Sunday, December 29, 2013

Important: hiatus until further notice

Hey Everyone,

I am going to have to put the blog on hold for a while. Work has been super hectic and I can't get through the books on my list to review. In the mean time, all I can offer is interviews and posts to showcase your books. I'm looking to re-start the blog some time in the spring, and will keep everyone updated! Please contact me if you would like an interview at

-- chai time 212

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Pearl

Hello Everyone,

I just finished The Lost Pearl by Lara Zuberi, which I really enjoyed! It is a wonderful story about a young Pakistani girl, Sana, whose happy childhood is abruptly brought to an end by a horrible tragedy. The story follows her as she grows into a young woman. She and her family are forever changed by the event, and the author does a wonderful job of showing how Sana struggles to deal her anger and grief, and eventually finds happiness again.

The descriptions of Sana's childhood, and her experiences in Pakistan and in the U.S. are beautifully written, from the descriptions of the foods and sights of Pakistan, to the emotions she struggles with in the aftermath of the tragedy. The love that the author has for her country is very apparent in her descriptions. Additionally, I was very happy to note that the main character (as well as some of the other characters) were very well developed. Sana appealed to me because she had many shades of gray. Her reactions to the events in the book were sometimes unreasonable, and I could clearly see how much she had matured over the course of the book. I really connected with her. I do wish that Sana's friends, Jennifer and Kavita, as well the character of Ahmer were more fleshed out. I feel that Ahmer was made out to be a bit of a "white knight"/Prince Charming, and it would have been nice if he had a few faults. I was still rooting for the relationship, but would have loved it even more if he had had more shades of gray as well. I did enjoy reading about how the duo bonded over their love of Urdu poetry. As a hopeless romantic with a liking for Urdu poetry (which I wish I understood!), these scenes put a smile on my face.

In technical terms, I felt that the story was evenly paced and well edited. I also did not find the story to be predictable, and the big secret that Ahmer revealed towards the end of the story surprised me a great deal. I thought that this was very well done. My only complaint is that after his (and Sana's) revelations were dealt with, the rest of the story wrapped up quickly, and the epilogue was a little anticlimactic.

In sum, I very much enjoyed this story, and read it in one sitting. It was well-written, and unique, and I quickly connected with the characters. I look forward to reading more books by this author, and would love to read another story about Sana and Ahmer, or one of the supporting characters, like Kavita or one of Sana's siblings.

My Review: 5 stars

Happy Reading!
-- chaitime212

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Loosely Translated by Simon Wheeler

Hello Everyone!

I just finished Loosely Translated by Simon Wheeler. This lighthearted romantic comedy focuses on Maria, an aspiring writer from Spain and Mike, the British author of a once popular mystery series starring an arrogant and chauvinistic detective. Mike has lost his motivation to continue his series. Meanwhile, Maria, frustrated with her inability to get anything published, decides to try translating books into Spanish. Her editor offers her a job translating Mike's books into Spanish. Maria scoffs at the writing style and detests the main character. She subsequently takes some liberties when translating, and the Spanish version becomes very successful. Mike is then invited to Spain for the book launch, where he meets Maria, and sparks fly...

I absolutely loved this book! It was well-written, well-paced, and an all-around charming story! I immediately identified with Maria. She was a well-developed and intelligent character who stood up for herself. I was prepared to hate Mike right off the bat, but was pleasantly surprised by his character. He was definitely not the shallow and arrogant guy I initially thought him to be. As Maria and Mike spent time together, exploring Spain, I found myself rooting for the couple. The conversations they had and the romantic places they visited were very well written. As I eagerly turned each page, I found myself wishing I was in Spain.

I do wish, however, that some of the supporting characters could have been better developed, particularly Carmen and Maria's parents. I felt that Carmen was a little stereotypical, and that Mike's interactions with Maria's parents could have been expanded upon. I did enjoy Mike's scenes with Maria's father, however, and found them to be quite humorous. Other characters such as Lola, Cesar, and James fell a little "flat."

The conclusion with its multiple epilogues, worked nicely for me. I enjoyed finding out what happened to not only Maria and Mike, but also to the rest of the characters. It would have also been interesting to have one additional epilogue at the end, re-visiting Mike and Maria at a later point in time to bring everything full circle. All in all, this was a really good read, and I would love to read more books by this author, about these characters and others!

My Rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: A Dragon's Path to Ascension by J.C. Harker

Hello Everyone, 

I just finished A Dragon's Path to Ascension, by J.C. Harker. This is an epic fantasy short story and served as my introduction to the Dragons Reborn series. Tharia is a dragon, living in seclusion in human form. Her species undergoes something called the Ascension, which affords them great power, but also involves taking the life of another dragon. Initially, Tharia avoids working towards the Ascension, choosing to live a more simplistic and peaceful life. This idyllic lifestyle is soon threatened as she runs into hunters and other dragons. She then must reconsider going through the Ascension. 

I absolutely loved this story! It captured my interest right away. Ms. Harker does an excellent job with world-building. The land of Uutta Toivoa sounds fascinating. World-building, for me, is what makes or breaks a fantasy series. Ms. Harker made me feel like I was in Uutta Toivoa, watching the events unfold. The descriptions of Tharia and her powers were very detailed. I also enjoyed learning about her dragonling, and the bond that they shared. I wish this bond could have been discussed more during the story, and that Dru in general had more of a role. 

The author's writing style appealed to me, although at times I had some difficulty understanding the events unfolding. It was a little vague at times, such as when we learned about Tharia's siblings . The story was well edited and evenly paced. I felt that Tharia was a well developed and interesting main character. I liked her very much. I wish that we had learned a bit more about some of the other characters in the story, such as Tharia's family, as well as Kaima, although this is of course difficult with a short story. 

The ending surprised me! It was completely unexpected. After the battle, however, I felt that the last few pages were a little anticlimactic. I initially thought the book was done when the battle was finished, and was surprised to turn the page to find a whole separate section. Perhaps this could have served as the beginning of the next book, although I understand why the author included it her, given the results of the battle for Ascension. 

All in all, I enjoyed this story from the Dragons Reborn series. It hooked me immediately, and kept me engaged until the end. I would definitely recommend this book to others, and will be reading the other books in the series when I get a chance!

My Review: 5 stars

Monday, August 26, 2013

8 Questions with M. Leighton, author of the Madly Series

I recently read the Madly Series, a YA series about a mermaid named Madly James. Here is an interview with M. Leighton, the author! 

1. Tell me about yourself and how you first became interested in writing? 

I was a nurse before I began writing.  I'm not one of those people who has written for years or kept journals, anything like that. I never once considered that I might like to write. Until I read Twilight. I was so devastated when the books were over, I decided I'd write a book of my own, and I could keep the characters alive and with me for as long as I wanted.  So I did.  I found that I loved it and couldn't stop at just one book.  So I didn't. LOL  And the rest, as they say, is history.

2. What was the inspiration behind the Madly series? 

Fairy tales.  I thought it would be so neat to write my own spin on fairy tales, to take elements of them and superimpose them on another world and other creatures.  The possibilities are limitless and I think that's one of the many reasons I enjoy the series so much:)

3. Many recently published fantasy novels and series focus on vampires, fairies, and witches. Why did you choose to make Madly a mermaid?

I'd never read a story about a mermaid and, since they're not often spoken of, I thought I'd make them into creatures that could fit in with my fairy tale story. Plus, they're beautiful and mysterious, and I love that about them.

4. Is there any particular writer or book that inspired you, either while growing up or as an adult?

Most recently, as cliche as it sounds, it was definitely Twilight.  I consider that series instrumental in where I am today.  I'd say many authors could say the same thing. As for my younger inspirations, they would include writers like Johanna Lindsey, Nora Roberts, Janet Dailey and Kathleen Woodiwiss.  Lots of great romance authors out there!

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Don't ever give it up. It would be all too easy to get frustrated or discouraged and just put your keyboard away forever.  And if you have to do that for a day or two, fine. But don't give up.  There is an incredible feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment in simply finishing a book.  That's huge. And I wouldn't want you to miss out on that.

6. What's next for you?

I'm currently writing the first story in a new series and then will write the final book in the Wild Ones series.  I'm busy, but I love what I do, so a productive day is a good day for me.  And, of course, there's Madly 4 on the horizon...  *sigh*  Jackson...

7. Who would play Madly in a movie/tv show? 

The girl from Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson.

8. I have only had a chance to read the Madly series so far, but which of your many series is your favorite and why?

I don't think I could pick just one.  There are elements or characters or pieces of everything I've written that I love, love, love.  It would be like picking a favorite child.  

Thank you so much for having me on! I appreciate your time and hope you enjoy any and all of my books:)

5 Questions with Cameo MacPherson, author of Dead in Bed

1. Tell me about yourself and how you first became interested in writing?

I think a lot of  my interest in writing stems from growing up wanting to be an actor. Even from a young age, I loved inhabiting other worlds and other personalities. I had the privilege of being able to do quite a bit of amateur and semi-professional theater, and even though I never hit it big, I was very grateful for those those opportunities. I still am.

Eventually, my goals began to shift. I fell in love, got married, and had three children - w
ho for some strange reason demanded to be fed and cared for... every day. Shortly thereafter, my mother became sick and I helped with her care. There was no way I could find time to perform, but my mind wouldn't let me stop thinking about other worlds. They haunted me, nagging in my ear until I wrote them down.

After that, I was hooked. Writing the story out bit by bit and seeing it unfold was even better than acting. I could explore the worlds in depth. I could be all the characters.

I eventually did find my way back to the theater, but by then it was too late. I was a writer. 

(Oh, I should probably mention, Cameo MacPherson is the name I use for my romances. Not because I don't want people to know who I am, just because I love the name. For anyone interested, I can be found on Twitter as Cathy Greco@cameomacpherson, or on Facebook at   Shameless self-promotion done now.)
2. What was the inspiration behind your book Dead in Bed?

A little over a year ago, a publisher I had been hoping to work with notified me of a special call. They were doing an anthology of classic fairy tales with a zombie twist. She had read a flash fiction story I had written and thought I might like to take a chance on submitting something. 

Since my best friend is absolutely terrified of zombies but refuses to stop watching shows and reading about them, I knew I had to do it. I took a little used fairy tale (the princess and the pea) and put my admittedly strange twist on it. Unfortunately, the book wasn't ready by the deadline for the special call, but I kept working on it, and it eventually turned into Dead in Bed. 

3. What's next on your plate?

I'm polishing up another zombie-related romance novel. It's set in a different world than Dead in Bed, but I think if you enjoyed Dead in Bed, you'll really enjoy Dead Sexy. It's a full length novel, and I have to admit I love the characters and the world they inhabit. It's a little bit mystery, a little bit silly, and hopefully a whole lot of romantic. I'm also working on a young adult fantasy novel, but I don't want to give away too much. Mainly because it changes with every sentence I write.

4. Is there any particular writer or book that inspired you, either while growing up or as an adult?

 I devour books, so listing everyone who has inspired me would take forever. At the risk of offending the books and authors I don't name, I will say Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers series, and C.S. Lewis' Narnia series were life changing. Terry Pratchett's Discworld, too.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I'm an aspiring author myself. I think all writers are, even if they've published countless times before. The only advice I can give is to be a little crazy, cause if you're not when you start writing, you probably will be by halfway through the journey.

Oh, and maybe have a best friend who is scared of zombies.    

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: Arabelle's Shadows by Fleur Gaskin

It's been a very long time since I've updated! I've been so busy, but I finally had the opportunity to sit down and read Arabelle's Shadows. This book was not at all what I expected! I expected a lighthearted and fun tale about the modeling world. Instead, I read about the experiences of a model struggling with depression.

In Arabelle's Shadows, Arabelle, a young girl from New Zealand, recounts her experiences as a model, primarily in Asia and Europe. Having had some experience with the subject matter, this book was a little tough for me to read. My heart ached for the main character, who just couldn't seem to catch a break. I enjoyed that it was written in a journal format, although the constant shifting back and forth between different time periods and places became a little confusing at times. One issue I had, however, especially at the beginning of the book was that Arabelle seemed detached from the world around her and what was happening to her. I think this was intentional, given her depression, but it took me some time to become emotionally invested in the story. Once I did however, I was really rooting for Arabelle, and hoping that she would get better soon!

Arabelle is constantly traveling to new places and meeting lots of people. This keeps the reader on their toes and keeps things interesting, but it becomes hard to keep up at times! The descriptions of the places that she visits are well-done. I was eager to leave my worries behind and hop on the next plane to Kuala Lumpur or to Milan! Additionally, the supporting cast of characters were colorful and well written. I would have liked to learn more about certain characters, such as Carmen, Lada, Keiko and Ploy, but given Arabelle's constant traveling, this would have been difficult to accomplish. Technically speaking, the book is well written and carefully edited. I also felt that it was appropriately paced. The ending of the book was realistic. Without spoiling the book completely for everyone, I will simply say that I was satisfied with it!

All in all, this is an interesting book that resonated with me. I look forward to reading more of this author's work, and more about Arabelle if any sequels are in the works!

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Dead in Bed by Cameo MacPherson

Hello Everyone,

I just finished Dead in Bed by Cameo MacPherson , a novella about beauty pageants and zombies! The story revolves around Lizzy Blaine, a young woman who enters a beauty pageant in hopes of winning the crown. The pageant is cut short when the zombies get hungry, and amidst the chaos, Lizzy manages to make off with the crown. While on the run from the agitated zombie horde, she stumbles into Harry's Quality Mattress Emporium and meets Harry's son Luke, who promptly decides that he is going to marry her. Dead in Bed is a fun quick read, with many funny moments. It kept me eagerly turning the pages until I reached the end.

I thought that Lizzy, the main character was quite well developed. Despite being a pageant contestant, the story did not focus on her looks. Although Luke was the "prince charming" of the story, Lizzy turned out to be quite capable of standing on her own two feet, and was able to get herself (and Luke) out of some difficult situations. The character of Luke could have been fleshed out more, however. After deciding that he was going to marry Lizzy, he became solely focused on fighting the zombies, and consequently, we didn't learn much more about him. I also feel that if the story had been a little longer, the romance and the plot twists that occurred would have worked better. Due to the length, I felt that everything wrapped up too quickly, in "too neat of a bow".

Despite the length, I enjoyed the plot twists and the conclusion of the story. The story was well-edited, with few, if any typos. In sum, Dead in Bed is lighthearted and humorous, and definitely worth reading. I would be interested in reading more about these characters. I would love to read a sequel about Harry's adventures, or a story revolving around the zombie pageant queen, for example!

My Review: 4 stars

Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Questions With Teddy O'Malley, Author of Tokka Tuomela Sixth Grader At Large

Hello Everyone!

Posting an interview with Teddy O'Malley, author of Tokka Tuomela: Sixth Grader at Large which I have not yet had the opportunity to review. Enjoy!

1. Tell me about yourself and how you first became interested in writing?

I am not very good at talking about myself. I love creating something that I hope will bring joy to others. I first became interested in writing when I was seven. I had an assignment to write a one page story about a day at the beach. I started writing the story, and I didn't want to stop. The words just flowed onto the paper. It was as natural as breathing.

2. What was the inspiration behind your book Tokka Tuomela Sixth Grader at Large?

I think of Tokka as my inner voice, the one that is not afraid of anything. She inspires me and I hope she will inspire others.

3. What's next on your plate?

I am working on my Destiny and Faith series and a book to follow Tell Me How You Say Goodnight.

4. Is there any particular writer or book that inspired you, either while growing up or as an adult?

As a child, Judy Blume was an huge inspiration. As an adult, Janet Evanovich is my hero.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

No matter what life throws at you, and no matter what people say, keep writing, keep creating, and keep dreaming.

A recently updated version of the story is available for free through Foboko. Teddy is also the author of Tell Me How You Say Good Night (a picture book), as well as Destiny and Faith Go to Twincentric Academy. Both are available on Amazon!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Lost in London by Aditi Chopra

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the long delay! I just finished Lost in London, a romance written by Aditi Chopra. I must say, the title and cover of this book are quite appealing, and made me eager to start reading! Lost in London revolves around Rahul, a consultant who lives in California. In the story, Rahul meets and falls in love with Priya, a beautiful woman from London. He is hesitant to pursue a relationship with her because of his feelings for Mona, his attractive co-worker, who pursues him quite relentlessly.

I found this story to be a quick and fun read. I felt however, that it needed a little work. In terms of character development, I found Mona to be somewhat two-dimensional. She was the stereotypical sexy co-worker, and if she had more shades of grey, it would have made the central conflict more interesting. I thought Priya was better developed, and liked that she was a little feisty, helping to make the conflict more than good girl vs. bad girl. I also liked the character of Rahul, and felt that he was appropriately developed. In technical terms, I felt that the dialogue needed some work, and some of the descriptions were a little choppy. Including sentences of varying lengths would help to fix this.

The story itself was quite romantic.I felt like I was being transported to each city as Rahul and Priya visited them. There was also enough passion between the characters to keep things interesting, and prevent the story from becoming too sappy. I felt that the ending was appropriately done. I liked that Rahul and Priya faced several realistic challenges while their relationship was developing. I also liked that Rahul wasn't shown to be 100% perfect. I wish that the story had been a little longer. I would like to read more about Rahul and Priya!

All in all, this was a nice story, and with some editing, it could become even better. I look forward to reading more of this author's work. I actually have another story from this author in my queue so stay tuned to learn more!

My Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Of Kings & Queens is Free Today!

Hey Everyone,

I am posting this a bit late, but Of Kings & Queens is free today on Amazon. You can buy it here. 

You can read my review of the novelette, by Suneeta Misra, here. 



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: A Princess of Fae by Bob Craton

Hello Readers,

I have not posted a book review in a few weeks, so without further ado, here we go :)

I just finished A Princess of Fae by Bob Craton, a fairy-tale parody about a Faerie princess on a quest, accompanied by a colorful cast of supporting characters, including a wizard, a thief, and an ogre. I enjoyed reading this book. I have not read a parody-style book in a while, and it was a refreshing change! The story was written in an unusual style, in that the characters often "interrupt" the narrator and correct him. I found this to be very funny, but was glad that the technique was not overused. The story also appealed to me because it was often random and the characters spoke/acted in a very non-fairy tale manner. I enjoyed the many pop-culture references sprinkled throughout the tale, especially the references to a certain series featuring vampires and werewolves.

Of the characters, my favorites were George and Loudt. I found the scenes where George held his own against the princess to be some of my favorites. I was not overly fond of the princess, however. The character fell a little flat at times, with her constant grumbling. The rest of the supporting cast were well developed.

In terms of plot, I found it to initially be a little slow moving, but never to the point that I lost interest. When I got to the first "ending", it felt quite anticlimactic, and I am glad that the follow-up ending was included. This was my absolute favorite part of the story!

In technical terms, the story was well-written, and I laughed often. I would say that some of the references to pop culture were too on the nose. It is okay, in my opinion to give more subtle references, and to believe that your audience is intelligent enough to pick it up. Overall, this was a fun read. I would definitely be interested in learning more about these characters, as well as reading more of this author's work!

My review: 4 stars

Monday, April 22, 2013

Attention: important notice about my schedule

Hello Everyone,

I recently finished school and will be entering a very hectic chapter of my life as I continue my medical training. As such, it will take me a little longer to respond to your emails and read/review your books. At some points during my training I may have to limit my queue to a few books per month. I will keep everyone posted. Apologies in advance for this! Thanks for your patience and I wish there was enough time in my life to read/review everyone's books!



As I am trying to work my way through my queue, I wanted to post links to my favorite webcomics for you guys to check out! I love webcomics, the only downside is having to wait for the next page to be uploaded because they aren't updated every day. Check out my favorites below!

1. Namesake: Revolves around the concept of girls with certain names having the ability to travel between worlds. For example, Dorothys always travel to Oz to save the day and Alices always go to Wonderland. The comic revolves a girl names Emma, who discovers that she is a namesake. I LOVE the concept and the artwork. You can check it out here.

2. Widdershins: A comic revolving around a young magician, Sidney Malik, who was expelled from his wizarding university for having a bad habit of accidentally stealing things, including a bracelet belonging to the King of Thieves. Very colorful, very funny! Can be found here.

3. Plume: A supernatural Western-style comic about a girl named Vesper Grey, and her supernatural pal Corrick. She sets out to continue her father's work of recovering magical artifacts. I love the style of the comic, as well as the relationship between Vesper and Corrick. Corrick is very funny. You can read this comic here.

4. Broodhollow: About a neurotic young man named Wadsworth Zane, who comes to the town of Broodhollow when he inherits his uncle's shop. The town of Broodhollow is very unusual, with many strange supernatural occurrences, which the townspeople claim not to notice. Click here.

5. Paranatural: About a young boy (middle-school age) who moves with his father and younger sister to his father's hometown. He is dealing with his mother's death, and once he arrives in town, finds that the area is chock-full of spirits, both good and bad. Click here. 

6. Fox and Willow: About an exiled princess named Willow, and her fox-spirit companion. I guess you would call this a fractured-fairy-tale format. Click here.

Let me know if you've read any other great webcomics, particularly in the fantasy genre.

Have fun,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Dust of the Universe by V.S. Kemanis

Hello, hello :)

It's been a while since I've posted a review! I just finished reviewing a collection of short stories entitled Dust of the Universe, by V.S. Kemanis. This is the first time I have reviewed a book of short stories, and it is done in a slightly different format, so bear with me! I will give a short review and rating for each story followed by an overall review and rating.

My Latvian Aunt: This was my favorite story and the best of the collection to open with. It revolves around the relationship between the narrator and her Aunt Mirdza, who she only knew for a short time due to a rift between Mirdza and the narrator's father. I must say, the author really has a way with words, and I thought that many descriptions in this story were simply lovely. Additionally, the ending was quite surprising and somewhat bittersweet. I felt that it was the perfect ending, and that the characters had come full circle. 5 stars!

Like Love: Interesting and well-written story, about a man named Harold, who receives a phone call from a Mr. Stanley Bridgeman, who informs him that their wives are having an affair. I feel that the relationships between the characters were well developed, and that Harold's conflicting emotions were captured perfectly. This story was a little depressing at times, but ended on a more uplifting note. I enjoyed this story a lot. 4 stars.

The Zephyr: About a young girl dealing with her new step-father and step-siblings. Wonderfully written story, which accurately captured the young narrator's confusion about her new family. There were some points, however, where I got a little confused. Overall, I still enjoyed it very much. 4 stars. 

Tidal Waters: About a family trip to the beach, and on dealing with an adolescent daughter. This story wasn't my favorite at first, mostly because I disliked Carly and Becca, but the characters grew on me. I also liked the ending and felt that it was well-executed. 4 stars.

Everything We Do: This is another of my favorites in the collection. Revolves around two sisters, helping their father to deal with the loss of their mother. Raises the important point that you don't have to be related by blood to be family. A beautifully written story, which made me laugh and tear up at many points. 5 stars. 

Lucky: About a single mother raising a child with special needs. Another favorite. I absolutely loved this story, and felt that the relationship between Marion and her daughter Jenny, was very realistic. 5 stars. 

Nothing Intentional: About Pressler, a married middle-aged lawyer, and a co-worker, Rachel Morehouse, who gets under his skin. This story was a little confusing at times. I still enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the others. 3.5 stars. 

Dust of the Universe: Loved this story. Kip's emotions regarding his family were captured perfectly. Another story that had me tearing up, due to the ending! 5 stars.

Conversation with a Biker: I enjoyed this story more than I expected to. I felt that the story arc was nicely done, with the narrator coming full circle, and with the story ending on a hopeful note. I also loved that the narrator was able to look past the stereotypes and her initial judgments to have a meaningful conversation with the biker. Nicely done! 5 stars. 

What I'd Like to Say: A woman reflects on her relationship with her older, once idolized brother. Very lovely and very sad. Another favorite, as I very much enjoyed the style of the story. 5 stars. 

Stolen Afternoon: Ginger visits her Grandfather. I enjoyed the conversations Ginger had with her Grandpa, and felt that the characters were well-developed. The ending of this story felt a little incomplete to me, but overall I enjoyed it. 4 stars. 

A Love-Hate Thing: I didn't expect to like this story, because I didn't like Darla so much, but she grew on me. I felt that it accurately depicted the character's difficulties in dealing with her mother's terminal illness, and her methods of coping. The ending was again well-executed. 5 stars. 

Reckoning: About the friendship between an accountant and his customer, during an audit. Not my favorite story, but I liked it, and I felt that the characters were well-developed. 3.5 stars. 

At the Crypt: about two sisters at their father's funeral, and their encounter with the mother of a childhood friend. I felt that the sisters' emotions were accurately depicted, as well as their contrasting methods of coping with their loss. I didn't love Agnes, however. 4 stars. 

Schizophrenia Indicated: wonderful story, with an unexpected ending! I thought the ending of this story was going to be much darker. I liked the characters very much. 5 stars. 

Occupational Hazards: very cute story, and a realistic portrayal of a family dealing with some stressful situations. Another favorite! I really liked Sandra, the main character. 5 stars.

Overall Rating (this is not an average of the above ratings!): 5 stars

As a whole, I loved this short story collection, so I could not give it any less than 5 stars. I enjoyed several stories, especially the first and last one, immensely, and still felt that the others were very well done. The collection is a very realistic look at different families and their varied situations and struggles. Several stories had unexpected (and pleasantly surprising) endings. In technical terms, the book was well-written, and well-executed, with no typos or grammatical errors. I look forward to reading more of this author's work!

Happy Reading,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Five Questions With: Wendy Unsworth, author of The Palaver Tree (to-read list)

Hello Readers, 

Here is an interview with Wendy Unsworth. Her book, The Palaver Tree, is on my to-read list. This is the first book in the Berriwood Series. It revolves around a young teacher, Ellie Hathaway, who is volunteering at a school in Africa. 

From the Synopsis: 

Lives and fortunes change in the blink of an eye.
Now that she is alone, volunteering at a school in the Central African Republic of Ducana seems like everything schoolteacher Ellie Hathaway needs. Here is the opportunity to get away from the sleepy Cornish village where recent tragedy still haunts her and to help the children's charity her friend has worked so tirelessly to promote.
But dark forces and ambitions are in play long before Ellie's arrival in the dusty town of Limba. Even as she begins to believe she can at last find true happiness, she realises that something at the school is very wrong. 
Is this really the place of loving and giving she had first thought it to be, and is headmaster, Gabriel Cole, really their guardian angel?
With so many questions left unanswered Ellie struggles to decide what she must do, but then political chaos descends and suddenly Ellie finds herself more alone than she had ever imagined she could be....

Enjoy the interview below!

1. Tell me about yourself and how you first got interested in writing?

Hello! My name is Wendy Unsworth and thank you for inviting me here. I was born in Lincolnshire, England which is a beautiful part of the world but I am a born traveller and so it is a long time since I lived in the place of my birth!
Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I firmly believe writing chose me, rather than the other way around

2. What inspired you to write The Palaver Tree?
 One of my main interests in fiction is taking very ordinary characters and plunging them into an extraordinary situation. I am fascinated about how they will react and cope, what strengths they will find and how often they will even surprise themselves. 
I lived in Central Africa for thirteen years. It was a hectic period of my life but a time that left a huge and lasting impression on me, so much so that, after leaving, I knew my first full length novel should incorporate some of my experiences there.

3. What's next on your plate?

Busy! Busy! At the moment I am writing the second book in my Berriwood series. The stories in the series are quite separate but feature the lives and fortunes of different members of the same English village. The second book is called 'Beneathwood' It is a story of loss, family secrets and superstition. 
I am also getting ready to publish the first book in my children's Come-alive Cottage series.The stories feature a plucky young girl, her Aunt Kitty who also happens to be a witch, and a lot of gone-wrongs spells! These are written for seven - nine year olds and are illustrated chapter books. 

4. Is there any particular writer or book that inspired you, either while growing up or as an adult?

Yes, books inspire me in many different ways. 
Books such as the 'Just William' series by Richmal Crompton and Jennings and Derbyshire by Anthony Buckeridge were such fun and inspired a young me to keep on reading. 
Authors such as Karen Maitland, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King and John Wyndham inspire me to keep on striving for something different.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I was an aspiring author for sooo long! My advice would be, stay true to your characters, get the narrative as right as you possibly can and then don't delay, publishing a book is an amazing experience!

Five Questions With: Rysa Walker

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for not updating last week! I am less busy and back to reviewing :)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Rysa Walker, author of Time's Twisted Arrow, which I loved. You can see my review here. Read on to learn more about her and her work!

1. What is your background and how did you become interested in writing?

I've always been a writer in some form. I suspect it's because I lived in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from the nearest library, and had to read the same books over and over again. I loved my books, but when I got bored, I'd start thinking about what happened next. Or what might happen to those same characters in different circumstances. Or what might happen to different characters in similar circumstances. Sometimes the stories just played themselves out in my head, but many made their way to paper. And while I got sidetracked for a number of years writing non-fiction, I eventually made my way back around to writing the type of books I like to read.

2. What was the inspiration behind Time's Twisted Arrow?

I've spent the past few years teaching and writing about history and I think every historian secretly wants a time-machine. We're very much aware that history is often determined by those who write the history books -- George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, for example, and many other historical events or achievements that get credited to one or two people in history books were more often the work of dozens of people behind the scenes. It's kind of like the line from the song "Wonderful" in my favorite musical, Wicked:

A man's called a traitor - or a liberator.
A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist.

So, knowing that things tend to get changed around depending on who is telling the story, it's not too surprising that historians think it would be nice to actually be there and see history in the making. But if we had that power, would we really be able to resist tweaking things just a bit here and there? I'd like to think I could resist, but I'm not especially power-hungry. I'm generally content with my books, my music, family -- as long as I have those things, plus good coffee, tea and dark chocolate, I'm a pretty happy camper. And while there are plenty of injustices I'd love to change in the world, I'd be worried that if you tug too hard at one or two less-than-lovely strings in the tapestry, everything else might come apart as well. But would someone who wanted wealth, power or who was truly unhappy with their society as a whole be able to resist changing things? I'm not so sure -- and that's really the key idea that eventually developed into Time's Twisted Arrow.

3. What's next for Kate?

Kate will be back at the end of 2013 in Pendulum Past, the second book of the CHRONOS Files. That book picks up shortly after the end of Time's Twisted Arrow. Much of the book will be set in the racially-divided South of the 1930s, with Kate taking some side trips to the 1960s and Boston in the early 1900s. She's going to face some difficult choices in her efforts to stop the Cyrists and will have to decide whether she can live with committing "lesser evils" in order to further the "greater good." And, on a personal level, she'll be learning whether you can recreate the mysterious circumstances that cause two people to fall in love.

In the interim, readers will also see Kate briefly in a novella that I have coming out this summer. It's tentatively entitled Time's Echo, and reveals some of the events from Time's Twisted Arrow from Kiernan's perspective, while providing additional backstory on the Cyrists and their motives.

4. Besides the CHRONOS Files series, do you have any other projects coming up?

I have two additional series in various stages of development. The first book for one of the series will likely be published before the CHRONOS files is finished, because it's partially written. It was one of those cases where a story and characters popped into my head and just wouldn't leave me alone until I got something down on paper. The other series is still in that nebulous, embryonic stage where it could go in a couple of different directions-- but I think it will emerge eventually as a pretty cool series of paranormal detective books.

5. I found your website to be a very interesting supplement to the CHRONOS series (it inspired me to write a post on how books have changed with the advent of e-readers and "apps" which allow you to become completely immersed in a story). What are your thoughts on the impact of tablets and e-books on the literary world? Has it helped or harmed?

I'm a huge, huge fan of e-books. That's partly because, as I noted above, I spent way too much of my childhood wanting new books and having to wait for them. Santa brought me a Kindle a few years back and it rarely leaves my side. The fact that I can download a new book at soccer practice or waiting in the carpool line for my kids never ceases to delight me. The e-publishing revolution has also increased the number of stories out there. Some of them are admittedly a bit rough, but there are also some real gems. Several of the best books I've read this year were not "traditionally" published, and I suspect that they would never have been available for me to read if we were still stuck in the era where agents and major publishers were the gatekeepers for all fiction. I do think that traditional publishers serve an important role, but it's nice to see that there are multiple outlets these days. A freer market usually results in more innovation and I think we're just beginning to see the results of these changes.

On a broader scale, the internet makes the writer's job more fascinating, but it also provides distractions. Research is definitely easier. I can find out virtually anything I want to know about 1905 Boston if I dig deep enough into the resources online, and some of this is information that I'd never have had at my disposal a few decades ago. On the other hand, however, it's all too easy to chase an interesting rabbit down the hole and end up miles away from the core bits of information you need to write your story. I have to be careful to avoid spending too much time in the virtual past, otherwise it's tough to get the books written back here in 2012!

As for the CHRONOS Files site, I would love to have the resources (and the time) to do even more with it. One thing I'm really happy with, however, is that it can provide an outlet for young writers. I'm currently working with a number of teachers in middle and high schools to have students use the examples of historical research in the CHRONOS Files as a starting point for their own fiction and I will be showcasing some of their work on the blog. The goal is for them to learn about the historical sources that are now literally at their fingertips and how they can be incorporated into fiction, hopefully in a way that is a little less like "schoolwork" than writing a traditional history report.

Thanks so much for allowing me to visit with you and your readers at ChaiTime!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Important Day/Week

Tomorrow and this week will be very important for me and very hectic, so if I have not yet responded to your emails, please be patient. My posts will be less frequent until at least next Sunday. Sorry if I haven't gotten back to you!!

-- chaitime212

Friday, March 8, 2013

Poll: Format of Blog

Just posted a new poll regarding the layout of my blog. You can see it on the right side of my page. I am making a post here, because if you answer no, I want to know what needs improvement. 

Is my blog easy to read? Should I change the layout, the background, or something else? Please comment and let me know, I want to make this blog fun and I want to make it easy to find what you're looking for!


Five Questions With: Orlando Smart, author of Folsom on Fire

Hello Everyone, 

Orlando Smart's book, Folsom on Fire is on my to-read list, and sadly thanks to my hectic life and as it is a longer book, I won't be able to get to it for awhile. In the meantime, I wanted to interview him and learn more about his work.

I felt that this was an important book to showcase, as obviously racism and homophobia is something our society continues to struggle with until this day. As a minority myself, this is something I have experienced on occasion, but as I belong to what is known as the "model minority" group, my road has been a little easier. I do feel that these issues are often brushed under the rug, and people like to claim that we live in a post-racial society, with the election of President Obama, but it is plain to see that this is not really the case. 

The book is set in the small town of Folsom, Mississippi  after the Civil War, and revolves around Mary Cole, a former slave, as well as Paul, a white teenage boy who she has raised since birth, who is coming to terms with being gay. 

From the Synopsis: "...Dissecting events in our present day by peeking into the window of the past, Folsom on Fire delves into the psyche of Racism, Coming out as Gay, Gender Roles, Self-Hate and Self-Love. What would you do to remain true to who you are? How far would you go to protect those you love? Folsom on Fire will make you question and strengthen the unconditional love you hold for those closest to your heart."

Read on to learn more about Folsom on Fire. You can also check out the author's website here

1. Tell me a little about yourself, and how you got interested in writing?

Well, during the day, I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist and special needs app developer by profession, and a novelist at night.  I live with my partner and three children (two boys and a girl) in rural Wisconsin.  I became interested in writing during my tour in the army while in Germany.  While out on multi-month long exercises, during down times, I spent most of my time reading.  I decided then that I wanted to put my own pen to paper and craft my own stories. 

2. What made you decide to write this novel?

A few years back I was going through an online museum on lynching.  It was grotesque to say the least.  But no matter how revolting it was, I reminded myself that it is our American history nonetheless.  With my novel Folsom on Fire, I wanted to explore that time in our history when lynchings were not only common, but also approved by our government by their silence on the matter.

Lynchings are America’s own Holocaust, though it is rarely, if ever, given the attention it deserves.  Putting people into a gas chamber or oven is beyond imagination, yes?  But as Americans, we must ask ourselves, is the gathering of a crowd of hundreds and thousands of men, women and children to watch men being castrated, torn apart by horses that are attached to their limbs, skinned alive, doused with oil and set on fire—is that any less beyond the pale? It is indeed America’s nightmare that I felt necessary to bring into the light.

3.  What sort of research did you need to do while writing this novel?  Tell me about your experience writing this novel.

This novel is set a few years after the end of the Civil War.  Though for research, I had to go back even further.  During the South’s heyday, when slavery was legal, slave owners enjoyed a quality of life better than the noble classes of Europe.  They were actually the envy of the world at that time.  Cotton was indeed king of the world.  That assisted me in getting into the heads of the white characters in Folsom on Fire.  I wanted to know how they felt during those prosperous times, and later, to see it fall into ruin during and after the war.  There was a level of resentment that was planted and nurtured during that time that still resides in many areas of our nation today.  

To get to the minds of the black and gay characters, and their lives during that time was far harder, as there is still not much written about the fear they lived in.  I was fortunate to have family members who could tell me stories about growing up in Mississippi, which was known as the lynching capital during those times.  Being gay did help with the gay characters and the research required much more time.

This was a difficult novel to write, as the characters' emotions I had to convey were never ones of peace.  It was a very dangerous time for blacks and for gays.  Nothing was certain.  Your life could become forfeit at any moment, depending on if a white person had a beef with you or just didn't like the way you looked at them . . . that is, if you even dared to look them in the eye.

4.  I have read other novels set in this time period, or revolving around the issues of race relations or sexuality.  Tell me what sets your novel apart.

How about this statement: ‘African Americans would not look the way they do were it not for a white man raping one of their female relatives.”  That statement probably will make many cringe, but again I say, it is our American history.  Pedophilia and the rape of black women and children by white men were permitted by our own government.  Just by looking at African Americans of today who vary greatly in skin tone and facial features, that ugly truth cannot be denied.

Folsom on Fire differs from other novels during that same time, as you can easily transport the characters and their motivations into our present day and have the same story.  What is relevant about racism, sexism and homophobia in the novel Folsom on Fire back then is what we now face as a nation today.  Some things have changed.  Unfortunately, many have not.  If you are black (or another minority), gay, and especially a black woman, in America, your road up is longer and harder, though not impossible.   Folsom on Fire, besides being a novel, is also a mirror for us all . . . black, white, gay, straight, religious.  It makes us confront not “what” we have done, but “why” we did it. 

5. What’s next on your plate?

Something completely different from Folsom on Fire.  Whereas Folsom on Fire was of the literary sort, my next novel, Gods of Egypt, is a supernatural tale of horrors and wonder.  Demons are poised to claim the earth for their own, for the balance of good and evil is upset by the birth of the powerful demoness, Bazeek.  In order to right it, Tamen—an immortal god of Egypt, is tasked by the Christ himself to find one who can balance the darkness.  But all is not what it seems.  There is an ancient pact between Lucifer and God that must be maintained.  In heaven, the angels stand guard and ready themselves for the last battle, while the demons in hell fight amongst one another for supremacy.  From the dawn of Creation itself to the present day, where teenaged Jared, who just wants out of his small town and away from his hawkish mother, realizes the fate of earth, heaven and hell now rests upon him.         

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Spilled by J.E. Barrett

Yet another review done!  I seem to be on a roll.  I just finished Spilled by J.E. Barrett. This was a quick and enjoyable read. I enjoy stories following a group of people and seeing how their stories intertwine (as seen in the film Crash).

This book begins with Jane, a rather unlikeable woman running late to work. During her commute, she stops by Bagel Barn to pick up coffee for her coworkers. It is here that we meet most of the other key players in the story, though we don't know it yet. On her way out, Jane bumps into someone and spills her coffee, and her day goes from bad to worse.

Throughout the story, we check back in with Jane, who feels she is having the worst day ever. Things are much worse for the other characters in the coffee shop, and a few of them experience some life-altering events. Everything comes together quite nicely at the end of the book. It is a neat ending, but not too neat, which definitely makes for a more realistic novel.

The book was well-written and fast paced. It held my interest from beginning to end. Some minor editing is needed, but it is nothing too noticeable. One thing I noted is that the characters, while they were well developed and interesting, were very "black-and-white". I either loved them or hated them. I think that if they had a few more shades of gray, the story could be even better.

I am ambivalent about the ending. On one hand, I thought it completed the story arc nicely, closing again with Jane thinking about her day, On the other hand, I initially thought the penultimate chapter was the last one, and was surprised to turn the page and see a chapter 12. While the endings of both chapters were nice, chapter 12's ending felt a little more abrupt.

Overall, I thought this was a great story and a real page-turner. I would like to see more from this author.

My Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Of Kings and Queens by Suneeta Misra

Of Kings and Queens is a recently published short story by Suneeta Misra, author of Rani of Rampur. The book will be free on Amazon on March 9, 2013. For the authors, it is available for my review swap, if Rani of Rampur is too long for you.

It revolves around a young boy, Ram, who is heir to the kingdom of Mirpur. The story is set in pre-independence India. Ram's father has several wives, but has only managed to produce one heir to the throne.  As such, Ram encounters many dangers while growing up. He overcomes many challenges with the help the spunky and intelligent Maya, his tutor's granddaughter.

This story, while short, was very well-done. The initial pages drew me in immediately. Of the characters, I loved Maya the most. She is smart and bold, always providing Ram with a dose of tough love. I also liked her grandfather, the kind Badri Nath. I thought the Ayah character was also well-written, and I didn't love her, but I sure did love to hate her!

In technical terms, the story is appropriately paced and well-written. There is a great twist at the end, which I loved! I would have loved if the story was longer. I would be interested in reading something from Maya's point of view, during the time when Ram was studying abroad.

All in all, a fun story for mystery and historical fiction lovers.

My Rating: 5 stars

Interview with Kim Wright, author of the City of Mystery Series

As promised, here is the interview with Kim Wright, who wrote the excellent City of Mystery Series. 6 questions this time :) 

1. Your first book Love in Mid Air is a romance. What made you switch to writing mysteries?

I’ve always read mysteries so it was probably inevitable that sooner or later I’d turn my hand to writing one.  I was originally scared of the fact that they need to be so densely plotted, but I decided to take a deep breath and just plunge.  The result is three books in less than twelve months.  Choosing the time frame was easy – I love the Victorian era. And I’ve also had a long term interest in forensics, so it was natural to focus on the first forensics unit at Scotland Yard, which was indeed founded in response to the fact they never caught Jack the Ripper.   They had so little science back in those days – not even fingerprinting or blood typing, the sort of things modern detectives take for granted.  It’s a wonder they ever caught anyone at all!

2. City of Darkness revolves around Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders, which are, to this day, still unsolved. This makes the book a unique one, because although the readers get some answers to their questions, they know that the real cases were never solved. Additionally, the characters don’t end up solving the case. It’s unusual, but I felt that it made for a great story! Was it difficult to write the book like this and still complete the story arc?

It was challenging because I knew going in, of course, that the Ripper was never caught and ergo, that I couldn't end my story with my detective hero triumphantly bringing the bad guy to justice.   But I also knew I couldn't leave the reader hanging with no resolution.  My solution was to go into the killer’s POV so that the reader would know who the Ripper was, even though my chief detective, Trevor Welles, ends the book in frustration.  The man I named as Jack is a real historical figure and one of the prime suspects among Ripperologists  (yes, they do exist).  I believe he’s a likely candidate.

Another funny offshoot is that, just as you say, I couldn't have my forensics unit emerge triumphant in this book and I found I rather liked that.  After all, in real life not every case is solved.  So Trevor and his unit won’t have a spotless record going forward in the series.  They’ll win some and lose some, although the reader will always know the truth.

3. Book 2, City of Light, is set at the time of the Exposition Universelle, in Paris, and also focuses on the events surrounding the Cleveland Street Scandal. What was the inspiration behind this book? Why did you choose to focus on these particular events?

When Trevor is only one of many Scotland Yard detectives who is trying to solve the Ripper case, his best friend and chief rival in the quest is a man named Rayley Abrams.  Once again, I borrowed from history, because when the Ripper wrote graffiti about Jews at one of the crime scenes, all the Jewish officers were immediately pulled from the case. 

So Trevor ends up being up in charge at the expense of Rayley, which he realizes is unfair.   He suggests Rayley for another plum post, which is going to Paris to study forensics with the French police, who at that time were ahead of the British in body identification.  So when City of Darkness ended and I started thinking about where to send my team next, I thought “Rayley’s already in Paris.  I’ll just have something happen over there.” And voila, it was the start of City of Light.

The internet is such a boon to writers.  When I began to fish around for possibilitiesin 1889, I saw that was the year of the Exposition and the building of the Eiffel Tower, as well as the Cleveland Street Scandal back in London.  So I built the second book around these two real-life events.

4. Which of your characters from the City of Mystery series do you most identify with?

They’re not only all like me, they all ARE me! Trevor, Rayley, Emma, Tom, Geraldine and Davy are parts of myself or different ways that I look at things.  I always say that no character can have a thought or make a statement that the writer hasn't thought of first. Which is pretty alarming when you consider that I also get in the head of serial killers!

5. Tell me about Book 3, City of Silence, which was justreleased.

City of Silence is set in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Queen Victoria – who took an interest in crime, by the way -  is the unofficial sponsor of the forensics unit in the series and she asks the team to come alongwith her as she escorts her favorite granddaughter, Alexandra, on a visit to Russia.  Alexandra has fallen in love with Nicholas but Victoria considers Russia a dangerous, violent place and doesn't want the two young people to marry.  Of course they all no sooner get to the Winter Palace than a series of crimes prove the Queen right, including the murder of a pair of ballet dancers. 

Bonus Question:

6.  The next book (Book 4) City of Bells, will be set in Calcutta, India. As my family is from India (andmy dad grew up in Calcutta), I was interested in knowing why you chose to set this book in India.

I love moving my characters all around the globe and when you think of England during the Victorian era, of course you think of India as well.  In this book, Aunt Geraldine, a rather eccentric spinster who is a great favorite of my readers, is the lead character.  She visited India as a young woman and fell in love with an officer who now, fifty years later, has been accused of murder. 

India is also a great locale since few American readers know a lot about it.  People have definite visions when they think of Victorian London or the Eiffel Tower but when I send the team to Russia or India, I need to do a lot more world-building for my audience.  And that’s great fun since I learn so much myself!