and Francesca follow the clues—a trail of dead bodies that leads them across Europe. Along the way, Jake discovers a possible link between recent hacks and a Malaysian airliner that mysteriously disappeared.

In the final adrenaline-charged moments before Disruption, Jake and Francesca find themselves in a high-voltage race to stop these cyber terrorists from unleashing destruction against their sworn mortal enemy.

About the author:

Chuck Barrett

Chuck Barrett is the bestselling author of the Award-Winning Jake Pendleton series—Breach of Power, The Toymaker, and The Savannah Project, as well as his latest award-winning blockbuster, BLOWN, the first book in his new Gregg Kaplan series.

In addition to writing thrillers, Barrett speaks and conducts workshops at book festivals, book clubs, reading groups, writers conferences, and writers groups. Some of his topics include Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing based on his book—Publishing Unchained: An Off-Beat Guide To Independent Publishing—as well as, Blueprint for a Successful Book Launch, Getting from ‘Idea’ to ‘Finished Manuscript,’ Mysteries & Thrillers: Fact or Fiction, and Adding the “What if” in Storytelling.

Barrett is a graduate of Auburn University and a retired air traffic controller. He also holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate, and a Dive Master rating. He enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and most things outdoors. He and his wife, Debi currently reside in Colorado.

Buy links : Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~ Audible

Connect with Chuck : Website  ~ Twitter  ~  Facebook

To follow rest of the tour, click here 

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[Tag Tuesday] Miranda Sings Tag

miranda-copy

I have no idea who Miranda Sings is so I looked her up online.. Uh, I just got through couple of her videos and I didn’t find it that funny.

This tag inspired by Miranda Sings is a lot cooler though I had a hard time coming up with 7 things I am comfortable sharing :p. Thank you for tagging me Amber!!

Rules

  • Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 10 bloggers (or as many as you can think of) and link your awardees in the post.
  • List 7 things you love about yourself (This can be about your appearance, your personality, your achievements, etc.)
  • Don’t use negative connotation. (I.e. Don’t say things like – I’m prettier than an average person or People have told me I’m smart. You ARE pretty. You ARE smart.)

I am nominating:

Lorraine Ambers

Jesalin@JBelkBooks

A Book A Thought

Jasmine@HowUsefulItIs

Liis@CoverToCover

Betty@TheGeekyBibliophile

Reg@shelatitude

The Facts:

I am good at/love about myself:

  1. Documenting and proofreading – Give me the most basic software and take back atleast a 50 page manual
  2. Sticking to a diet plan (Well, just recently realized that I find it very easy)
  3. Curbing impulsive spending
  4. Avoiding peer pressure
  5. Enjoying my own company
  6. Relishing even the most “ordinary” of streets or views as much as some world-class tourist destinations..
  7. Cruising through moments of social-awkwardness with a smile.

Feel free to skip the tag if you have already done it or don’t feel like doing it! 🙂

(pic bg credit: brusheezy.com)

[Mini Reviews] The Vegetarian by Han Kang & Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

The Vegetarian Rating:

Buy Links:

Paperback           Hardcover         Kindle

This was pretty unsettling to read. Hard to really summarize the essence of what this was about. On the surface it was about a woman with severe mental health issues, but dig deeper (well, more like scratch the surface a bit..) and it is about renunciation – of societal expectations to get in touch with your most primitive reflections. This story is told in three POVs and interestingly, none of them is Yeong-hye’s. The story progresses with her turning vegetarian to finally giving up on food altogether because of certain recurring dreams and her finally interpreting what they really meant. We get glimpses into Yeong-hye and her sister In-hye’s childhood as they grew up in a patriarchal family system with an abusive father. In-hye later muses whether that was one reason for her sister’s current state. As her “dream” triggers her “madness”, we see the men in Yeong-hye’s life unable to understand her decision to go vegetarian. Instead, they literally try to force-feed her in one scene. Throughout the book, Yeong-hye keeps retreating further away from everyone else and well.. into herself as she resists everyone else’s attempt to tell her what to do to her own body.

I considered quitting this book mid-way quite a few times because I couldn’t connect to a lot of devices used in this story, be it the characters chosen for the three POVs, the three-part narration itself which felt disjointed or the depiction of vegetarianism. I mean, I understand that this book wasn’t really about “vegetarianism” as such, but since so much of the book was about her giving up meat, I really can’t look past it. I didn’t get the people’s reactions around her, and I am not talking about husband and father (both were A-Grade MCPs who were upset for reasons that had nothing to do with her well-being) but I couldn’t understand why the general reaction was one of shock and distaste rather than being supportive or well, checking out more healthy, wholesome vegetarian food options. There were also some other things about the book that I didn’t understand – like the triggering circumstances that caused Yeong-hye’s psychiatric condition. It felt like some sort of half-baked attempt by giving her the background of childhood abuse (like some sort of afterthought, because hey, I need to give a reason, so let me throw in some random reminiscences of childhood). Another aspect of this book that I found irritating is that it isn’t just Yeong-hye plagued by dreams; we also have two of the three narrators getting abstract, creepy dreams and being tortured by it as they are trying to decipher it. Honestly, it was overkill, and well, just way too many people for a less-than-180 pages book that I, as a reader am trying to make some sense of.

This is just one of those books that I can’t rave about, but I am glad I read it, and would definitely not shy away from recommending.

Holding Up the UniverseRating:

Buy Links:

Hardcover         Kindle           Paperback

Synopsis2Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel.

Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My reviewI was a bit skeptical after reading the synopsis and wondered whether this will be one of those stories about an overweight girl transforming herself into a svelte figure by the end of the book and shocking everyone. Then there is also this male protagonist who suffers from face-blindness (known as Prosopagnosia) . But body-image and self-esteem issues are addressed so well in this book that the love story stands on its own rather than not having any relevance beyond Jack’s neurological disorder and Libby’s struggle with weight.

I think what worked for this book is that by the time we meet Libby, she has already gone through some of the darkest phases in her life. We meet her when she is re-entering the “mainstream” life (high-school after months of isolation and counseling. So, when Libby makes friends, meets Jack, faces bullies, you know it is all on her own terms.

So, what about Jack? Well, he has had a different kind of struggle. While Libby’s lowest phase was telecast across electronic media and her struggle with weight is under glaring spotlight of bullies, Jack has somehow managed to hide his condition from everyone (so that people don’t make his life further difficult in school) until an incident forces him to reveal his secret to Libby. What follows after that is definitely one of the cutest YA love stories I have read so far.

There were few things I found a bit unreal – like the fact that Jack could hide his condition from everyone and that no one, not even his parents noticed anything amiss. This felt like one of those classic “clueless YA parents” tropes. I also felt some of the quotes, though mushy and cute, felt unrealistic when thought by or mouthed as dialogues by teenage narrators (especially some super-cheesy lines.. I couldn’t really imagine anyone talking like that)

I also thought the book had a pretty abrupt and quiet ending? I mean, it felt like the book started with a bang and ending with a whimper because the author didn’t know how else to finish it.

I really liked the book though and some of Libby and Jack’s inner monologues were pure gold. I think my 2017 TBR will now comprise of Niven’s previous works.

The Diabolic – By S.J. Kincaid

The DiabolicRating:

Buy Links:

Hardcover          Kindle        Paperback

Synopsis2A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

My reviewSet against an intergalactic background, this dystopian fantasy was just pure adrenaline rush!!! To be honest, I haven’t read too many fantasies set in space, so I don’t know how this novel measures up to some of the others in its genre, but just speaking as someone who was a bit bored with dystopian fiction, this was just what I needed to get back into the genre again. It had all the elements one would be familiar with, right from political coups, murderous monarchies, forbidden love, a whole lot of “post-apocalyptic” mess and a ruling elite family that thrives on renouncing past history to hold onto power. But there was something so fresh and fluid about the storytelling, that all the sheen of exciting descriptions – of the world, the humanoids, the spaceships, technology – doesn’t take your attention away from what forms the crux of the book – Just how transcendental are the lines between love, loyalty and servitude? In the beginning, I was a bit worried that Nemesis will get boring as the book progresses, for being (literally!) robotic. But, I just fell in love with how the author, S.J. Kincaid, managed to strike the balance between her being an “invention” to her actually having the capacity to develop humane feelings. It never felt ridiculous because Kincaid sets up the details and groundwork pretty well. The Diabolic’s entire “construction” is based on loyalty to one person.

Nemesis and Sidonia’s relationship was beautiful and as Sidonia keeps trying to convince Nemesis, just because she was “designed” to feel loyal to her, it doesn’t mean that “forced” love isn’t real. This is something Nemesis struggles with throughout the book, whether she can really submit herself to another person’s cause and beliefs, especially after circumstances end up bringing her and Tyrus Domitrian (the corrupt Emperor’s nephew) together as they team up and try to bring down the Domitrian clan. I was surprised that the love story didn’t bother me at all in this book though it did take up a significant part of the story. Maybe because it was written in a way that wasn’t distracting and actually felt very integral to the objectives of the main story – whether it is revenge, political power-play or just survival. It just felt natural that there had to be a Nemesis and Tyrus partnership.

I absolutely loved the female characters in this book, not just Nemesis and Sidonia but a whole lot of others. In fact, it is probably the women more than the men who not just wielded actual power, but also knew how to manipulate and use it for their version of the “greater good”.  I also liked how clear the class demarcations were vis-à-vis the planet and space dwellers. I was just so happy and .. impressed with how neat everything was – the world-building , history, tech-stuff, sci-fi, politics and power-hungry families. Was it perfect? Well, maybe not. But it was as neat as one can expect from a standalone fantasy. I was satisfied with – this is a bit of a shocker – not just the love story but also the love triangle (yup, there is one, a very unusual one).

I was a bit taken aback with the sort-of-happy ending which came after some very twisted maneuvers and shocking revelations. I would have probably preferred a darker ending which would have fit in perfectly with the rest of the book. Nevertheless, it was a really good way to end the book. Kincaid finishes it off in a way which leaves you with a slight doubt about what exactly happened and who is telling the truth. That just about sums up what a lot of the book was about – finding a way to keep your love alive amidst a whole lot of backstabbing.

[Book Spotlight] More than Madness

Today, I am featuring a spotlight of the John Kanieki’s memoir. This sounds like a wonderful life account of courage and hope, so I am really pleased to be hosting this on my blog.

 

 

 

 

Author: John Kaniecki
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dreaming Big Publications
Release Date: October 31, 2016

Synopsis2There is MORE than the MADNESS

This book gives readers a glimpse into the life of someone living with bipolar disorder. It’s not a clinical book filled with facts and figures, but a book of humanity.

Spanning childhood to early adult, through stories of abuse, being bullied, experimentation with drugs and alcohol, inpatient stays on psych wards, a night in jail, his college days in the fraternity, hitchhiking across America, and his time in a third world country, John gives the reader a personal and up-close look into his life as a manic depressive. The stories are sad, shocking, and at times funny as he shares his antics while at his most manic and delusional. 

Throughout his journey, John also struggles with his faith in God. More than the Madness is a testament of one man’s journey to grow closer to God while gaining a better understanding of himself. 

John wrote his story to help educate others on mental illness and remove some of the stigma associated with it. It is his hope that readers will get to know the person behind the diagnosis; take away the labels and meet someone’s son, friend, and husband. See that there is More Than the Madness.

Buy Links : Amazon , Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

John KanieckiJohn Kaniecki is an author and poet. His works has been published in over eighty outlets. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. He attended Steven’s Institute of Technology for two years before dropping out. At that time John became a Christian and a member of the Church of Christ. Also John began to seriously suffer from bipolar disorder. This mental illness would adversely affect John. As such the topic is dealt with in his writing. In particular in his book of memoirs “More Than The Madness”. Also the experience is poetically explored in the book “Murmurings Of A Mad Man”. John’s shining achievement is his poetry book “Poet To The Poor,Poems Of Hope For The Bottom One Percent.” This book deals with historical figures and events along with people from John’s own life. True to John’s poetic philosophy the book is written with poems that deliver a clear message. Rhyming and rhythm are prominent. John’s book “Sunset Shadows” is a book of classically written sonnets dealing with dying and death in a spiritual and wholesome way. “A Day’s Weather” completes John’s present poetry collection which is a depiction of his days as a neophyte poet. This early work is a wholesome and quaint collection. 
 
John has a science fiction anthology called Words of the Future. This book is interesting, unique and exciting. John presently has two horror books out, “Scarecrow, Scarecrow” and “Satan’s Siren”. These two books are part of a series following the main character Anne McFry. 
 
John presently lives in Montclair with his wife Sylvia. John is a volunteer minister at the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue which is located in the south ward of Newark New Jersey. John is also a full time caregiver for his wife. Expect more exciting stuff from John soon.

A House for Happy Mothers – By Amulya Malladi

A House for Happy MothersRating:

Buy Links:

Paperback    Audible      MP3 CD

Synopsis2A stunning new novel—full of wit and warmth—from the bestselling author of The Mango Season.

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs—a loving husband, a career, and a home—but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much—raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads—but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset—her womb—to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world—and renewed hope to each other.

My review (contains some spoilers)

Told in alternating POVs, this story lets you into two starkly different lives of the women – Priya and Asha. Spanning nine months, we see their ups and downs, their moral dilemma and them assuaging their own guilt.

Following years of miscarriages and failed IVF treatments, Priya opts for surrogacy. After a lot of research and a trip to India with her husband Madhu, she finds a good, affordable clinic and a surrogate – Asha.  Priya then returns to the US and spends the next many months waiting, worrying, sending care packages to Asha and gifts for her and her entire family. During this time, we also see more of her life with her husband, their social circle and also Priya’s niggling doubts of whether she will be able to land a good job if she does take a break from her career. Since Priya has been brought up and raised in the US, all her reactions during her India trips – such as the traffic and beggars is understandable. It is something that I have seen and read too many times; so I almost expected it. But where I couldn’t understand Priya is that though she mentions a couple of times that she has always wanted to find her “roots” and so she was happy that by marrying an Indian, she is somewhere closer to discovering herself; she doesn’t seem to be too fond of anything “Indian” – I mean, she can’t stand her husband’s Indian friends, has pretty condescending thoughts towards their wives, doesn’t watch any Indian movies (well, okay she doesn’t watch Bollywood, and Bollywood is not equal to all Indian movies, but it is just something I inferred not just because of this but also some other things in the book), learnt to cook Indian food by going to Indian cooking classes only after feeling that slight twinge of jealousy on seeing her husband relish the kind of food his mom makes on their Indian trips. I just felt she was too judgmental and snarky and well, it didn’t help that some of the Indian characters she was acquainted with felt like exaggerations of “behaviors” that is already associated with Indians. Take, for example – “Indians don’t respect personal space”. How is this proved in the book?  Well, in the dinner party at Madhu’s friends’ place, one of the wives casually mentions the surrogacy (which Madhu had shared only with her husband who is his best friend) in front of everyone; thereby outing their secret (because they didn’t want to really let everyone know yet) and also providing everyone the opportunity to join in the conversation. Everyone start asking Priya and Madhu for more details and one of them even cracks a funny (not!) joke about it. Honestly, I cringed.

But, what about the other Indian characters? I felt Priya saw every Indian stay-at-home wife as someone dumb and just happy to live off her husband’s money. Heck, she even described one of the wives as “dim”. Umm.. why? We don’t get any reason. So, I am assuming it is because she doesn’t work. She continues to leap into judgments about all the stay-at-home Indian wives she knew throughout the book. Both in US and India.  Funnily enough, Priya’s condescension doesn’t extend to her non-Indian friends.

Okay, I will stop with ranting about it and proceed with the rest of my review. I really liked Priya and Madhu as a couple. We just got the right amount of romance, history and glimpse into the daily couple-y things they do. Priya and Madhu have been together for quite a few years and so it is just nice to read the “routine” they have fallen into after years of living together – all the small habits and things you do every day. The way they deal with the whole surrogacy process is also interesting. Priya is just very vocal about everything she feels, all the stress and anticipation as she calls Asha as frequently as possible, to talk to her, and keep asking about the well-being of the mother and the unborn child. Madhu just internalizes everything and asks Priya to back off or calm down sometimes.

While there is a lot about Priya’s side of the story that I thought was sketched well, I personally felt Asha’s was better. She is sort of manipulated into becoming a surrogate as her sister-in-law had done it once. She is never fully convinced about it, and finds it unnatural but seeing how her brother-in-law managed to buy a new flat with the money they received, she agrees to do it too. Not for a flat, but to pay for son’s admission to a better school – one that is equipped to hone his exceptional intelligence. As the weeks go by, she slowly sees the Happy Mothers House for what it is – just a shady business. We also meet other surrogates in the house, and as Asha spends time talking to the others, she gets more apprehensive as time passes by, wondering whether she will find the strength to give up the baby. She wonders whether the scales are truly balanced – Just how much money can really be a worthy price for a womb? She also slowly realizes that the amount she is going to get is nowhere near what is required to pay for her son’s entire education and is terrified that she might have to go through this again after a few years. Gosh, I felt so bad for her when I saw how hard it is for her to even voice out any opinion to her husband regarding financial decisions. She has been raised in a small village where patriarchy rules and where women don’t really have the final say in such decisions. She has also grown up seeing men shout at and beat their wives. So she idolizes her husband Pratap who is “unlike” the other men she has grown up seeing because hey, Pratap is gentle with words, doesn’t beat her and spends time with the kids after work. Considering where she has come from and the life she has seen around her, she considers herself lucky to be married to him. He works outside, and she cooks at home and takes care of the kids, and earns a bit by sewing whenever possible. It was upsetting to her Pratap feeling entitled about the money and entertaining the plans of a flat even though Asha is against it. He brings up the topic more than once. The story resolves in a way that they might have money for the flat without compromising on their son’s studies, but honestly neither Pratap nor his brother inspire much confidence when it comes to sensing their wives’ apprehensions and respecting their wishes. I was left with the queasy feeling that Asha will end up being a surrogate again after a few years.

Coming to the overall storyline, it was nothing murky or complicated. But, I just felt like the author toyed with a couple of ideas to make a “shady surrogacy scam” storyline but didn’t really expand on it much. And I think that was okay as it was easy to understand what the author implied anyways. But I felt a couple of other scenes that were unnecessary and could have easily been edited out. For example, there were two dinner parties, and I felt one was completely unnecessary and didn’t add anything new. I also have a feeling there were some other ideas, like confrontation scenes between two families which never made it to the book. So yea, some awkward editing.

While we are on the subject of editing, I wish the last paragraph of the book was completely edited out. It tried to summarize everything as some sort of HEA for both the ladies and that despite their differences, they were “equal”. Uh, no.  Priya’s challenge will be “How to raise a baby while balancing a six-figure paying job”. Asha’s challenge is going to be “How to send my kids to a city school for the next fifteen years without becoming a surrogate again”.

Emotional manipulation in fiction

Well, let me start by saying that all fiction does have some degree of manipulation. Heck, fiction itself starts from authors creating settings, characters and atmosphere and I think sub-consciously they do aim for a certain kind of reaction from the readers. But, what if you come across a book with content that is just blatantly and excessively manipulative – the kind where you feel like you are being “told” how you are supposed to feel?

A Little Life is always going to be one of my most unforgettable two-star reads. It pushed, no, tore the envelope of emotional manipulation into a million pieces by inserting scenes, plot “twists” and laborious descriptive paragraphs of both extremes – the goodness of friendship amongst wealthy men with insanely successful professional lives and the relentless violence against the human body and soul. A few days after reviewing the book, I was searching for the author’s interviews online and .. I don’t know what I was hoping to find, but I guess I just wanted to read Yanagihara’s thoughts about her own book. I just read a few of her statements and what struck me is her admission that the negative extremes (related to abuse) was intentional. I was taken aback because “manipulation” is usually seen as a negative opinion in book reviews.

Which brings me to my next question:

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For me, it doesn’t. At least not while we are on the topic of this discussion post. Knowing intent doesn’t nullify the judgment I might have already made based on the content of the book. If I had judged the author, then yes, having an insight helps to know where the author was coming from and maybe I would change my opinion about the author. But NOT my thoughts on the book.

So, is saying that a book is being overtly manipulative a constructive point of criticism in book reviews? Is it something that plagues any particular genre(s) of fiction? I have grown up reading literary fiction, so it is one of my favorite genres. There is a lot I love about them, but one thing I found quite annoying, especially in books dealing with “heavy” topics, is the lazy scene placements or descriptions which are cues for me to start crying.

This brings me to:

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  1. Well, it just feels disingenuous. If the characters are all well-developed with a personality that sings “Original”, we will connect with their journey THROUGH the story’s progression. There is no need for any other “extra effort”.
  1. Sometimes, less is more. I just feel like in some stories, especially the “issue-based” books, too much of “explaining” or “dwelling” causes desensitization towards the issue, thereby doing a disservice to the cause.
  1. I feel like sometimes, this is just used to cover other basic shortcomings of the book. I also feel that narrative humor is sometimes undervalued in favor of dense moments of drama because there is a perception that the latter is more likely to get critical acclaim (?)

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So, what do you think? Is this something that is more common in “issue-based” book than, say, the funny and lighthearted reads? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

(Note: Image credit: https://www.brusheezy.com/backgrounds)

 

Teaser Tuesday #6

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Grownup

I received this book via Megan’s giveaway. This is one of the novellas that has been on my TBR for quite sometime (the other being Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell).

My Teasers:

She called me Nerdy because I wore glasses and read books and ate yogurt on my lunch break. I am not really a nerd; I only aspire to be one. (Page 10)

Holding Smoke – By Elle Cosimano

Holding Smoke Rating:

Note : I received an ARC of this book via Veronica’s blog giveaway. Do check out her lovely blog here.

Synopsis2John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name. 

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

My review I havent read too many YA books which just have that slight touch of paranormal. The few I have read recently have been disappointing especially a couple of them which are about mind-body-soul because the book somehow ends up reading like religious fiction instead of what was promised in the synopsis. Thankfully, Holding Smoke not just lives up to what is promised in the cover blurb, but also exceeds it by miles.

No aspect of the book threatens to eclipse the other – the murder mystery complements beautifully with the human stories of the inmates. That’s a rarity in mystery books with a sizeable secondary cast – where sub-plots often tend to test your patience and make you question their need. But here, you actually do enjoy and empathize with everyone – with all their background stories that have been added cleverly into the book through Conlan’s paranormal power. I loved all the prison scenes, there was no unnecessary amped up melodrama but yet it is so effective – whether it is the counseling sessions or the power play in the yard. I feel like this is probably one of the biggest strengths of the book – to never lose sight of the fact that this is a juvenile rehab and NOT an adult prison. No matter how “hardened” they might be because of the circumstances, their vulnerabilities as teens are always bubbling beneath the surface.

I loved how we got the background story of how Conlan ended up in the detention center. The author takes her time to build it up gradually – whether it is the details of the fateful day or nuggets from his earlier difficult years with his abusive father. Conlan’s life is a template of childhood degraded, a present devalued and a future lost – A future that had a college degree and a well-paying job.  This is also the story shared by a lot of characters at the center. Of course, if you are lucky you might have an empathetic warden or a counselor taking an interest in you and reinforcing the belief that you can finish your education and making something of your life once you get out. But no inmate seriously believes it.

There is no romance in this book. What Conlan and Pink have between them is more of a strained-friendship-with-romantic potential and that’s a good thing because both have a lot of things going on in their individual lives. Pink is practical and gosh – just so gutsy! Not some wannabe badass. Conlan initially seeks her out because he needs her help but later does start valuing her and respecting the life she leads. He also feels like he is losing out on someone important to him when turns her away at one point in the story. Despite his feelings for her, I liked how Conlan never turns reckless in using his paranormal ability just to meet her.

I really liked the murder mystery though I guessed the “who” halfway through the book. But I think it is more due to the fact that I have gotten pretty good at guesswork than anything else. I couldn’t guess the “why” though. I also liked all the red herrings the author used and explained in the final pages. The only issue I had is probably the presence of another girl – Vivian – in the story. I felt like the book didn’t really need her. I think any other existing character(s) could have contributed whatever she did to the story. But it is a pretty minor gripe and well, I understood why she was there once I read the Author’s Note in the end. (Do read that once you finish the book!!! You will find some great personal insights there.)

There is an epilogue that I felt was not required. I got my closure even without that. Well, with or without the epilogue, it was such a bittersweet conclusion and an immensely satisfying one.