Excerpt Reveal: Forgive Us by E.T. Gunnarsson

Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author E.T. Gunnarsson, for sharing an excerpt from their latest release Forgive Us.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!

About The Book

Three timelines. One dark future…

A new form of energy has poisoned the earth, leaving civilization in ruins. As decades go by, the inheritors of this devastation struggle to survive and reconquer a broken planet…

In 2099: Mankind emerges from the darkness. A lone rider named Oliver journeys east, seeking civilization beyond the Rocky Mountains. Braving the toxic earth and poison air, Oliver must battle a horde of deadly mutants as he unites a band of refugees into the first nation of this new world…

In 2153: Fledging nations clash over land and resources. London, a veteran of the wasteland, struggles to protect his adopted daughter Rose as the world decays around them. But little does he know, both he and his adopted daughter will soon find themselves drawn into a coming war…

In 2184: Simon, a descendent of those who fled the earth, lives on the great Arcadis Station. A gifted technician, he works vigilantly against those who rule his society with an iron fist. In the shadows, he will be the difference between enslavement or liberty…

Fans of The Gunslinger and The Stand will love Forgive Us. This epic novel takes readers on a post-apocalyptic thrill ride, spanning three generations of a ravaged earth…

You can find the book here:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | BookBub | Goodreads | Lulu | NetGalley


Excerpt

Chapter I

‘Memory’

8:46 PM, December 31, 2099

Silent, empty, and cruel. This was the nature of the wasteland.

The wasteland was a vast expanse of ruins, sand, and dying life beneath a polluted sky. This was the new world. It was created by humanity in 2079, and it was the world that they now had to brave to survive. 

The downfall of the old world happened slowly. Humanity did not know it, but their cunning and technology became their undoing. In the great battle between Mother Nature and humanity’s dominion, there was no winner. 

The sound of a thunderous engine erupted throughout the eerie wasteland as a motorcycle sped along the ancient roads. Upon it was a survivor, alone and braving all odds. His name was Oliver, a thirty-six-year-old man who had grown up in the old world.

Oliver was a refugee from the wild and untamed lands near the Rocky Mountains. He fled East, guided by the hope that the East would be better, though he could feel in his gut that it wouldn’t be. The only solace he had were stories from traveling caravans and survivors who spoke of growing settlements in the East.

Oliver was pursued. Not by man, not by beast, but by time. Starvation, dehydration, exposure, all of these were barely kept at bay by luck and experience. His current and most dangerous pursuer was the weather. 

The pollution haze above blocked out the sun. As night approached, the world slowly became pitch black and freezing cold. The darkness parted before the headlights of his motorcycle, yet Oliver felt vulnerable. 

Parallel to the road were telephone poles, some of which had tilted or completely fallen to the ground. The surrounding wasteland was desolate and empty, occupied by rocks and sand dunes. 

Oliver wore an old-world smart suit that was on its warmest setting. He also wore a coat made out of animal hide over his smart suit. He had traded for it a while ago, and it had saved him from freezing to death many times already. Still, he shivered.

A gas mask covered his face. It was vital for survival in the wasteland; without it, the toxic air would corrode Oliver’s lungs. It was old and worn, created in a factory in the old world. Still, it worked much better than the makeshift masks that most people wore. Finding filters for the gas mask was easy; they were everywhere.

There was a grim face beneath the intimidating gas mask. Oliver’s brown eyes reflected a man whose past was full of pain and hardship. Through the visor, they seemed tired. The light that most people have in their eyes was dim in Oliver’s. He also had deep curves between his brows and fatigued laugh lines. His skin was dark and covered in colored blotches, irritated and damaged from the wasteland air.

Oliver focused on his current task: finding shelter for the night. Such searches were often painful since he had to be picky about the buildings he used. Some were too unstable to hold up against the wasteland’s extreme weather; some were too hard to get into, others occupied.

He paused at a fork in the road, gazing down each path. After a few seconds, Oliver turned the motorcycle right and sped off. The sand-covered asphalt in front of him rose into a hill. Oliver followed the road and arrived at a parking lot. In front of him was an old, wooden church that was leaning to one side. A few cars sat parked in the parking lot, their paint stripped by sandy winds and their frames rusted out by time. The church itself had shattered windows and holes in every wall. Oliver had to make do. It was too dangerous to search for better shelter with night fast approaching.

The thunderous engine cut out as Oliver parked and turned off his motorcycle. The world became silent again. Only faint wind could be heard in the absence of the engine’s power. Oliver turned on a flashlight that was attached to the side of the gas mask. Next, he grabbed his gun off the back of his motorcycle. Holding it with two hands, he turned toward the church. Oliver’s boots met the ground with quiet clicks. These were combat boots, tough and made for smashing jaws. 

He swallowed nervously. Though anxious, Oliver felt safe with his Railshot Rifle in hand. It was beautiful, a flawless combination of a railgun and a shotgun. He checked the top port of the gun before entering the church. The gun had plenty of scrap metal in it, ready to shred flesh and bone instantly. Next, he checked the round blue energy meter above the trigger. Oliver felt sure there was enough charge to keep him safe.

He moved toward the entrance. The flashlight pierced the darkness, allowing him to see the gnarled and twisted vines covering the church. They looked so dry that it seemed like they would crumble to dust if Oliver touched them. The twin doors that blocked off the entrance to the building posed no challenge. One was hanging weakly from its hinges, while the other had broken off and now laid on the floor.

Step by step, he entered the church, walking over a fallen door and looking up into the steeple. The lonely church bell still hung far up there. It was rusty, kept in place by a few frayed ropes, gently moving back and forth.  Each time the wind gently moved it, Oliver heard a distant “ding” from the steeple. 

The bell seemed so lonely. It was a reminder that this place was once the center of a community. Where were they? He assumed that they were all long gone, lost to the last twenty years. 

The interior of the church was desolate and destroyed. The hard, wooden floor inside had a layer of sand and pebbles. Each time Oliver took a step, a quiet crunch followed.

 There were broken benches and piles of rubble everywhere. Oliver wondered if any ghosts still sat on those benches. Were they at peace, or were they suffering? Many parts of the walls and roof had collapsed upon the altar and benches lining the church. Oliver looked around cautiously, taking in the looming structure.

Here was once a holy site that held peace, now defiled by the wasteland. To Oliver, all of it was just firewood.

The place was empty of any living presence. The only recent trace of human activity was a single piece of graffiti over the altar. Oliver examined the graffiti, stepping upon the altar to wipe some dust off of it. 

“GOD HAS ABANDONED US!”

Oliver frowned and stepped down from the altar, turned around, and started to gather pieces of wood. The graffiti was unsettling. Oliver breathed uneasily as he moved around. Once he grabbed enough pieces, he formed them into a campfire at the center of the building. Oliver took off his backpack and laid it beside him. It was an old, rugged backpack that held most of his belongings. There were some holes in it, and its fabric was so worn down that the once blue-ish fibers were black and dirty. The backpack held a bedroll, food, gas mask filters, incredibly precious bottles of water, and bags of scrap metal.

He dug inside the backpack and pulled out a tesla lighter. It was old, given to him when he was younger. On one side was a company logo that was almost invisible from wear. He flipped the cap open and turned it on. Arcs of energy formed between two metal rods, the arcs humming and dancing.

Oliver lowered the lighter down to the campfire. First, there was smoke, then after a few moments, a small flame appeared. Oliver nurtured the flame until it engulfed the small campfire. Once it was going, he unstrapped the bedroll from the backpack and laid it out beneath a bench near the fire. Oliver felt happy as he basked in the warmth of the fire; his shivering slowly stopped as he turned off his flashlight and sat down.

The church creaked and moaned from the rough winds outside. The sounds made Oliver uneasy. He stared at the fire, his face wrinkling in thought as he contemplated the church. People still clung to Christianity in the new world, though their beliefs had changed over the past two decades.

Many were afraid of old churches. Some said that God had punished humanity for their sins. Sin was thought to be the reason why the world was like this now. Many believed that the Devil lived in old holy places like this church. Oliver didn’t believe in all those stories, but the idea still creeped him out. He imagined the evil, horned demon dancing in the shadows with the flickering flame, laughing at his ignorance and plotting to steal his soul.

While warming up from the heat of the campfire, Oliver gazed at the device on his forearm. It was a Smartwrist, similar to a smartwatch from the early 21st century. He turned it on and checked the time. It was nine o’clock, three hours until midnight. New year, new century, same problems. People used to celebrate the new year, drink, and make merry. Not anymore.

With nothing else to do, Oliver decided to eat dinner. He grabbed the backpack and dug through it, procuring a vial with a full meal inside of it. Processed cubes of synthesized meat and vegetables composed the meal, food from the old world. He frowned bitterly under his mask as he looked at the vial. Oliver unscrewed the lid, quickly lifted his gas mask, emptied the vial, and put his mask back on in one swift movement. Instead of throwing away the vial, he put it back in his backpack for later use.

Oliver looked like a chipmunk with so much food in his mouth. Stuffing too much food into his mouth was a bad habit Oliver had; as a matter of fact, he used to be called “Chipmunk” by his family. The artificial food tasted like stale popcorn. Oliver’s metal teeth chewed through the stuff easily. While he was eating, Oliver thought about his last visit to a dentist in the old world.

He remembered having his teeth pulled out to be replaced by 3D printed metal teeth that wouldn’t break or decay. The pain from the procedure was brutal and lasted a few days after the surgery. For many, it was once a rite of passage, marking the transition from teenager to adulthood. Everyone went through it, and, in Oliver’s opinion, he was happy to have metal teeth. Suffering tooth decay from the inability to deal with his hygiene was the last thing Oliver wanted. They looked like real teeth anyway and didn’t turn yellow.

Oliver’s gaze shifted to the doorway of the church. Outside, there was the darkness of a polluted world. There was no grass, but there was still some life, mostly brown, dry, and barely alive. The winds were blowing fiercely as always. A blackish color tainted the air, and waves of dust sailed over the ground with the tremendous force of the wind.

A discontented exhale left his lips as he closed his eyes. Oliver tried to remember a time when the sky didn’t constantly have a dark haze over it. Growing up in a cramped apartment, Oliver heard stories of when there were still green fields and blue skies. He believed the stories only because he had seen pictures that captured those forgotten times, though some doubts lingered in his mind. No matter how hard he tried, he could never recall a bright, sunny day. All that came to mind was the sky darkening as time passed.

He struggled to remember a day when he didn’t have to wear a gas mask to go outside. Oliver recalled that every indoor space had a sort of airlock before anyone could enter. He would walk in, have doors closed behind him, then have the room completely emptied of air and refilled with filtered, clean oxygen in a few seconds. 

Oliver checked the time again. Two hours until the new year. He put more wood on the fire to push the biting cold away.

A pained moaning interrupted the peace as the sparks and flames engulfed the new fuel. Oliver let out a startled gasp, holding his breath and looking toward the sound. Far away outside the church, Oliver could hear footsteps approaching. Oliver barely made out the shapes of figures in the darkness outside, human shapes with extra arms, faces, and body parts fused into them. They were human mutants, the fiendish nightmares of the wasteland.

Oliver hastily stood up and snuffed out the fire in front of him with a boot before laying down flat. He reached out for his weapon and held it, his heart throbbing with dread. The noise and the moans were the worst part. The faint silhouette of their horrid, mutant forms was all Oliver could see in the darkness as memories of being chased, attacked, and more slowly crawled back and made his skin feel cold. They came close to the church, horribly close. Their footsteps and hoarse breathing filled the air.

Oliver heard bodies brush against the sides of the church as they walked past, their footsteps passing slowly and beginning to fade. Oliver carefully stood, proceeding to investigate the church. Had he been seen? Did they know he was here? Nothing. Nothing seemed to be hiding among the ruins, and he heard no more sounds outside. A relieved exhale left his lips as he returned to the fire and knelt beside it, trying to start it again.

Abruptly, footsteps quickly approached from behind. Oliver swung around with his gun ready as he heard them. At the same time, something his size crashed into him, causing him to see stars.

It knocked the gun out of his hands and sent Oliver to the ground. He landed with a pained grunt. In an instant, his knife was in his hands. Despite his surprise, Oliver immediately retaliated against the figure he could barely make out.

The beast shrieked as he plunged the blade blindly into its body. Its arms thrashed, mouth gnashing at Oliver. He stabbed again, then again, the thing falling on top of him. Its shrieking grew higher in pitch, a rough hand striking Oliver in the head. The strike made him blink, stunning him but not stopping him from stabbing.

With a tremendous kick, Oliver threw the creature off and began stomping the monster into the floor. Every smack made it squirm less, its whole body growing still after a while. As he stopped, Oliver heard a rasping breath from it. He stomped again out of spite. Oliver wasn’t going to give it mercy. He lifted his mask and spat on the dying creature. As he did, he caught a whiff of its rancid, sweaty smell.

Oliver listened to the creature as it occasionally let out pained squeals. He started the campfire again, the flame slowly growing from the church’s dried, ancient planks. In the light, Oliver could make out the creature dying before him. It was a mutant, shaped like a human with a face fused partly into its shoulder. A useless limb extended from its belly, while a stunted leg dangled from the calf of its right leg. Stab wounds covered its body, blood seeping from each.

Oliver relished its suffering. He watched it trying to fight again, weakly twisting and squirming. It growled and gurgled, painfully bleeding out. After five minutes, it gave in and collapsed completely. Once the mutant was dead, Oliver remained wary of any more creatures. Fortunately, none came to avenge the mutant that he had just killed.

Oliver felt a stinging sensation on the side of the head where the mutant hit him. He rubbed it, causing his face to scrunch as he winced. It must’ve been another mark. 

“That’s going to bruise,” he whispered to himself.

His skin was rough and covered in scars, damaged from the toxic air and the violent wasteland. Even if it did bruise, it wouldn’t stand out.

He checked the time again — only forty minutes to midnight. The wind outside began to batter the creaking church. The structure’s stability was questionable, but there was no option to find shelter in another building. Oliver moved his bedroll under a bench and got inside of it, keeping his gun close at hand.

He played games on his Smartwrist to pass the time. Oliver felt a sinking sensation of emptiness when his thoughts dwelled on these games. In his youth, games and social media were a major part of his life. Oliver had followers, friends, people that he still kept in touch with years after losing face-to-face communication. Sometimes, Oliver had met his old friends in virtual worlds. The thought caused his fingers to meet the port where the VR chip went, the object that connected the Smartwrist to the VR equipment he once had.

The world felt more desolate than it already was when these thoughts of loneliness came to him. He remembered virtual games too and how many hours of his life he lost to them. Gaming was a happy memory that made him smile when thinking about all the friends he had made, especially those from strange places. Now, survival was lonely and harsh. Whenever humans met one another, it was either shoot or run.

The last thirty-five minutes passed in the blink of an eye, and before Oliver knew it, the last minute before New Years arrived.

As the last minute dwindled, Oliver released a relaxed, drawn-out exhale. He counted it in his head, one Mississippi, two Mississippi. Oliver mumbled it under his breath until the last ten seconds. He turned off the Smartwrist and lifted both arms in the air with spread fingers.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” he whispered as loudly as he dared.

The year was 2100, and Oliver was still alive.


About The Author

E.T. Gunnarsson

Mr. Gunnarsson grew up on a horse-rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. He now resides in Georgetown, TX.

Once in Texas, he wrote his first post-apocalyptic book, “Forgive Us” while attending high school. Outside of writing, Mr. Gunnarsson is a purple belt in BJJ and a brown belt in Judo.

You can connect with the author here:

Facebook | Instagram | Reedsy Discovery | Twitter | Website

Book Review: Promptly Written (Vol. II) by Ian Lewis and Matt Sugerik

Author: Ian Lewis & Matt Sugerik 
Release Date: 29th November 2020
Genre: Short Story Collection, Mix of – Speculative Fiction, Thriller, Horror & Slice of life
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 231 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Join authors Ian Lewis and Matt Sugerik on a unique storytelling journey in which each use an identical writing prompt to create a work of short fiction. As originally heard on Season 2 of the Promptly Written Podcast.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Promptly Written (Volume 2) by Ian Lewis & Matt Sugerik is a really interesting collection of short stories that I enjoyed reading thoroughly.

I am a sucker for good short stories because if done well, they have more power and offer way more than a full-length novel without the reader having to spend a lot of time reading them and these stories were precisely that. Well-written, succinct, terse and entertaining. I liked all the stories and was left wanting more.

I’d recommend this collection to all short story readers, especially to those who are looking for new authors to explore.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Buying A Property In The Post Covid Market

Indian, including myself and my family, love investing in two things – property and gold, no matter what. Even though 2020 was a difficult year for the entire world, it hardly affected this deep-rooted habit of obsessively investing in gold as well as properties. The real estate market in India saw a downward dip in the initial months of the lockdowns, but since the lockdowns were eased, India, being one of those few countries that are already on the path of recovery from the economic damages caused by the global pandemic, saw an upward climb in the real estate market.

Now, Indians are investing in property as much as (if not more than) before. Nothing will deter the Indian population from investing in a good piece of land or a well-built house or apartment. Though, one significant change that can be observed in the priorities of the Indian buyers while considering a new house is to look for the extra space to be able to establish a home office. During the pandemic, while many lost their jobs, a lot of people were asked to work from home, and thus began the new culture of working from home in India. Where earlier, this concept was only rarely seen in a few new start-ups, today we all have accepting working-from-home as the new normal.

According to Magicbricks COVID-19 Property Buyers Sentiment Survey Pune, the city where I live, is one of the 2 least affected cities in the Indian real market sector post-Covid-19.

The Economic Times, India

So when Vishal and I also began looking for a place to buy, our priorities included having two separate home-offices/workspace for both fo us. Earlier where we shared one of the biggest rooms in our bungalow as our shared office space, we are now looking for an even bigger place to have our 2 separate workplaces so that we both can do our work dedicatedly throughout the year.

Many people, including us, now actually prefer this way of life to the old one where one had to constantly be away from home in order to pay the bills. Now you can simply stay at home and do the work. But of course, the most important thing that is needed is the privacy of the extra room or space and that is why post-COVID, people are looking for bigger places and extra rooms in apartments.

In fact, with the humongous evolution of digital markets and the need for social distancing, there are now various ways in which you can not only view the properties online on innumerous websites but can also calculate the mortgage online when you plan or decide to buy/rent a property. One such website is Mortgage Calculator.

This website has a lot to offer – it can quickly and efficiently estimate mortgage affordability based on one person (or even two people’s) income, you can also find graphs of loan repayment along with monthly and yearly amortisation tables and printable amortisation schedules, etc. Even though this website is primarily for the UK market, it suits the needs of every country’s market and has personally helped me in calculating the mortgage for the property we are planning to buy.

Buying a home is a huge deal for us and I am personally really grateful to such online devices that can help buyers to not only view but also help in the planning of one’s finances. Corona has affected the entire world, but in a way, it has brought the entire world together too.


Book Review: Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe

Author: Pramudith D. Rupasinghe
Release Date: 29th April 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sri Lankan Literature
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Vor Press
Blurb:
In the serene tempo of classical Soviet literature charmingly merged into modernity, Bayan is a unique blend from among the work of Pramudith D Rupasinghe. 
Bayan begins in the sunny Ukrainian summer and ends with a hidden, deeply meaningful message. It is not only the story of a strange, bearded old man who finds solace and a soulmate of sorts, in a traditional string instrument, while facing a common narrative of his era; it is a commentary on life, and a celebration of the ultimate coming of age. 

It juxtaposes the failure of physical strength and faculties to the accumulation of immense emotional fortitude. It lulls you into feeling safe in spite of the passing of transient seasons, the waning of political ideologies and the inevitable disintegration of the corporeal being. 
Bayan tells about changing world`s order, revolutions and the ravages of time, the music of life will go on.

Bayan is the only novel by a Sri Lankan author to be translated into Polish, Ukrainian, Burmese and Hungarian languages. And its German, Russian, Hindi and Sinhala translations have been added among the books of Sri Lankan authors translated into other languages. 

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe is a beautifully written book full of, and highlighting, a wide spectrum of emotions and emotional sensibilities.

It is difficult to summarise my opinion of reading this beautiful book because it was nothing short of an out-of-the-world experience and simply cannot be expressed in words. This book takes you on a journey to a time and place where you’d be struggling between contrasting emotions of wonder and revulsion. It is not an easy feat to write about the times of war and the post-war world because they both are two subjects that need a very good, and thankfully, Dr Pramudith – the author, did it so wonderfully well that I was left in awe.

This book is written beautifully well, interspersed with odd letters and poems, which made the experience of reading this book even more realistic. The characterisation was brilliant and I ached and pained for the plight of the characters. This book not only helped me understand the emotional background of many people who might have experienced the events told in this book but also made me reflect on the present times and how far the world has changed today from those of the earlier times.

This is a very good book that I will recommend to all readers, of all genres because it is an experience that no one should pass on.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Book Review: Trigger Point by Douglas Misquita

Author: Douglas Misquita 
Release Date: 14th January 2021
Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Suspense
Series:
Format: Paperback
Pages: 401 pages
Publisher: Pencil
Blurb:
Smuggling himself into Europe despite an Interpol Red Notice? Possible. Avenging a German BKA officer? Easy. Evading special ops teams hunting him for the secrets he possesses? Impossible. 
Things are about to get more… interesting for Luc Fortesque.
An escaped terrorist threatens a landmark dialogue between Muslims and Christians. More terrifying is the theft of a bioweapon from a secret vault operated by the Holy See. That the damaging news is not public hints the weapon will be detonated. 
With cataclysm imminent, the world’s oldest espionage agency – the Vatican’s L’ Entity – must get to Luc Fortesque first, hoping he might possess the cure.

Accepting an off-the-books mission, former DEA agent, Raymond Garrett, intends to put an end Colombian drug lord, El Fantasma. But El Fantasma has a mission of his own for Garrett.
Treachery and corruption infect the highest reaches of religion and government, and Fortesque and Garrett must confront their past to be truly free of it.
If they survive the confrontation.

Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Trigger Point: A Luc Fortesque adventure thriller by Douglas Misquita is a heart-pumping rush of adrenaline that will definitely leave you asking for more.

I have one word for this book, and that is – Wow. I am not a huge fan of Indian authors but author Douglas’ book totally blew my mind. It was jam-packed with high octane action taking place in beautiful and exotic settings and well-built characters. And to top it all off, the writing was simply amazing! This is a well-written book, with strong characterisation, great pacing, high tension and brilliant concept. This book had so much going on that I simply couldn’t put it down even for an hour!

If you’re looking for a fast-paced and action-packed book with amazing locations or settings this you should definitely read this book! I’d highly recommend it to all readers.

You can watch the video for the review of this book on my IGTV channel here:

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Book Review: From Legend (The Reeve #1) by Ian Lewis

Author: Ian Lewis
Release Date: 8th April 2019
Genre: Alternate history fiction, Fantasy, Suspense, Mystery
Series: The Reeve (Book #1)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 252 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Sober, serious, and driven, Logan Hale is the highest peace officer in Beldenridge, and he knows his city better than anyone: the labyrinthine streets, the vaulted architecture, and all the dark corners where tales of mutations and a vicious enemy still linger like hushed secrets. Logan is quick to dismiss these accounts as part of a storied past with which he’d rather not contend, but when a suicide investigation leads him to believe there’s something more sinister at hand, he questions whether that near-forgotten lore isn’t the stuff of legend after all. 

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Legend by Ian Lewis is the first book in the alternate historical series The Reeve.

The first thing I loved about this book is the cover art! I absolutely loved it and once done with the book I was really happy (and grateful) that the high expectations set by the cover were fully delivered by the author in this book. I enjoyed this book tremendously and the many elements it had to offer to a speculative fiction lover like myself. I loved the writing, the world-building, the characterisation as well as the fast pacing and high tension throughout the story.

I liked how the author interweaved the alternate historical settings with fantastical elements and used old lores, legends and fables to build intrigue as well as the perfect atmosphere for keeping the reader on edge. I would highly recommend this book to all readers who like reading speculative fiction, fantasy as well as alternate history and also to those who are looking to explore a new author or a new series. This book would be a really good pick for most readers.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

Character Interview: Kimiko Chou from Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Kimiko Chou, the lead character from Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Con Chapman

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Twitter


The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

My name is Kimiko Chou.  “Chou” is my given name and means “butterfly.”  I was born a twin with a brother, Tadashige, or “Tada” for short.  My father is a samurai warrior—Kimiko Kiyotaka.  My mother stayed at home and took care of me and my brother.  We lived in the city of Ōita, Japan. 

What is your age and what do you do for a living?

I am twelve years old.  I am returning to Japan after a long journey to find my father, who had gone off to invade Korea with other samurai.  

How do you like to spend your free time?

Before my mother and brother were killed, I led the life of a typical Japanese girl of our city.  Tada and I would play, my mother would instruct me in gardening, housekeeping, art, poetry—and the tea ceremony.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.

My family was Buddhists.  It may seem strange that a warrior such as my father followed a religion of peace, but samurai believe that Zen Buddhism helps them find inner peace and enlightenment to strengthen themselves, both in battle and in their daily lives.

Tell us something about your family and childhood.

My family was a happy one until the day when robbers invaded our house and killed my mother and brother while my father was off on an invasion of Korea.  From that day until I was reunited with my father, I was a wanderer, traveling with a ronin—a samurai who has been dismissed by his lord—and his page, Moto Mori, a young boy who was older than me.

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?

My aspiration at this point is to return to my home in Ōita and rebuild my life with my father.  He is without a wife and a son, and I am without a mother and brother.

What is your biggest fear in life? 

After what I’ve been through, there isn’t much I fear.  But my father is all I have left, and I could not bear to lose him.

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

My world was a happy one until it was turned upside down by the death of my mother and brother, and I was forced to fend for myself to be reunited with my father.

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

Losing my mother and my brother in a single day, when robbers invaded our home while my father was away.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?

Obviously, things became worse, but there was nothing I could do about it—they were gone, and nothing could bring them back.
But I became more self-reliant, and I experienced a great adventure, even though it was harrowing at times.  And I was reunited with my father.

What are your plans for the future? 

To return to Japan with my father and start our life over again.


Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can find Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Con Chapman, author of Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Con Chapman

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Twitter



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

I’m a writer on the side—it’s not my day job.  I’ve written young adult fiction before (“The Vanishing Twin,” Cicada Magazine, March/April, 2015) but this is my first YA novel.  My most recent book was about Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington’s long-time alto sax player: Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press).  Kimiko Chou has a samurai theme because I’m interested in that now-abolished caste whose members were, at the same time, warriors and artistic; they were highly literate and wrote poetry; their motto was “The pen and the sword in accord.”  

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

It has a “meta” aspect to it, in that it is introduced by a character—Etaoin Shrdlu—who says that he translated the work.  He is as fictional as Kimiko Chou, though.  This technique—sometimes referred to as a “framing device”—explains how it is that the reader is holding in his or her hands a first-person account from the 14th century.  It is used in the novel by Thomas Berger, Little Big Man, one of my favorite works (and one that I think is underrated).

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

Not sure there’s a particular message I want readers to take away from the book, but characters reveal themselves to you as you create them—Pygmalion style.  Chou is hardened by the tragedy at the beginning of the book, but doesn’t miss a beat and embarks on a new life.  Along the way, she finds that her first impressions about people don’t always turn out to be correct, but even those who she grows close to—such as the boy page, Moto Mori, who is her companion on the journey—have their flaws that are in need of mid-course corrections.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

The ronin, or fallen samurai, Hyōgo Narutomi, who leads the two children on their expedition.  He is a failure who refuses to acknowledge that fact, and carries on despite having no real hope of ever realizing his ambition; to become a samurai again, after having been dismissed by seven masters.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

I had a lot of time on my hands waiting for a publisher to get back to me on a proposal—over a year.  At some point I threw up my hands and decided to start on another project.  I’ve written two novels before, one of which (CannaCorn) is a baseball novel with a character who thinks of himself as a latter-day samurai in his role as a relief pitcher.  I read a YA novel about a boy samurai, and Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela Toler, which includes stories of female samurai.  I did a little research and didn’t find any YA novels about girl samurai, and decided to write one.

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Once I got going, not that long, maybe a year.  I had to do some research on Japanese history during the period when the samurai first came to prominence, the 12th to the 14th centuries, and also on Japanese geography, to get the details of a Japanese invasion of Korea down.

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I’d like to be able to write full-time, but I’ve got a long ways to go.  I’d like to write a sequel to Kimiko Chou if there’s a demand for it.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I am currently writing a history of Kansas City jazz for Equinox Publishing, a British publisher.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

The novel (or novella, it’s not that long) seemed right for this story.  I also write plays, histories, poetry, humor, and short-form journalism.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

?  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was  in high school.  I became a sports reporter for my small-town newspaper when I was a junior in high school, after I hurt myself and couldn’t play football anymore.  I got a newspaper reporting job right out of college, but found I wasn’t very good at going up to strangers and asking them embarrassing questions, which is essential to the job.  So I had to find some other path, which took a while.  I wrote an article on jazz for a Boston-area “underground” paper, but didn’t have much success pitching freelance articles.  I decided I needed to get a book written, and chose the 1978 pennant race between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, which no one had written about.  Red Sox fans didn’t want to be reminded about it, since they blew a big lead and didn’t make it to the World Series, and Yankee fans weren’t interested since it wasn’t a big deal to them—they went on to win the World Series, so the win over the Red Sox was insignificant by comparison.

I self-published the book, The Year of the Gerbil (the word “gerbil” refers to a scornful nickname the Red Sox hung on their manager that season).  This was back in the bad old days when self-publishing was expensive.  I took money out of my savings to finance it, and had to do all the marketing myself.  I wrote a lot of letters to bookstores, made personal trips to ask bookstores to stock it—very naïve.  I’d send copies to various newspapers and magazines, got maybe two reviews.  Then I sent a copy to the Business Editor of The Boston Globe because he had mentioned how Boston and New York had similar rivalries in business and sports; the Yankees back in the day were perennial winners, the Red Sox went 86 years without winning the World Series, and New York is a much bigger business market than Boston.  To my surprise, he wrote a glowing review of the book in the Business Section of the paper, the book got named to a list of 50 essential books about the Red Sox, and while I never made back my initial monetary investment, I had a start on a reputation in that I could name a book I’d written and people might actually want to read it.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

.  I have to write at the beginning and end of the day since I have a day job.  If I wake up early I’ll try to produce a paragraph or two before going off to work, and at night if I’m not too tired I’ll try to do it again.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

?  I write on a computer, as it’s much faster, even for drafts.  The one exception is playwriting; I’ve had twelve plays published, and because you’re just writing dialogue, not exposition (other than stage directions), it’s easy to get a lot down with just a pen and a pad of paper.

What are your 5 favourite books?

The books I’ve read the most, multiple times, are:

  1. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy (novel)
  2. The Sweet Science, A.J. Liebling (non-fiction, boxing)
  3. True Tales from the Annals of Crime and Rascality, St. Clair McKelway (non-fiction,         crime)
  4. George Ade and Ring Lardner, Midwestern humorists
  5. And the Holy Trinity of Southern female writers: Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and   Carson McCullers

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I had writer’s block when I got out of college, wanted to be a writer, and couldn’t get anything written.  You only have writer’s block if you want to write and can’t, so I can’t say I had writer’s block when I more or less gave up on writing for a while.

It’s sad but true, as far as I’m concerned and one of my friends who had writer’s block and couldn’t finish his Ph.D. dissertation, that getting thrown into a job where you have to write, or going back to school and being under pressure to produce on a daily basis will cure you of writer’s block.  The problem then is—you have no time to write because you’re busy.

For the most part that’s the situation I’m in today; I have to find time to write around my work, which forces me to become more efficient and not have a beer and stare off into space and think about the Great American Novel I’ve got in me down deep inside.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Well, you’ve got to look the part on paper.  I bought a book on manuscript preparation and writing book proposals (the Writer’s Market book, “Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript”), which gave me some guidance on presenting yourself as a writer.  Where before I’d do things wrong (like sending in a non-fiction article without querying first), I at least had a sense of what an editor or publisher who might actually buy something from you expected it to look like when it came in over the transom.

Thank you, Con, for your insightful answers!


About The Book

Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can find Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

ARC Review: Dead Fish And What the Blue Jays Know by Debbie Ann Ice

Author: Debbie Ann Ice 
Release Date: 22nd April 2021
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Satire
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publisher, LLC
Blurb:
It’s the year 20-something—a changed yet still complacent America—and Lorraine Mulderon is mad. She’s mad that dying fish litter the shores of her small Connecticut coastal town. She’s mad birds seem to be dying, possibly indirectly related to fish deaths. She’s still mad about a wave of crow deaths over a decade ago. But, mostly, Lorraine is mad at the lack of madness.

She makes speeches. She phones lazy, and now corrupt, legislators. She is ignored. What has happened to passion? What has happened to our country? And now, what has happened to Lorraine? Lorraine disappears during a protest march. Her daughter, Haley, writes a letter to the world explaining her mother—someone who confronts grief and tragedy the only way she knows how and has depended upon those who tenderly watch over her—her daughter, certain friends, and a flock of blue jays.
However, as the blue jays reveal, Lorraine is not so tenderly watched over by the forces working against her.
It’s a dark future and our nation has normalized tragedy; however, DEAD FISH touches upon these intense themes with hope and humor. 

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dead Fish And What the Blue Jays Know by Debbie Ann Ice is a beautiful book about passion, love and loyalty. When I started reading this book, I wasn’t really sure what it was about and if I was going to like it much, but only a couple of pages into the story and I knew that it was going to be a great read. And to my utter satisfaction, it turned out to be that and so much more.

This book not only has a well-written plot but the concept itself is really good and necessary in its own right. I loved the characters and was able to connect and relate to them. The pacing and tension are apt and compliment the story beautifully.

I really enjoyed reading this emotional, at times funny and beautiful read and would definitely recommend it to readers of literary and women’s fiction.

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Book Excerpt: Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Con Chapman for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai.

About The Book

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can get this book here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Excerpt

My name is Kimiko Chou, and this is my story.  I have set it down so that it will live after me, for other girls to read.  They may find it hard to believe, but it is true.

My given name “Chou” means “empress child butterfly.”  It was given to me at my oschichiya—naming ceremony.  I was swathed in white, like a little cocoon, pure as I came into the world.  Like every other aka-chan (“little red one,” loving term for a newborn baby), I wore only this color of godliness for seventeen days.  From then on, I was clothed in the colors of the world, and not just the pure shade of ame, the lofty sacred world of the gods of heaven, the ama-tsu-kami.

            It should not surprise you that I came to live as a samurai, for the way of the samurai is death, and I was born, so to speak, in death.  When robbers invaded our home and attacked my mother and brother, I hid in the alcove—the tokonoma—that is found in the main room of a samurai’s dwelling, and in which is displayed a single beautiful object for contemplation.  I held myself still and breathless while the robbers ransacked the house for money and weapons; they looked only for things of material value, and so didn’t notice me.  I pulled my clothing over my head like a sea urchin in order to save myself.

            How, you ask, is such conduct worthy of a samurai, if the samurai, faced with a choice between life and death, must choose the latter?  Well, we all want to live, and we form our thoughts according to our will.  But at that moment, I was not a samurai, and I had no master.  I had no aim in life, other than to survive.

            When the robbers departed, I was alone.  My mother Hino and my brother Tadashige were both dead.  My father—Kimiko Kiyotaka–was gone, part of a force that had invaded the kingdom of Koguryo (current-day Korea).  I did not know when or if he would return.  I was eleven years old.  

            I was fearful, and for good reason.  The robbers could be seen moving from house to house, repeating their acts of thievery and violence.  Tada and I had recently undergone the ceremony of genpuku, by which we had formally been recognized as adults.  I was to prepare for marriage, he was to prepare for war.  I received a mogi (a pleated skirt), he—a samurai helmet.  If I became my twin brother, I would be able to defend myself from the assaults of the robbers, and I would not be an object of attraction to them.  And so I donned the garb of the samurai at an age when most girls had just begun to play the coquette.  I was close to Tada, as twins will be, and so I had absorbed much of what he had learned in his training to become a samurai.  Now I would become him, and adopt his name.  

            There was nothing left of value in our home except food, and so I cooked some rice and made onigiri (rice balls).  These I packed into Tada’s hakama (pants), and I set off on a quest to find my father, although I knew it might take many years.  I saw myself in the eye of my mind having many adventures before we would be reunited.  I would be a woman then—if I could find him before he died.

            I took with me my mother’s weapons:  Her naginata.  This is a spear with a curved blade at the end.  It was used by women in defending their homes when their samurai husbands were absent from the home.  With its long shaft, it could be used to keep a male opponent at a distance, thus allowing a woman to fend off a man stronger than her.  Next, her tanto, a dagger favored by women because of its short length and capacity for camouflage.  When sheathed, it looked like a fan, and could concealed as an item of innocent adornment until needed.  Finally, her kansashi, a hairpin that is a woman’s weapon of last resort.  Six inches long, it innocently keeps her hair in place but can be pulled out to pierce an attacker’s chest or throat when he is on the point of overcoming her.

            I started out on the road that led towards the sea.  I wanted to go to the place where my father would land when he came back, and if that did not happen for some time, I wanted to find a way to go search for him, on a fishing boat or a bigger craft bound for Korea.  I must have made a forlorn-looking sight.  My brother’s kataginu (sleeveless jacket) hung loose about my shoulders with its exaggerated shoulders, and while I was tried to put on a brave face, my heart was empty—my mother and brother gone, my father far away.  I was all alone in the world.

            The road was a muddy path, the color of my mother’s clay cooking pots.  On either side were bright green hedges of grass that gave way to rice paddies.  I was headed in the direction of the Tsushina Strait, towards a sky that was full of rain coming up from the sea.  It was tinged with grey and blue and pink, like the inside of an oyster’s shell.  It was hard to be hopeful, but I tried to walk with a forceful stride, to show the world that I was determined.

            After a while I heard the clip-clop of a horse coming up behind me.  I did not turn to look, as I wanted to give the rider the sense that I wasn’t a young girl he could trifle with, I was a samurai on a mission.

            As the horseman drew nearer, he called out to me in a curt manner.  “You there!”

            I turned my head slowly to the left, but did not stop walking.  He must know that I would not stop for anyone.  He called again—“You!”

            I kept walking, but said “Yes?”

            “Where are you going?”

            “Hirado.”

            He laughed.  “And how will you get there?”

            “I will hire a boat.”

            “With what?”

            “Never you mind.”

            Upon hearing those bold words, he dug his heels in his horse’s side and rode in front of me, blocking my way.

            “Are you a samurai?” he asked with a mocking smile.

            “I am a samurai’s page.”

            “And who is your master.”

            I hesitated just a moment.  “You would not know him, he lives far from here.”

            “Then how did you come to be all by yourself?”

            I was silent, out of words.  I should have foreseen that I would be questioned, but I had not given thought to the story I would tell.

            “Well?” the man asked.  “Who are you, and what do you have to say for yourself?”

            I fought down a lump in my throat, and spoke.  “I am Kimiko Tadashige.  My master is dead.  I am on my way to seek my father, who is in Korea.”

            The man rubbed his chin, sizing me up.  A boy came up behind him, dressed much like me, but in shabbier garments.  I guessed that he was a page to this samurai and, from the looks of his clothing, had been traveling with him for some time.  Perhaps, I thought, the man on horseback was a ronin, a samurai without a lord.

            “I am Hyōgo Narutomi,” he said with a fierce voice, as if he wanted to scare me and not just say his name.  “This is my page, Moto Mori.”

            The boy bowed slightly and looked me over.  His eyes seemed to see a rival, or even an adversary, even though I was just a stranger walking along the same road.

            “I could use another page,” Narutomi said with a tone of cold calculation, as if I were a fish in a market.

            I did not know what to say.  I would be out of food soon enough, and I wanted protection from robbers and others with malice towards me.

            “Where are you going?” I asked.

            “The same place you are,” Narutomi replied calmly, as if that settled the matter.

            I looked off to the horizon behind Mori to my left, and Narutomi ahead of me.  There was no shelter, and no other road to be seen, all the way to the end of the world within my view.  What choice did I have, other than to continue with my concocted story about where I came from, and where I was going?

            “All right,” I said, without enthusiasm.  “I will come with you.”


About The Author

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada.

Follow the author on Twitter @conchapman


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Graphic Novel Review: Mr. Flopsy, Whispers from God: A Lesson on Being Still by Christi Eley

Author: Christi Eley
Illustrator: Aries Cheung
Release Date: 8th January 2021
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Christian Fiction
Series: Mr. Flopsy, Whispers From God
Format: E-book 
Pages: 40 pages
Publisher: Cottontail Publishing
Blurb:
Mr. Flopsy, Whispers from God is an early reader storybook that shares the simple message and guidance from a pet bunny to help your child find stillness and peace. By connecting with animals, children learn to see and hear God’s love and feel secure as they learn to be quiet, patient, brave and trusting. Written in a rhythmic bouncy script, Mr. Flopsy,

Whispers from God: A Lesson on Being Still provides a platform for your child to begin their own relationship with God and is reaffirmed by the gentle words and affirmations of God’s love through the Bible verse “Be still and Know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. Join Mr. Flopsy on this heartwarming adventure that will inspire your child for a lifetime!

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mr. Flopsy, Whispers From God: A Lesson On Being Still by Christi Eley is a colourful short graphic novel for children that helps them understand how to be still.

This book series is very unconventional and teaches different important verses from the Bible in a very simplified and easy to understand way for children. And this particular book talks about how to show children the wisdom in being still. I suppose this book is especially for those children who are always loud and have extra energy that seems to drain everyone around them – I’ve seen a couple of such children myself. So this book teaches the children how exactly to sit quiet and still while also focusing on the fact that sometimes it is actually good to just relax and be.

The illustrations in this book are really good – very cute and attractive, and I am positive the children would love studying them and might even draw a couple of them for themselves.

This book would be great for parents who like reading bed-side stories to their children, even if they are not a Christian, they can always use the trick given in this book to modify and apply according to how they see it fit as per their own religion and customs. In particular, I think, this book would be really beneficial to those parents who have hyperactive children in calming them by way of positive reinforcement.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

Book Review: William Ottoway’s Utopia and other stories by Christopher Griffith

Author: Christopher Griffith
Release Date: 28th May 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Comedy, YA, Short Story collection
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 126 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
William seeks contented ease, not tragic hardship; Rick loves simple melody, not its mysteriously melancholic effect upon him; Emily dreams of anything but having to work another day for darkly comic Carol; Saman is overcome by revenge fantasy, but the subject of his vengeance wants only reconciliation; and young Will Shakespeare’s dream is to act, not write though the latter as history tells comes eagerly calling for him instead. Each protagonist definitely planned something else when life, in form of these unfolding stories, haply intervened!

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

William Ottoway’s Utopia by Christopher Griffith is a vibrant short story collection of diverse nature showcasing different varieties of narration.

This collection contains 5 tales and I liked reading all of them. I liked this book mostly because of the assorted nature of all the stories. They all had a very different setting, characterisation, narratives, and ever time periods and crossed different realms even. Each and every one of them was very different from each other but equally good and engaging. I liked the way characters were brought to life in a fitting way and the pacing that was set by the clever use of varied types of sentence structures.

I’d recommend this book to readers of all genre especially if they like reading experimental styles of narrative prose.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Book Review: AfterLife: Waking Up From My American Dream by Carlo Pietro P Sanfilippo

Author: Carlo Pietro P Sanfilippo 
Release Date: 19th December 2020
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Self-help
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 158 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Are you living on purpose, or are you frustrated that the things you thought you wanted-the house, the furnishings, the yard, the car, the “stuff” and all its required maintenance-are preventing you from having the time and money to live the life you want? When the American Dream becomes an agonizing hamster wheel, perhaps it’s time for a change.

Carlo Sanfilippo followed that prescribed path of marriage, kids, house, stuff. He was living the American Dream, the life he was “supposed” to live; not a life that he wanted, not a life that fulfilled him. Nothing felt authentic. Nothing felt like fun. Nothing felt like his idea. And when faced with some devastating losses, he realized he was living a half-life.
If you’re a person who has a nice life, but aren’t living your dream, join Carlo on this journey of breaking out of a prescribed life to one of discovery, mental and emotional release, spiritual delight, and new mastery.

Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Afterlife: Waking Up From My American Dream by Carlo Pietro P Sanfilippo is a beautiful book about hope and dreams and finding happiness.

I loved reading this book because the author used a brilliant mix of varying emotional graphs such as loss and grief interlaced with happy and hopeful moments. This book felt very true and spoke to me on a level that I quite I wasn’t expecting. This book has a lot to offer to each of its readers because it is full of moments of despair and anguish that everyone goes through. It often treads the precarious and mostly misunderstood waters of self-love and the entire curve of being able to reach a point where one can identify it as not being selfish. So I would like to commend the author on his brilliant effort into pulling it off. And for touching on so many themes that are universally resonant.

I would definitely recommend this book to each and every one as it has so much to offer!

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

Book Review: To The North by Evan L. Grove

Author: Evan L. Grove
Release Date: 4th December 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Awakener Duology (Book #1)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 390 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Emily Lee wants nothing more than to live her life in peace, safe in the comfort of home with her father. But when he falls prey to dark magic, trapping him and countless others in a foreign land, she is forced to take action. Compelled only by the desire to save him, Emily travels to the northern nation of Odelia in search of a means to free her father from his terrible curse.

Lehksi Olent works as a private investigator, helping those uncover the truth that is often shrouded by a world of magic and mystery. Together with her brother, Marty, she now travels the Odelian countryside in pursuit of the growing unrest taking place within the heart of a country torn asunder by unseen forces.
When their paths converge, Emily and Lehksi’s lives will be forever changed. Two paths, one future. Be it for the good of all, or for a singular desire, the fate of Odelia lies within their choices. And should they prove lacking, the world of Oul might never be the same.
To the North is the first novel in The Awakener Duology, an adult urban fantasy that explores what it means to discover the dark truths of an unforgiving land. It takes place in an alternate reality set in a pre-digital world, one that is governed by magic and corporate influence. Two young women must navigate numerous challenges in order to protect what is important to them, but in doing so they will make discoveries that may drive a wedge between them.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

To The North by Evan L. Grove is the first book in The Awakening urban fantasy duology. It is a very conceptually refreshing book and I really enjoyed reading it.

The characterisation was good, the world-building was great and the narration was good and complemented the story well. I love reading fantasy and thankfully this book met all my expectations. It is a good fantasy read, especially considering that this is the first book in a duology. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel to this book.

I really liked this book and would recommend this book to all fantasy readers.

You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

ARC Review: Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn

Author: Daniel Hagedorn 
Release Date: 10th February 2021
Genre: Science-Fiction Fantasy
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 330 pages
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Blurb:
How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn is a riveting new sci-fi fantasy read that will pull you in right from the start and keep you hooked till the very last page. I really liked this book because in spite of being a technological read it had a lot of philosophical threads weaved in throughout the story which made it a very interesting and a thought-provoking read.

I liked the characterisation, vague-ish as the main ones were I really enjoyed reading about them. The writing was good and complemented the plot well. The concept, for me, was a complete win-win, and the plot structuring was good. Overall it is a nice read and I’d highly recommend it to all sci-fi readers who like reading about philosophical themes and fantastical elements.

You can also read this review on Goodreads.

Book Review: Warborn (Legends Of Heraldale #3) by Brian McNatt

Author: Brian McNatt 
Release Date: 22 October 2020
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Series: Legends Of Heraldale (Book #3)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 435 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Beneath the sins of the past, some souls are broken, some rise stronger, but all are changed. Princess Galaxy is lost. The cruel machinations of Lord Mordred have robbed the hippogryph of faith in the past and all those she most trusted. With appeals to the grand leader of gryphonkind, Lady Quetzal, falling on deaf ears, Galaxy must journey to the eastern city-state of Gateway, the last of the great nations standing against the might of the Unicorn Empire.

There she contends with a bloodthirsty general grown wary of hope, a lone king grown weary of war, and a blind prophet knowing ever more than she’s telling. Meanwhile, Brynjar and Owain find themselves the prized captives of Empress Nova herself. Lost deep in the heart of Avalon and threatened on all sides by the mad Lord Mordred, the conniving Lord Thoth, and the eldritch Lord Beauty, they will need the most unlikely of allies if they want any hope of escape . . . or survival.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Warborn by Brian McNatt is the third book in the fantasy series Legends Of Heraldale.

You can read my review for the other books in this series here:

Legends of Heraldale by Brian McNatt
Past Sins (Legends of Heraldale #2) by Brian Natt

Having read this series from the start, I was really curious to read the 3rd book as I really liked the story so far. Needless to say, I had a lot of expectations from this book and thankfully, the book delivered everything it promised and I expected it. I really enjoyed reading about some familiar characters from the earlier two books as well as some new ones. The world-building was very intricate and the book helped me refresh my memory of some of the bits that I had forgotten.

The story was every bit as full of adrenaline as the last two books, and some more. There were some really good new concepts and creatures that kept me glued to the book. I really liked this book because it took steered the story into yet another, albeit perilous, new direction and I love where it is headed.

This book has a lot to offer to fantasy readers and therefore I highly recommend (not only this book but the entire series so far.)

You can also read my review on Amazon

Book Review: How the Ə Got Producted by N.K. von Stade

Author: N.K. von Stade
Release Date: 
Genre: Humour, Sci-fi
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 256 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
A childhood trauma leaves N. yearning for connection and vulnerable to the seductive but damaged Jeremy Sakhdvar, a young product liability attorney with a technology vendetta. Their one-sided relationship ends abruptly when Jeremy marries another woman and runs for elective office. Adrift but resilient, N. mines a series of seemingly random hookups for the raw materials she uses to reinvent herself. N. becomes a prominent lobbyist for the biomedicaltechnology industry and, years later, a top official with the Bureau of

Biomedicaltechnology. Throwing herself into her new position, N. meddles in a plot by a group of antitechnology dissidents to suppress the Ə, a technology that purports to improve human connectedness. The dissidents blow the whistle, provoking an investigation by a U.S. senator and crusading presidential candidate named Jeremy Sakhdvar. Their confrontation pits the regulatory deep state against big tech in a battle to a draw, settles an old romantic score, and clears the way for the Ə to change the world forever.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How the Ə Got Producted by N.K. Von Stade is a fun satire read about an independent and passionate female protagonist and is unique in its own right.

This book is very unconventional and for that, I did enjoy reading it. It is the story of a protagonist who is trying to navigate through the difficulties of her one-sided love life while at the same time trying to fight for what she truly believes in, in her professional life. The introduction of Ə makes the story very interesting and the book then takes a turn that is both fun to read and interesting to learn about.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to sci-fi reads who don’t mind a romance sub-plot underlined with satire with a streak of feminism.

Character Interview: David from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring David, the lead characters from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook


The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

My name is David Jones. I would tell you more about myself, but I am not entirely sure. I have bits and pieces of memories, experiences that I feel like I lived, but I have my doubts because I live in an age where reality and fantasy mix. Some of the time, I feel like I have two minds, that I am of two wits, and I can’t always reconcile which is which, and which is me. Who am I? I don’t always know.

What is your age and what do you do for a living?

I am probably in my thirties. Again, I don’t know for sure. I don’t feel any older or wiser, however old I am. As I live in a world that celebrates youth, everyone looks young. No one looks like their age. Even my sense of time, which is how we mark age, seems altered. It might be a strange thing not to know how old I am, but it’s not anything I think about it. There’s no fixation on age when everyone appears perpetually young. Retirement is not even a concept. We all have jobs, essential and important jobs. I am a systems analyst class 1A (A for Architect). I monitor and keep track of things, same as a lot of people, but what I keep track of is more important, yet my job isn’t any more important than another. This is a paradox I readily accept. Without everyone doing their job, our world would cease to function. Everyone has purpose and they know it.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time much like everyone else. There is the SIM, the simulated, virtual world, a construct we use for both work and pleasure as the SIM can be shared with real people or representations of people, simulacra. I have memories of doing other things, reading and walking and traveling to new places, but I also have firmly in my mind, the SIM. I don’t know for sure if I went to those places or if it was merely an experience in the SIM. I have books, the great works of fiction and other ideas. I don’t remember reading them, but I know I have read them. Why? Because I have notebooks full of things I’ve written, my thoughts and recollections as well as ideas that could only have come from those books.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I happen to be in a world where the concept of God no longer exists. You see, with the network, God remains unnecessary. We are beyond good and evil. I am not sure how I feel about that. I have a sense there is a God within us all, but I don’t know how to explain it because no one understands God. I believe strongly in quality over quantity, that certain things cannot be measured by a number, a metric, reduceable to a single value. In fact, I never believed the network could be programmed to understand the human condition. To me it has never been so much what something looks like, but what it actually is, what lies beneath, not the surface appeal but the underlining form. In the world I live in, seeing is believing and the world we see, like the people and places, is undeniably beautiful and perfect. Is there any need to go deeper?

Tell us something about your family and childhood.

I do not remember much about my family, even my childhood. Again, I have mere fragments that come to me, but I wonder whether they are real or just things I have experienced in the SIM. I have memories of childhood, we all do. The summer, being out of school, the seaside boardwalk with its carnival sounds and amusement park attractions. But how real are they? I wonder. When I visit my therapist in the SIM, she tries to get me to talk about my family, about my father, in particular, but I can never quite get there. It seems to me she knows more about that part of my life than I do. She says that I know, that I could know many things, yet I tell myself I don’t know, so it’s just a cycle I can’t break out of. I am not sure I believe her. I know my therapist is a product of the combined knowledge of psychotherapy, that she has a window into who I am, but if all that were really true, then why doesn’t she just tell me what I should say? Oh wait, that was before we were all connected. I don’t know if I’ve been in therapy since.

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?

Once I had dreams, real dreams, perhaps even hopes. It’s not fair to say I don’t have them anymore, rather I just know they are different. I once believed I could do great things, be accomplished because I had a purpose. I struggle to know that purpose now that I am not connected to the network. I know I have Marta, she’s my lodestar, and that somehow she is meant to guide me. Even Dante needed a guide. But I don’t know what we’ll find if we make it out of the network. What’s on the other side? And supposing we do get there, and it’s inhabitable, is there anything left of humanity? I am careful not to have too much hope, to believe too much in anything except Marta. I had my doubts at first, but I know she is real. So, for the moment, all I can believe in is Marta and I.

What is your biggest fear in life? 

I fear that I cannot change who I am, that I cannot alter what has been set in motion, and like Sisyphus, all my efforts will be doomed. I disconnected myself from the networked world for a reason. But why? And was that something I did or someone else? Either way, maybe I am meant to do something that I am unable to do? That thought paralyzes me. That I am simply not good enough. 

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

Am I just a cog in the machine, or have I found there is no machine?

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

The worst thing that happened to me must have been something in the childhood I can’t remember. Those were formative years. Whatever happened then, fixed itself in my head, imprinted its code upon my brain such that I have a distrust for systems, of unity, of groups of people making decisions for the common good. Ultimately, the brain constructs our reality, and without the network assistance, I have to rely on my instincts which tell me to question everything.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?

There is good and bad that comes from every experience. The very thing that at times is a great strength, is a great weakness too. Like kindness. It’s good to be kind. However, being too kind can result in being taken advantage of. In that sense, my skepticism is useful, but it is also the very thing that has driven me apart from people. At a certain point, I have to take a leap of faith and accept things, but more often than not, I am reluctant to make the jump. And yet, rather than even trying, I tend to want to plunge to the depths, so rather than ascend, I descend. I push people away, push them too far so that it takes an extraordinary effort and determination for them to remain. And yet, I found Marta. Or she found me. That must be something special.

What are your plans for the future? 

Love is the mystery of all mysteries. I find myself imagining a future with Marta, but where that is and what that entails, I don’t know. If we make it out of the network, I know we will look different. Maybe even we will seem different. Will we still love each other? Is our connection really that deep, beyond the mere appearance of our bodies? What will we be like left to our own devises? I don’t have the answers. All I have is Marta, my lodestar. 


The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Daniel Hagedorn, author of The Lodestar, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

I work in finance. That might surprise some people as if they are incompatible forms that couldn’t co-exist. To me though, words and numbers have more affinity than it seems. Patterns. I see patterns in numbers just as I do in words. When I am not writing, I am often looking at spreadsheets. I started college as a math major. I finished as an English & Philosophy Major with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in classics. But I still love numbers. Numbers and words are my life.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The Lodestar can be looked at as an examination of the modern world, not just in terms of this futuristic place, but where we live now, of wanting to escape out of the curated world, whether it be social media or your custom news feed, into something of your own making. Where I live in Seattle, they knock down an old house and put in its place this box that looks exactly like a thousand other boxes in the city as if there is some master design guiding everything towards homogeneity. It’s not just a book about what is real, what is reality, but also being a human, being creative and interesting and unique, about finding a place in the world, an identity amidst the flood of images that dominate our existence.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

If there is a message in The Lodestar, it would be how we are complicit in handing over our lives to technology because we think it is making our lives better somehow when it may not be. It is not that technology is good or bad, per se, but how we use it or let it use us. I fear the transition to this visual society, where it no longer matters the power of our imagination because we’ve let the world be imagined for us. Why are books better than movies? Well, because in a book I can imagine the world the author has created, wherein a movie, it’s told for me. I almost always feel like I can imagine something more, something better than what’s being presented to me. And the world of video games is another interesting phenomena, this whole interactive experience that rewires our brains. How will this all change us? How will it make the move towards virtual worlds more seamless? 

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

The main character in The Lodestar is David, but my favorite character is in fact Marta. She’s mysterious. She knew before David that she didn’t want to be part of the network world. David is under this illusion that he created this so-called out that dispelled him from the network. He’ll learn later, not in this book, how that’s not true. And Marta is the key. He couldn’t have made it very far without Marta. And of course, David loves Marta, and love is the mystery of all mysteries, something not even the network could understand, so it did away with the concept.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

The Lodestar has been in my mind for about a decade and a half. I never thought I could do justice to the idea, so I resisted the notion to write. Sometimes things are more powerful in the mind, that to commit to paper, to lose that illusion of what it could be, was something I couldn’t give up. A few things, though, struck me. For one, the idea that machines did not become more like humans, but humans became more like machines. Instead of being unique, it seemed to me there was a sameness in things, in people, in the particular look of what makes someone attractive. I was reading a lot of dystopian fiction at the time too. It just seemed more efficient for some grand network controlling everyone as opposed to feeling down and taking a pill. As humans, we do not always know what we want or need, but a network, a system that was unbiased and really knew us, it would know. Of course, I am being sarcastic to a degree. There is a bias in everything.  

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

I spent about a year writing The Lodestar. Even then, when I had finished what I thought was my final draft, I wasn’t sure. I let it sit for about 6 months before I went back to the book, this time, with the help of an editor. During that cooling off period, I was still constantly thinking about the book and where it was going because I didn’t like the initial ending, although I thought the book itself was better than it was. In my head, I had created something amazing. However, when I went back and did the proper edit with an editor, that was an eye-opening experience, how incomplete sections were. In the end, The Lodestar took two years, but I am pretty sure I’ll think about the characters and the story for the rest of my life. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I have long felt that writing was a kind of breathing, and as long as I breathe, I hope. Whether or not I am successful as a writer does not matter that much. It’s just something I do, something I’ve always done. Obviously, I would love to make a living as a writer. In my mind, I am more successful than I am. That’s always been the thing. I would love to walk around, think about stuff, write, cut vegetables up at dinner time while listening to music and just allow myself to create. I kind of do that anyway, pretending so to speak, so I suppose it would be pretty cool if it was less dream than reality and I had more time to actually write.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I am always working on something. Just as I might be reading a couple of different books at once, I am writing several different things too. In a normal day, I might compose a poem, write a song or add some part to another novel, one not connected to The Lodestar trilogy. I have written a bunch of novels, close to a dozen probably, some in better states of completion than others. 

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

I am not sure what genre The Lodestar is. Sci fi, I guess. There’s a lot of philosophy mixed in too. Maybe it could be considered speculative fiction, but some of my other stuff seems more speculative, though in a different way. In my mind, I always have this idea of the so-called great American novel. I know that is an overused term, but it has meaning to me. In my twenties, that was a driving force. Now, I am not sure. 

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

I’ve long thought of myself as a writer. In some ways, it is necessary to exist under that illusion, that I am writer because that allows me to write. If I didn’t think of myself as a writer, then it might not matter what I do, what I write. But by thinking of myself as a writer I have a sense of purpose, that I am capturing something essential. I’ve used that breathing metaphor. Writing is a kind of music too, that I hear. It’s in my mind. I am the kind of person that has an active imagination. In my early twenties, I worked in a bookstore. I loved being around books. I wrote a lot of stuff back then but felt undermined by my lack of success. That was hard. A writer friend of mine at the time told me it was all about perseverance, that as long as you kept writing, you would be successful. At some point, I kind of changed the equation and thought about success not in the publishing sense, but in terms of creating a body of work representative of the way I think and feel about the world. And when I write, that’s the song I am trying to replicate.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I prefer to write in the morning. I wake up early. Sometimes I think I write in my sleep because I wake up with solutions to things in my writing. Coffee and a walk help drive my thoughts, get them flowing. I don’t always have the time or opportunity in the morning, but I try to make time during the day to write something, anything. Sometimes, I can’t write what I want to write, but I can always make my daily emails more interesting or even a report I am preparing a better read. The fact is, we are always writing, even if it might something mundane. I’ll use any opportunity I can to try to be creative. 

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

When I was young, I wrote everything out with a blue pen in a small notebook. The second draft would be transferring the notebook to computer. I actually wrote a lot of The Lodestar out by hand as I was in the backseat of a car along the coast of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia because I didn’t bring my laptop along for the trip. Today, while I prefer my laptop, I accumulate scraps of paper, pages in notebooks, little tidbits here and there, depending when an idea comes to me. I love and hate it, when I am walking by the Canal, and something so good comes to me that I have to stop and write it down. Once I start writing something down on a walk, I’ve broken the cycle, so that whole walk will keep getting interrupted. 

What are your 5 favourite books?

Top 5 books. That’s a tough one. I go through phases and so I probably will discount some of my early favorites. I’ll always have Great Gatsby on my list. I love the opening and the close. Probably A Moveable Feast because I love the idea of being an ex-pat in Paris, hanging out in cafés, bars, surrounded by artists. Kerouac was a big inspiration on me, the feeling in his writing and though I was struck by a number of his works, I’ll probably go with The Subterraneans because of one line in that book that seemed so profound to me, about a light always on that one day won’t be on. Brave New World and We. Philip K Dick is one of my favorite authors, so I have to pick something by him. Ubik. I am not going to go with one of his more well-known pieces. And lastly, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I love the voice in that piece, though I am not as fond as some of her other work. I read a lot of foreign authors. I particularly like Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick Modiano too.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I don’t want to say I don’t get writer’s block. Maybe that would curse me. I tend to not have much trouble writing, though. It’s just what I do, akin to breathing. I can sit down at any time and write something, a few lines, just something. I don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. I just write. I’ve always thought, write a page or so a day, then after six months you practically have a novel. And I have kind of done that my whole writing life, three decades so to speak. And that has been amazing. Because I don’t remember half of the stuff I have written. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you want to be a writer, then write. There’s no special advice other than that. Read and write. I am constantly reading, and not just fiction, but philosophy, poetry, economics, science, whatever. I keep a notebook where I accumulate ideas, where I write little imaginary scenes based on some interesting thing I might have read. There’s no special club. If you want to be a writer, then you must write. You mustn’t get swayed by the daunting task it really is. 

Thank you, Daniel, for your frank and insightful answers!


About The Book

The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Review: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Author: Eliza Harrison
Narrated by: Eliza Harrison
Release Date: 2nd October 2020
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Series:
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 9 hours 13 minutes
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Two women, two millennia apart, with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the English Lake District and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Neither is sure of their role or purpose, which leaves in them feelings of emptiness and uncertainty. 

Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and intimacy, she witnesses the last three years of his life and sees him embody the mystery and power of love. This leads her on a journey to the Sacred Isles where she finds her own pathway to awakening. 

Martha from Borrowdale’s story begins in 2000 AD as she faces challenges that expose her deepest fears and insecurities. With her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom. 

These two redemptive stories weave alongside each other until finally they converge. It is a tale of revelation and mystery that uplifts and transforms.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison is a unique kind of mystery novel that is set against the historical backdrop and inlaced with spiritualism that takes the reader on a surreal journey.

I was intrigued about this book from he start because spiritualism is a little hard to blend into a historical mystery and so I was curious to see how the plot unravelled. It was good for the most part and the writing was good. The narration wasn’t the best but it made for easy listening and I appreciated it a lot. The overall concept was a little out of my personal comfort zone, but it still made for a good and engaging read.

I think that if you are into spirituality and like reading experimental literature revolving around it then you’d appreciate this book a lot more than me and it would make for a really good read.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads & Amazon

Book Review: The Dunnes of Brittas: An Irish Family’s Saga of Endurance by Kevin Lee Akers

Author: Kevin Lee Akers
Release Date: 17th March 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 
Publisher: Bassett Street Press
Blurb:
The illustrious and ancient Dunne family has ruled over land in the heart of Ireland since time immemorial.

In the manor house known as Brittas, resides the family of clan chieftain, General Edward Dunne. His estate agent and cousin Peter raises his brood in the servant’s wing. These two related yet very separate branches struggle to secure their futures during the country’s darkest, most formidable years.

As Ireland is crumbling, the West is rising in Golden sunshine.

In 1848, San Francisco lures James Dunne and eventually his brother and sisters to literally create a new city out of sand dunes and gold dust.

The Dunnes of Brittas follows three generations of family who share in each other’s triumphs and tragedies finally discovering that their strength doesn’t derive from their separate branches but their common roots.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Dunnes of Brittas: An Irish Family’s Saga of Endurance by Kevin Lee Akers is an emotional journey about three generations of a family who are trying to navigate difficult situations through life and finding solace in each other’s company.

I liked reading this book because it had so many layers of complexity embedded throughout the story and mainly because the author has done a fine job with the overall characterisation. The story is good and the writing complimented it well.

Overall it made for a very engaging read and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading historical fiction and family sagas with complex plot and characters.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads

Audiobook Narrator Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author as well as narrator of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Narrator Interview feature.

About The Narrator

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. Please feel free to share about your professional background. 

I have taught meditation all my adult life, so use my voice to take people in and out of meditation and explain how the practice works. When teaching it’s important to speak with clarity and calmness, but with gentleness too. Over the years I have been told that my voice is soothing and relaxing, so a friend suggested I make The Mystery of Martha into an Audiobook and narrate it myself. I was daunted by the idea at first, but then rose to the challenge and enjoyed it!

Do you do other voice over work as well?

I make meditation videos so use my voice to guide people through the teaching process. I also do voiceovers for short films I make for Sacred Meditation.

How was your experience recording this audiobook?

Powerful and moving, but I think this was owing to the subject matter as each character goes through intense emotional experiences. Each chapter has a drama of its own and I found it easy to identify with each character. So while narrating, their stories resonated and affected me deeply.

Who is your favourite character in this audiobook and why?

My answer in the author’s interview was that my favourite character was Martha of Bethania. But when narrating it, this became Yeshua. Every time I read a scene when he appeared, especially if it included Aramaic, it seemed as though that he was present in the room. And occasionally at the end of a chapter, my breath was held and I seemed to have shifted into an expanded state of consciousness. This is why I felt narrating the novel a huge privilege and I shall always be grateful for this opportunity.

How long did it take you to record this particular audiobook?

I recorded it during the lockdown in 2019 in my meditation room at home. It took about 3 months including the edits and re-records. I live in a remote place in the countryside so all was quiet, except for the occasional tractor or sheep passing by.

What vocal techniques did you have to develop and hone while narrating this audiobook?

I went to drama school in my late teens where I received voice training and learned a range of exercises. This experience has always remained with me and I made use of doing some warm-up exercises before recording.

What is the one thing you love most about being an audiobook narrator? 

I enjoyed feeling that I was reaching out to people all over the world through my voice, which felt intimate and profound. 

Are you working on any other audiobooks presently?

Not at the moment, but I am using my voice to make videos and I will definitely create an audio from any new novel or writing I do in the future.

As an audiobook narrator what are the techniques you use or practice to care for your voice and condition it?

My meditation practice keeps me healthy, fit and well. I never get colds, flu or suffer from sore throats, so this is definitely the practice I would recommend to others. It also enables me to remain calm and collected while narrating.

Who is your favourite audiobook narrator and why?

I’m fortunate to know Anton Lesser, a British actor who is widely known for his audiobook recordings. He was my inspiration and gave me some invaluable tips, which you can see in my response to the question below. 

What advice would you like to give to anyone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

Anton told me it was important not to put too much expression or emotion into the reading, as this can colour the listeners’ experience and prevent them from engaging with their personal feelings and responses. So while I was reading, I tried not to act out the different parts, but read from my heart with calmness and clarity.

Thank you, Eliza, for your insightful answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: A Nest For Lalita by Ken Langer

Author: Ken Langer
Release Date: 25th October 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, World Fiction
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 318
Publisher: Dryad Press
Blurb:
MEENA KAUL is riding high in her position as director of Behera House, a safe haven in India for women who have survived domestic violence. But when the stock market crashes, Behera House loses its funding to expand. The right-wing Hindu Democratic Party (HDP), seeing an opportunity to win women’s votes before a national election, steps in with a multimillion-dollar grant. While Meena is reluctant to accept the offer, it is the only way for the project to proceed. Her worst fears come to pass when the HDP wins the election and begins to chip away at a hundred years of progress on women’s rights.


Meanwhile, Simon Bliss, America’s foremost “green” architect, who had been commissioned to design the new facility, falls for the alluring Meena and is drawn into the perilous world of Indian politics. In his attempt to loosen the HDP’s grip on Meena and win her affection, Simon takes on reactionary politicians, shady priests, and crooked businessmen. In the process, he comes face to face with disturbing truths about his past, while Meena finds herself trapped in ways she never could have expected. A Nest for Lalita is a tale of passion and murder against the backdrop of an ancient country trying to find its identity in a fast-changing world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Nest For Lalita by Ken Langer is a good story full of complex themes and backdrops and woven into an intricate as well as engaging plot.

When I started reading this book, I was a little sceptical because I am usually uncomfortable with books written by foreign authors writing about India after having spent a couple of weeks or months here, believing they understand everything about India. The problem is not their understanding or their warped perception but the wrongful presentation of a culture and country that they do not fully comprehend which in turn goes a long way in giving birth to many misconceptions about the country and the people living here. But thankfully, this book wasn’t like that, or at least not in that particular sense. It was more about the story of an individual rather than a social commentary of the clogged roads.

I liked the story as it was very engaging and made for a nice read. Many things mentioned in the story may not necessarily be correct, but fiction is forgiving that way and so are fiction readers. Anyway, if you like reading about other culture and a different way of life, then this book would make for a good read.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads & Amazon

Book Review: Mainely Fear (A Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery #2) by Matt Cost

Author: Matt Cost
Release Date: 4th December 2020
Genre: Cosy Mystery
Series: Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery: Book #2
Format: E-book 
Pages: 302 pages
Publisher: Encircle Publications
Blurb:
“I want you to find out who is responsible for ruining his life and I want them to pay for it.”
This is the desire of Latricia Jones as she hires Goff Langdon to investigate her son’s arrest for burglary, vandalism, and possibly hate crimes.
Langdon is a laid back, slacker detective, happy with his work, friends, and way of life in the town of Brunswick, Maine. To complement his income in Brunswick’s scarce private detective market, Langdon also owns and operates a mystery bookstore named after his trusted companion, Coffee Dog.

He was on the fast track to success. And then something happened.
Jamal Jones is an eighteen-year-old rising star attending a post-grad prep school in central Maine to bring his grades up so he can play college basketball at the D1 level. Then he is arrested for crimes that his mother knows he committed, but not why. She’s sure someone has put him up to it, the behavior so unlike him as to be unthinkable, especially since Jamal was on the verge of beginning a better life. Latricia wants Langdon to track down those responsible for her son’s sudden turn from grace, and she wants them to pay.

Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mainly Fear by Matt Cost is the second instalment in the Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery series and the sequel to Mainely Power. Just like the first book, I really enjoyed reading this book too, maybe a tab more, if I am being completely honest. Mostly because of how the character of the protagonist, Langdon, is explored further and with care in this entertaining sequel.

The story was good, the mystery was brilliant and the writing was great complimenting the story beautifully. It was a very smooth and thus, fast read and I enjoyed every bit of it. It has been a while since I enjoyed a detective mystery series this much and I am looking forward to reading more by author Matt Cost in this series.

I’d highly recommend this book to all mystery lovers. Go ahead, if you’re looking for a new mystery author to explore, then this book series would be a great fit for you!

You can also read this review on 

Book Review: Donnybrook Good-Bye by Martin A. Cullen

Author: Martin A. Cullen
Release Date: 14th November 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Longest Game
Format: E-book 
Pages: 200
Publisher: 
Blurb:
A demonic crusade.
A homesick god.
A merciless order.
A lonely gruffin.
And a crafty puca.
Trapped in the middle, Inara Caan is an embittered vestal to The Order of the Avenging Hand. She flies to Boston for her next mission. Like every other assignment, she expects more deaths to defile her soul…Not some happy family beaming up from the glossy photo of her targets.

To save the innocents, Inara defies The Order. On the run, she fights to keep everyone alive. As enemies close in from all sides, she finds unlikely allies who—dare she hope?—might even save her life as well.

She may evade her enemies but she can never escape the demon promised her soul.

Book Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Donnybrook Good-Bye by Martin A. Cullen is the first book in The Longest Game urban fantasy series. It is an action-packed adventure ride full of demons, monsters and greater forces. Overall, this book is a decent introduction to a new series and I am very much looking forward to reading more books in this series.

I loved the concept of the book. The story itself was well-developed with good characterisation. Being a series, I am expecting the characterisation to blossom more in the next book, though as an introduction I found it good enough. The writing was good enough but I did have a problem with too much “telling” in the entire book. Other than that, it was a good book and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

I’d recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially fans of urban fantasy.

You can also read this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Guest Post: An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha to share a guest post.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

For me this novel has been a guide and inspiration during intense and challenging personal times, offering profound insights into the meaning of love, truth and life. The stories take place in the Holy Land and the British Isles, two places that have a turbulent history but also a profound spiritual heritage.

The book is written in an exquisite way, in almost Biblical style, full of poetic touches, with compelling stories and profound teachings. While reading, one can travel through time, walk the different paths of each character, and be transported back 2000 years through evocative tastes, smells and visual images. Effortlessly one is able to engage with the trials and tribulations of the different characters, but also be inspired by their personal insights and realisations. It is a courageous move to bring a seemingly unimportant character of the Bible to the fore, but she becomes an inspiration for all those who feel marginalised today. And ultimately both Marthas find the truth of themselves by opening to the experience of compassion and unconditional love. 

The novel enabled me to feel close to Biblical characters for the first time, to sense the depth and truth of each personality: Yeshua, L´azar, Magdala, Maryam, Yehudah and of course Martha of Bethania herself. Despite my Catholic education, I’ve always found it difficult to understand the relevance of many of the Christian stories, but this novel offers a much deeper insight into their meaning. I now realise that the essence of Christian mysticism is rooted in unconditional love.

The stories of the two Marthas are reflections of the path we all walk in order to realise the unity of life – whether experienced within a family context, service to others, intimate relationship or direct spiritual experience. So I shall always be grateful for the precious gift of The Mystery of Martha.


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Excerpt: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison for sharing the audio excerpt from her latest release The Mystery Of Martha.

About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


Audiobook Excerpt

In case if the player doesn’t work, listen to the Audiobook Excerpt here: https://heenarathorep.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/01-the-mystery-of-martha-sample-track.mp3


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Heritage by Jack Michonik

Author: Jack Michonik 
Release Date: 25th June 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 388 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation to an unfamiliar environment and the phenomenal development of their businesses.

Parallel to the story of the main characters, another story emerges: that of the birth of a typical Jewish community within a Christian city. Translated from the original Spanish book, La Descendencia, The Heritage is peppered with reflections on religion and historical events of the time regarding the Jews and the state of Israel. Throughout the narrative, the author captivates us with a fascinating story of overcoming, human conflicts and addresses issues of assimilation and identity. Though not an autobiographical novel, it could be the story of the parents or grandparents of any Jew from Central or South America. The author preferred to use a fictional provincial capital of Latin American so that the reader can recognize the history of his or her own Jewish community, as all Jewish communities in Latin America came into being in an almost identical manner.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Heritage by Jack Michonik is a heartfelt tale of the author’s Jewish community immigrating to South America in the 1920s. This book was historically enlightening and made for a great read as a real-life story. It highlighted the plight of the immigrant Jews who had to live in a country whose religion was not simply pre-dominantly Catholic but was entirely that. And to preserve their Heritage, the family had to walk on the precarious line of balancing between preserving their Jewish heritage and settling in their day to day lives in an entirely and unforgivingly Catholic town (and also setting up their business/trade on top of that.)

This book is a really gem and reading it made me understand the plight the immigrants have had to face in those times, whether Jew or not. I really appreciated the historical accuracy of the facts as well as the effort that was put into the writing of this beautiful story.

I would definitely recommend it to everyone who loves historical fiction and to the entire Jew community.


You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Author Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The portrayal of the present-day Martha is partly autobiographical, the story of my own search for truth and love. My spiritual journey entailed me spending time with different teachers, which gave me the idea of portraying what it might have been like being around Yeshua. From one moment to the next, none of his close followers would have known what experiences he would take them through, teachings he would impart, nor the challenges they would have to face. I also wanted to bring to life people in the Bible, who now seem remote and stereotyped. Owing to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts and other recent research, I was able to tell some of the well known Biblical stories from a new perspective, which makes them more relevant to us today. 

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That everyone has within them the capability of moving beyond their fears and insecurities and finding the truth of themselves and the truth of love.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

Martha of Bethania as I identify with her most closely. She feels inadequate and lacking, but has the courage to face her fears and determines to move beyond them. In this respect, she serves as inspiration for us all today. I also loved immersing myself in the imagery of Palestine 2000 years ago and painting a picture of Martha’s way of life as it would have been.  

What inspired you to write this book?

I first read about Martha of Bethany in a book called The Christ Blueprint, which spoke of two sides to her character – the shadow side, which described how she felt undeserving of love and so felt she had to earn it, and the higher aspect of herself as embodied by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, who gives selflessly without needing anything in return. 


How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Three to four years, with a lot of re-writing and interludes when I researched and travelled to places where the two Marthas lived and spent their time. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Writing helps me find myself but before writing another novel, I shall wait until a new idea presents itself or I go through an experience that I want to relate.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

At the moment I am writing scripts for videos that we are making for Sacred Meditation to help people move beyond feelings of fear, which is so important in these challenging times.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

This is my first novel, but I imagine that it would be within the genre of inspirational/spiritual fiction that I am drawn to write again.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way? (feel free to give us your story, we love hearing to author stories!)

I have written since my early twenties – poetry, a novel that I scrapped, an autobiography that was published: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey, and a series of published photographic essays for which I also wrote the text. I was blessed with having income from meditation teaching while I wrote, so I just needed to commit to the project, but that can be a challenge in itself. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I went through a period of getting up at 5am and writing for 3 hours before breakfast, as well as during the day. It was quiet, beautiful and peaceful in the early morning, but I realised I needed my sleep more, so changed to writing in the morning and afternoon instead.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I write on my laptop.

What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)

The two novels that most inspired me to write The Mystery of Martha were Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. However, my book entailed quite a bit of research and one of the most illuminating books was Jesus – The Explosive Story of the 30 Lost Years by Tricia McCannon

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I never push myself if an idea or words are not flowing. I just walk away from my laptop and take a break. That could be for an hour, a day or even a month or more. I feel the creative process needs gestation time and it’s important not to push oneself when encountering a block.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Begin and never lose heart. It doesn’t matter if it is just a page or two, or if it’s thrown away a day later. It’s my experience that through writing we unleash our creative energy and subsequently find ourselves, which is one of the greatest gifts we ever could have.

Thank you, Eliza, for your enlightening and honest answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com