Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hardened Hearts Anthology – Book Review

The Hardened Hearts anthology published by Unnerving is a collection of 17 short stories of heartache, heart-breaks, and as the title suggests, hearts that have turned to stone or worse.

Some of the stories in this collection will move you deeply, others will keep you guessing, and some will have you putting your hand on your heart as you try to separate fiction from reality.

The collection encompasses some authors I’ve read in previous anthologies and others that are new to me but whose works I will definitely look forward to in the future.

I have to note in advance that this is an 18+ only anthology owing to some of the content whether in terms of speech, adult scenes or relationships.

Hardened Hearts opens with “40 Ways to Kill Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste, which I don’t recommend you begin the anthology with as I found it boring. Nearly half way through I started skipping parts and barely made it to the end. I recommend moving on to the other gems in the anthology.

"It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot" by Somer Canon is a beautiful but very sad and painful piece. I loved Canon's writing style with lots of showing and emotions. The characters don't have names but it's a must-read.

I've read short stories for Calvin Demmer before and I've enjoyed his writing. "What Is Love?" isn't an exception. Mythology-based with a creepy kind of love, this story grabs you from start to finish. It's a little bloody but very well written.

Don't trust your mother's heirlooms, a lesson one character learns the hard way in "Heirloom" by Theresa Braun. The longest story in the collection, the paranormal piece is exciting and definitely a fresh idea. The ending was a little confusing for me but I enjoyed the ride. I liked being part of the story by connecting events and characters as the story progressed.

"Rachel took her seat. As she glimpsed the antique mirror, the glass appeared to tremble. It wasn't the first time her mind had played tricks on her under duress, so she dismissed it." – Big mistake - #justsaying

Speaking in a previous interview with Nadaness In Motion, Braun explained that "Heirloom" is "about a therapist who inherits a mirror that has the power to send her into the past against her will. Her whole world gets turned upside down.

"The Recluse" by John Boden is a very short, creatively-written interesting piece. Four stars to this broken heart.

There are several paranormal stories in Hardened Hearts, including "Dog Tired" by Eddie Generous. The story is full of suspense and Generous feeds the reader bits of background info throughout.

"Too much of a good thing wears and soon that good thing can't compete with a bad thing."

"The Pink Balloon" by Tom Deady is a five-star, absolutely heart-wrenching read. Read with care, because you'll most likely be crying by the end. This piece is followed by another painful read called "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want to" by J.L. Knight. The characters don't have names, which only gives the story a kind of general feel.

"Consumed" by Madhvi Ramani is a sad but different kind of story. I saw a heart actually turn to stone here. Matches the anthology's theme perfectly.

This is followed by Scott PaulHallam's "Burning Samantha", which although moves slowly at first, the reader can't help but feel that something "really bad" is going to happen. I might have gone a little overboard as I had a feeling it would be something like the movie Carrie, but I'm glad it wasn't. Still, it's a sad and strong piece and I liked – and disliked but in a good way - how Hallam kept playing with my nerves.

"When I got up this morning, murdering Alex Stanchon was not on my To-Do list." This is how the "Class of 2000" story by Robert Dean begins. I'll leave you to go from here *grins*

"Learning to Love" by Jennifer Williams is a deep piece with a stunning imagery and a touch of the paranormal. Highly recommended. "My love leaves marks; it is like the rough blade of a knife in need of sharpening."

"Brothers" by Leo X. Robertson came as a surprise to me because I've read for Robertson before and it was exciting. This one didn't appeal to me. It was long; there was a lot of over-the-top cursing and I found the character relationships confusing.

"Porcelain Skin" by Laura Blackwell is a very picturesque and fresh story. Interesting too and highly recommended.

WOW is the first word that came to mind when I finished reading "The Heart of the Orchard" by Erin Sweet Al Mehairi. An excellent dark story, it is definitely one of the best pieces in the collection. In fact I'd recommend you start with it. It's great with the theme and keeps the reader on edge, although you'll also be trying to tell the main character "careful" and "I don't like this" throughout the piece. 5 stars.

"What more did she have to lose?"

"Meeting the Parents" by Sarah L. Johnson is a paranormal, interesting but strange story. I think it might fall under the weird or strange fiction sub-genre.

"Matchmaker" by Meg Elison is the last piece in the collection with lots of mathematical jargon. A 500% geeky story with a good and possibly, dare I say it, "happy" ending; although I can't be sure because it was written in code!  

Overall Hardened Hearts is an interesting assortment of great stories with broken hearts and lots of aches. Overall rating: 4 stars.

Note: I received a free copy of Hardened Hearts in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rescue by Susan Aylworth - Book Blast, Excerpts & Giveaway

Rescue by Susan Aylworth


What will it take to stay alive? When Dulce wakes up hanging in a giant mapajo tree, she fears she may be a lone survivor, stranded in the Amazon rainforest. What comes next may be even worse.

The last thing sixteen-year-old Dulce Donovan wants to do is move away from her friends and hot new crush. But her parents insist, and she has no choice but to get on the airplane taking her to Lima, Peru.

When the plane crashes in the middle of the Amazon jungle, Dulce feels lucky to survive. But as she faces injury, disease, and deadly insects and reptiles, she discovers that the price of living is high. Injured and miles from any civilization, Dulce must push her way through a dangerous jungle, looking for any miracle that might come her way.

Purchase Rescue by Susan Aylworth via Amazon

Praise for the Book

"RESCUE is exciting and fresh and inspiring. When Dulce is one of the only survivors of a plane crash deep in the Amazon jungle, she faces all kinds of dangers as she fights to survive. A fascinating insight into one of the most mysterious places in the world and a strong heroine that will make you cheer for her determination."

"I found myself unable to put the book down. The story is well-crafted, with twists and surprises that kept me a little on edge, frankly--wondering what would suddenly leap out (or slither up to!) Dulce next. Aylworth cleverly weaves her considerable understanding of survival skills and of the native peoples of the Amazon throughout the story. I found myself mentally cheering Dulce on, impressed with her ingenuity at dealing with the harsh realities of her environment."

"I really liked this book. It was very interesting how this young woman was able to survive this terrible tragedy."

Excerpts from Rescue by Susan Aylworth

'I am not going to die here,' I say aloud. Then I shout it to the whole forest: 'I am not going to die here!' I grasp that little lump in the tree bark with my left hand, reach up with my right, and grab my toe, yanking it free. There’s a moment of elation until I realize my left foot is slipping. I scrabble with both hands, trying to find anything to hang onto, but there’s nothing. The next thing I know I am sliding, the mapajo’s slick bark slipping by beneath me. Then there is nothing but air."

"I’m almost out of the clearing when I’m stopped cold. What I see looks like a thick, bright green vine curled around the limb of a tree. What I recognize is the ambush-hunting strategy of a pit viper, a seriously venomous threat. I know what it is because Chambi pointed one out on one of our jungle walks. Silently thanking him, I change direction. We’ll avoid that risk by leaving this clearing in an entirely different direction. Even as I think it, I realize it may be foolish; we could run into poisonous snakes anywhere. I’ll just have to be careful to keep a close watch on the foliage."

Author Susan Aylworth

Susan Aylworth started her first book when she was nine. "It was called Buff, The Proud Stallion. I wrote eight whole pages." For her fifth grade career day, she stated her ambition to become "a rich and famous author." Decades later, she is pleased to have achieved the 'author' part of that goal. A former university professor, she enjoys researching backgrounds and careers for her novels. "It's one way to live many lives at once."

Susan lives with Roger, her husband of 48 years, who is also a writer. Although they maintain a home in northern California, they currently serve as addiction recovery missionaries in the Navajo Nation. Susan loves hanging out with her seven children, their perfect-for-them spouses and 26 grandchildren. When she can't be with her blood family, she hangs with her fictional characters, the children of her mind. Rescue is her fifteenth published novel.

Giveaway Details

$50 Amazon Gift Code or Paypal Cash

Ends 6/5/18

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Poetry Books that Changed My Life by Patricia Furstenberg - Guest Post for the As Good As Gold Blog Tour

Today, I'm re-featuring author and poet Patricia Furstenberg. You may have seen Pat on my blog before, when I reviewed her children's novella Joyful Trouble and her children's poetry collection Puppy: 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles.

Today, I'm featuring her newest poetry book As Good As Gold as part of a blog tour with an exclusive guest post on the poetry books that have changed Patricia's life.

Poetry Books that Changed My Life by Patricia Furstenberg
(Exclusive to Nadaness In Motion)

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”- Robert Frost

We belong to a generation of readers, me, writing this guest post for wonderfully talented and supportive Nada Adel; you, reading it - a generation I am happy to be part of.

The world had seen the Lost Generation of the World War I and the G.I. Generation of World War II, followed by the Baby Boomers and Generation X (that’s us!), then the Millennials and the iGeneration (my children!). But did you know that our generation, Generation X, was without a name for 30 years? We are to thank a photographer (Robert Capa), a musician (Billy Idol) and two journalists who wrote a book - for giving us a name. The book that sealed the deal was written "to get young people talking about their hates and hopes and fears."

But isn’t this what reading is about?

Poetry as well.

What I love about poetry, WHY I love poetry is that it lends itself to interpretations. Very much like art does. If I look at a painting or listen to a piece of music - my brain will perceive the colours in a different way (different shades) than yours; the music I hear will be transmitted through my middle ear and will create a response in my brain - yet a different one than in yours. Because we are unique individuals, each one with a unique genetic code that, furthermore, has been differently and exclusively shaped by our individual, life-long experiences.

Yet we are all readers, a Generation of Readers. J

For today, I have chosen five poetry books from my bookshelves. Five books that, I feel, have shaped me.

1. A book of Shakespearean sonnets.
These were some of the very first “grown up” poems I read as a teen and I still remember the feeling of awe and revelation. How many times I’ve read them and how close to perfection I thought they were. I still do.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove”
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)

2. Poems by Emily Dickinson and Emily Brontë- Please do not make me choose. I enjoy them both for their ecstasy and insight into soul and nature. It was only natural that I would read their poems after devouring their prose. And repeat. This is why classics are at the top of my reading list; one can enjoy their writing time and time again, each life stage revealing yet another layer of their writing.

"Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
(Emily Dickinson - ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers)

3. Poetry by Robert Frost - of course “The Road Not Taken” so intensely brought to life in “Dead Poet’s Society”.  I love Frost’s poetry for vigour and sense of direction and for its metaphors. I love the way he conveys great significance to simple objects. Here’s how Frost describes the way a poem comes to life: “It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. It is never a thought to begin with. It is at its best when it is a tantalising vagueness.”

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
(Robert Frost - “The Road Not Taken”)

4. Poems by Maya Angelou - for her strength as a woman, first, and for the electricity that springs out of page when reading her poetry.  Maya’s poems, especially her work on love and struggle, bubble with positive energy and power. Her poetry is so close to a life performance, it almost reads by itself!

“I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.”
(Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman)

5. Poetry by Ana Blandiana, one of the most outstanding, leading contemporary Romanian poets. Romania is my home land, so reading Blandiana’s work is like going back home. Ana Blandiana has grace and charm; her poems are like honey on your tongue. Her work is both visual and auditory, it pulls at the strings of your heart and it surrounds you. Allow it to.

“That sense I had, when I dreamed what I would be
Before I came to earth, altered long ago
Into hope forgotten. Now, it wells in me,
Changing all order, makes me a witness, grows -
A chain of mystery deferred, living”
(Ana Blandiana, Self-Sufficiency, Translation by Paul Scott Derrick, Viorica Patea)

Now for the book, meet As Good As Gold, a book with an enormous heart for readers of all ages, it includes 35 poems and haiku accompanied by expressive portraits of our canine friends.

As Good as Gold synopsis

As engaging as a tail wag!
Celebrating the simple things in life as seen through the eyes of our old time favourite furry friends, As Good as Gold is a volume of poetry revealing the talent and humour we always knew our dogs possessed.

Dogs are full of questions, yet they are famed sellers of innocence especially when it comes to explaining their mishaps and often foolish effervescence through ponderings such as “Why IS a Cat Not Like a Dog”, “As Brown as Chocolate”, “Silver Stars and Puppy Tail” or, best yet, “Dog or Book?”

 Add As Good as Gold on Goodreads

About Patricia Furstenberg
Patricia Furstenberg came to writing through reading. She always carries a notebook and a pen, although at times she jots down her ideas on the back of till slips or types them on her phone.
Patricia enjoys writing for children because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them in humorous, child-friendly ideas while adding sensitivity and lots of love. What fuels her is an exhilarating need to write and… coffee: “How many cups have had this morning?” “None.” “Plus?” “Five cups.”
Between her books you can find the beloved Joyful Trouble, The Cheetah and the Dog, Puppy, 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles.

She is a Huffington Post contributor and pens the Sunday Column for as well as dabbing in freelancing. After completing her Medical Degree in Romania she moved to South Africa where she now lives with her husband, children and their dogs.

Purchase As Good as Gold by Patricia Furstenberg via Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada

Connect with author Patricia Furstenberg via her Author Website Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and find her books on Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon Canada

Keep up with the rest of the blog tour for exclusive guest posts, interviews, and book reviews via Patricia Furstenberg's website.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Looking for Dei by David A. Willson - Book Review

"The townsfolk held their breath as if deep underwater, lungs bursting with discomfort until they could reach the surface and exhale the anxiety of the moment."

Looking for Dei by David A. Willson is a quick-paced, elemental adventure with a cast of beautiful heroes.

The novel opens with a monk kidnapping a scarred child, whom we later meet as 16-year-old Nara. The monk, Bilo, has raised her as his own but for years has kept her powers hidden for fear that those in power would find her and seek to use her for their own needs. This has made Nara even more curious about her abilities, some of which she understands and some of which she doesn't.

When the novel opens, we learn that there is a ceremony to test children to see if they have gifts, such speed, strength, an ability to draw the life-force out of people and animals, and so on. However, we also learn that the town where Nara and Bilo, Dimmitt, has not seen any Gifted people in years, which has impoverished the town. Nara learns the reason for this and attempts to make things right. Only it puts her, Bilo, and her friend Mykel on the run for the rest of the book.

As Looking for Dei progresses, we see another side of the story; Nara's twin, Kayna. As the chapters shift between the sisters, the reader begins to compare and contrast the two identical and features but far from identical in traits.

"[Bilo searched] for the power in the runes of scripture. The designs had power, and Nara was part of all that, but he didn't know exactly how, and he was determined to find out. But there was nobody he could ask, and his only guide was an old book. A book about magic. A book he kept very close."

From the beginning, the novel has an even-but-fast pace, with great visual and lots of action.

I like how Willson brings in flashbacks for various characters, giving even evil ones the chance to shine and the reader the opportunity to discover why they act the way they do. At one point, the reader can sympathise with Minister of War Nikolas Vorick because of his background, even though his greed brings about the destruction of many.

Worlds collide when Nara and her twin are reunited, igniting stark contrasts, especially has Nara has been poor most of her life, while Kayna had been living with the most powerful minister in the realm.

"You could be dangerous if you wanted."

One of the things I loved about Looking for Dei was the cover as it displayed an actual event in the novel and as it helped me imagine the main character Nara.

Character development, although slow, is evident for Nara, Bilo, and Mykel. Each of the characters, even some of the supporting ones, develops in some way. I truly enjoyed the change I saw in each of them. Nara is often skeptical about herself and abilities and for good reason, she has not been trained; sometimes, she too naïve or kind, but then the goodness of her heart sets her apart from her twin and from all the characters in Looking for Dei.

In terms of lines or imagery, there were a lot of powerful lines and scenes throughout the book. There were some parts I wish I could quote whole, but couldn't to avoid spoilers.

"Nara knew no way to attack the men; she could only build caves, talk to animals, or make her hands glow with light. None of that would stop men with swords, would it?"

When I was at around 90% of the novel, I could not grasp how the author will end his novel because I felt there was still a lot to. But the ending satisfied me. And I'm thankful for that.

I'm not sure if Looking for Dei is a good title for the novel though.

Although Looking for Dei is in a fantastical world and setting, I couldn't help but notice some Christian allusions in the novel. It could just be me, but I felt them more than once. It didn't affect my view of the book though.

"The twins aren't the twin peaks; they are actual human twins!"

Overall, Looking for Dei by David A. Willson is an exciting and action-and-magic-packed must read full of adventure and characters to root for.

Overall rating: 4.5-5 stars 

Note: I received a free copy of Looking for Dei from its author David A. Willson in exchange for an honest review, which should have come much earlier than May, but personal reasons have prevented me from finishing the book earlier. 

Connect with the author David A. Willson via Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and his Website.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts by Tarek Refaat - Arabic Book Review

تتمحور مجموعة القصص القصيرة والقصيرة جداً شفاه صامتة وقلوب تتحدث للكاتب طارق حسن رفعت حول المرأة بصفة عامة والمرأة المصرية بصفة خاصة. تتناول المجموعة عدة مشاهد ومقتطفات لعدد من البنات والسيدات لتلقي الضوء على مشكلةٍ ما سواء في المنزل أو المجتمع.

ويطلب الكاتب من القارئ في نهاية الكتاب أن ينظر إلى المرأة والعالم بنظرة مختلفة "خالية من الأحكام، خالية من التعالي، خالية من الإحساس بالأفضلية. أهم من ذلك أن تروا المرأة كما هي: شخصاً كاملاً عاقلاً قادراً على كل شيء. فهي لا ينقصها شيء سوى أن تُعامل كشخص كامل مثل الرجل وما يمنع ذلك هو تمسكنا بأفكار ومعتقدات لا صلة لها بحقيقة أو حتى أصل الدين."

تحتوي المجموعة على 24 قصة، بطلة كل منها امرأة، بما في ذلك قصتين تضم شخصياتها رجالاً. ويتراوح طول القصص ما بين صفحة وثلاث صفحات على الأكثر.

يبدأ طارق رفعت شفاه صامتة وقلوب تتحدث بقصة "هي والحقيبة" وهي من أقوى قصص المجموعة على الرغم من أنها أقصرها طولاً، فهي ترسم صورة واضحة مليئة بالأحاسيس في ذهن القارئ.

قصة "جميلة والقهوة" من القصص التي سيتفاعل معها من يحب الرومنسية والقهوة وهي ممتعة للقراءة، أما "شيرين والحرب" فهي رائعة بكل المقاييس ومن أكثر القصص التي أرشح قراءتها في المجموعة.

وقفت شيرين أمام تلك المرآة الكبيرة في دولابها، تراقب نفسها في صمت، ومررت يدها بهدوء بين خصلات شعرها، وهي تتمهد بعد انتهاء اليوم الذي مثل غيره يبدو لها كتلك القصص الحربية في الحرب العالمية الأولى حيث يندفع الجنود للاستيلاء على مكان ما، فيركضون بكل ما أوتوا من قوة وعافية متجاهلين وابل الرصاص وقذائف المدافع التي تنطلق صوبهم من كل جهة إلى أن يستولوا على تلك النقطة الدفاعية، وهنا فقط يمكنهم الراحة. ولكن شعور شيرين يشعرها أنها تفعل ذلك كل يوم! كل يوم في حياتها تندفع أمام وابل من النقد والتخلف والتحكمات والتحرش، والأكثر هو لومها في النهاية على كل شيء."

أما قصة "سلمى ونون النسوة" فهي قصة تنتقد عالم السيدات وكيف – في كثير من الأحيان - تقارن السيدات بعضها ببعض وفي محاولة التنافس من الرجال تتسبب السيدات في إيذاء نفسهن وبعضهن، أما "آمال والعمارة" فهي تلقي الضوء على أزمة العديد من المطلقات في المجتمع المصري وكيف ينظر إليهن الرجال والمتزوجات على حد سواء.

قصة "ثلاثة سكر نباتة" من أمتع قصص المجموعة خاصة وأنها مليئة بالضحك. 5 نجوم لهذه القصة. أما "ندى والبحر" فهي أيضاً تحظى بـ5 نجوم إذ أنها ترسم مشهد رائع في عقلي كقارئ وبعضٍ منها يعكس جانباً مني أو من حياتي هو رؤيتي للبحر وتعاملي معه، وكذلك قصة "منطقة بسمة" فهي تذكرني بنفسي كثيراً.

تنتقد قصة "منى وتجميل الألم" فكرة "المرأة القوية المستقلة" (The Strong Independent Woman) التي باتت منتشرة للغاية والسبب الذي يجعل السيدات تضع نفسهن في هذا القالب الذي أصبح سخيفاً إلى درجة كبيرة. 5 نجوم.

قصة "حلم عماد" قصة رائعة يجب قراءتها، وكذلك "حازم ومروة" ولكن لا يمكنني التعليق عليها حتى لا "أحرقها" لكم.

وعليّ التأكيد أن قصتي "فريال انتصرت" و"فرح تكتب"، وكذلك "شيرين والحرب من أجمل القصص في المجموعة فبعيداً عن تقييم الـ5 نجوم الذي يعد أعلى شيء في تقييمات الكتب، فتحصد تلك القصص الثلاث 10 نجوم في رأيي.

قصص أخرى يُرشح قراءتها في المجموعة: "سميرة والخمس دقائق" و "فل مشيرة" و"رباب والأقنعة" و "ريهام ودُنيا" و "شيماء والتردد" وغيرها.

أحد تعليقاتي على المجموعة هو تكرار بعض الكلمات أو الأفكار أثناء وصف مشاهد أو مواقفٍ ما، فضلاً عن بعض الأخطاء الإملائية التي ربما تؤثر على بعض القراء والحاجة إلى تقسيم بعض الأجزاء إلى فقرات أقصر أو وضعها في شكل حوارات.

تتميز العديد قصص شفاه صامتة وقلوب تتحدث بعدم وجود أسماء للشخصيات مما يعطي تعميماً للمشكلة المتناولة في تلك القصص وكثرة تكرارها في المجتمع المصري (مع الأسف)، في حين تتميز قصص بتعدد الأسماء للدلالة على نفس الشيء وهو تعدد المشاكل في المجتمع التي أحياناً يتم تقديمها ببعض من الكوميديا وأحياناً الكوميديا السوداء.

التقييم العام لـشفاه صامتة وقلوب تتحدث: 4 نجوم، فهي مجموعة يجب قراءتها.

يمكنكم إضافة الكتاب على موقع Goodreads ومتابعة الكاتب من خلال الموقع.