Friday, July 1, 2016

INTERVIEW with TAKSH GUPTA, author of HIRAETH: FIRST LOVE FIRST CONTACT

Taksh Gupta and Akhil Ahuja have a new novel out, and we're pleased to have Taksh with us at the BookPound today. Find their new book, Hiraeth: First Love First Contact, at Amazon (you'll find a blurb at the end of his interview. Many thanks to Taksh for joining us at the BookPound.

What do you like about writing science fiction?
Hiraeth: First Love First Contact is actually my first science fiction. My previous novel, Love @ 365 Kmph was a romantic comedy. While writing Hiraeth, I loved the fact that even I was in suspense for most part of the 3 years that it took me to write the novel. With romantic comedy, it is basically always the same story told in a different way but with science fiction, you have the responsibility of creating a whole new world. This challenge is what made me fall in love with writing science fiction.

Who are some of your favorite science fiction books and authors?
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I have a soft corner for Dan Brown and his work like Angels and Demons.

What is the most difficult part of writing and publishing for you? How do you overcome that challenge?
I have a co-author, with whom I have written this book. The most difficult part for us would have been coordinating with each other as both of us had extremely busy schedules. We somehow made it work through voice messages. He would send me one as soon as he got an idea and I would respond as I soon as I got time and vice-versa. As for publishing, finding a suitable publisher is always the biggest challenge. I don't think anybody can overcome that challenge. In the end it is a game of hope and patience.

What do you like most about being an author?
I adore the fact that my words bring happiness to people. Sometime back, I met a young girl on a train. She was barely 13. She came up to me and said, 'I know you. You are the author of Love @ 365 Kmph.' She told me that she always laughed uncontrollably whenever she read the book and that she always kept a copy with herself. It cheered her up. She proceeded to open her bag to take out the novel and asked me for my autograph. I still remember her smiling face and the feeling of content in my heart that I was the reason for that smile.

What projects do you have coming up in the future?
I have a third book in mind which would be a story of redemption, maybe revolving around the life of a criminal but nothing is concrete at this stage. The only next project I am sure that I am writing is the love letter my young cousin has asked me to write to cajole his love interest. Hahaha
Is there anything else you'd like to tell BookPound readers?

Yes, always venture to something new. Much like many of you, I too am an avid reader and am aware that all of us readers develop a taste of certain genre over time. Don't only stick to your taste. Remember, reading novels is like exploring worlds. You would be surprised to know that your to-be favorite novel could be of a genre you would have never even dreamed of reading.


Hope you enjoy reading Hiraeth: First Love First Contact. Keep reading BookPound!

BLURB for HIRAETH: FIRST LOVE FIRST CONTACT
Taksh Gupta & Akhil Ahuja

What supposedly troubles man the most is the fear of the unknown. However, what transcends that is a nightmare, where things are so incredibly frightening that you hope that it was just that – a nightmare – but there’s a part of you which knows that it is a part of your existence. Nikhil, a young guy loaded with responsibilities, and his girlfriend, Saesha, are trapped in this unenviable situation. Eerily, their worst nightmare is essentially the same: A cold-blooded, red-eyed freak chasing them, with a resolute obsession to slay their souls. The two try to pass this as coincidence, until the day things start falling apart. In a bizzare turn of events, Saesha gets abducted and returns with no memory of Nikhil.

Weighing the odds of Saesha teaming up with the aliens, Nikhil has to make a choice between his beliefs and the world’s, which is under siege. Biological weapons are unleashed, as a 623-year-old intergalactic rivalry is revived. Governments brainstorm together, there are UN meets and nuclear weapons are agregated. Eventually, war breaks.

The novel depicts Nikhil’s journey as he sets out to save his love, which may also be the key to saving the world.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

REVIEW of THE SPIDER AND THE STONE by GLEN CRANEY

THE SPIDER AND THE STONE
Glen Craney
Brigid's Fire Press
2013

SUMMARY (from publisher)
As the 14th century dawns, Scotland's survival hangs by a spider's thread. While the Scot clans scrap over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm.But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch's path. The beleaguered Scots cherish and lionize James Douglas as their "Good Sir James." Yet in England, his slashing and elusive raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such havoc and terror that he is branded the Black Douglas with a reward placed on his head for his capture.As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. His world is upturned when he befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make fateful decisions that will draw the opposing armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.Isabelle will crown a king. James will carry a king's heart. At last, both now take their rightful places with Robert Bruce, Rob Roy, and William Wallace in the pantheon of Scot heroes.Here is the story of Scotland's War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar, to the suppressed Culdee Church, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, the stirring oath document that inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later.The Spider and the Stone is the unforgettable saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, and heroic sacrifice that saved Scotland during its time of greatest peril.

REVIEW by Sara E. Dykes
Love. Loss. Loyalty. The Spider and the Stone spins a non-stop, action-packed tale as intricate and significant to Scotland's history as its titled arachnid and her web.

James Douglas, known to England and history as “the Black Douglas”, fights under command of and alongside his lifelong friend and king, Robert the Bruce. They struggle for Scottish independence from England, its king “Longshanks,” and his Plantagenet progeny, fighting a war that started long ago, but stoked when they were lads by the famed William Wallace. Along the way, they escape grisly skirmishes and employ tactics previously unseen by their English counterparts.

Nevertheless, Robert the Bruce is not Douglas's only master. Love also rules James's heart. Belle became his heart's desire the first moment they met as children. Through political maneuvers of her family and the general upheaval of the time, they are separated. But the fire of their mutual passion cannot be drowned, even by distance. James's love for Belle endangers them both and forces him many times to make a choice: Scotland or his heart.

Mixing Scottish lore, opposing theories of Christian theology, political intrigue, battle strategy, and heartfelt angst, The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney weaves a harrowing tale of courage and love. Love for one's king. Love for one's country. Love for one's true mate. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Scotland's heritage and history, well-written war novels, or historical fiction in general.

Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.

Monday, May 16, 2016

INTERVIEW with CHANNING TURNER, author of JONATHAN'S SHIELD


We're pleased today to bring you an interview with Channing Turner, author of Jonathan's Shield. Turner grew up in Arkansas and Louisiana before graduating from Louisiana State University in Psychology. He did graduate work in marine biology and became an estuarine biologist along the Texas Coast. He now lives in eastern Washington with his wife, Barb. 

After a degree in psychology and graduate work in marine biology, how did your attention turn to writing historical fiction? Have you always had an interest in writing about the past?
I've always had an interest in writing. I had a great English teacher in high school many years ago who encouraged me to be a writer. Because of her I actually majored in English for a couple of years at LSU. I didn't see a career path there so I switched to psychology. Not that I had any particular love for psych—I just needed to keep my 2-S student deferment and it seemed an easy enough field of study. If you're old enough to remember the draft during Viet Nam you know what I mean.

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I believe I started off reading about Horatio Hornblower in junior high. I still love sea sagas. A lot of this genre involves war and rumors of war, and I naturally gravitated to those stories. One thing I have learned from history is that there is nothing new under the sun about people. Humanity has been either depraved or noble ever since we realized there was a difference.

What kind of research was involved in writing Jonathan’s Shield?
Well the basic storyline wasn't so hard. I just followed 1st Samuel in the Old Testament, starting around chapter thirteen. It's really a compelling tale that has always fascinated me. As far as research? Whew. I had no idea how many books and articles—even magazines--there are about those Biblical times until I started. I studied ancient warfare, daily living, wedding customs, and a little geography.The more I found, the more I wanted to know. Most of my research was with a hard copy in hand. I like the heft of a book. I've added a few of them to my library.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Which authors have had the most influence over you as a writer?
In no particular order: James Lee /Burke ( Reading one of his now. He is also a Louisiana boy who moved to Montana. I really like the way he makes the setting part of the story.) Both Michael and Jeff Shaara, C.J. Box, Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O'Brian, and Larry McMurty.
I don't know how much influence any of them have other than I wish I could write like Burke.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in writing fiction but haven’t yet taken the plunge?
I found out that writing a book is hard. Nothing "just writes itself." Join a book critique group or a group of like minded writers. It's good to have at least some of them with actual publishing experience. Get an editor.

Are you working on any other writing projects currently? What’s next for you?
I have just finished a sort of modern day western/thriller where the new west meets terrorism. It's going through critiquing with my book group.at the moment. Then I'll submit it and see what happens. The very first novel I wrote was rejected by the publisher that's now handling Jonathan's Shield, but they at least gave it a fair reading first. They have asked if I'd rewrite it for them again knowing what I know now about book writing. It's been a couple of years, but I think I will.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell BookPound readers?
It takes a long time. First you write it. Have others besides your spouse and mother read it. It's good to have them read as you write it, say for instance chapter by chapter..Get folks who are writers themselves though and get a thick skin. Of course, you love your wording, your prose, the story, but If not everybody else gets it or likes it, It's not because they're dullards. It's because you didn't write it clearly enough.


Be prepared to market the book and yourself. That's a lesson I'm in the process of learning right now. In a way it's the hardest lesson of all. 

Learn more about Channing Turner and his books at his website and on Facebook.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

8 Great Reads Set in Springtime

If the weather in your town is anything like the weather in mine, we're in the throes of up-and-down springtime. Some days feel like paradise, and other days feel like winter is threatening to come back. On those days when the cold wind blows, I like to immerse myself in a good springtime story.

If you're craving spring, try one of these.

1. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Victorians seemed to have a real penchant for springtime and all the symbolism that comes with new life, freshness, and romance. In this story, Lord Chatterley has been injured in the war, and his relationship with his wife has been strained. Lady Chatterley turns her attention to a lowly game-keeper--which was highly improper on several fronts: morality, social classes, etc.

2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

It's not a story, but Leaves of Grass captures spring and summer deliciously. The poetry in this book reminds us that just as surely as the cold winds of winter blow, spring will always return again: "To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns, / With grass and flowers and summer fruits of corn."

3. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The four women in this novel really know how to get over the winter blues. They rent a villa around Positano, Italy, and live a life of leisure for the month of April. While there, they find love, friendship, and renewal. After you read the book, find a copy of the movie.

4. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Here's another story set in Italy in the spring. Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, has recently defeated his half-brother in a military operation. They reconcile and return to the capital as guests of the Governor, Leonato. A young nobleman in Don Pedro's army (Claudio) falls in love with Leonato's daughter Hero, but he's too shy to court her on his own. Don Pedro woos her for Claudio, and things get pretty sticky and confused for a while. The language is hilarious, and the characters are wonderful. The movie featuring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh captures the story perfectly.

5. Katherine by Anya Seton

First published in 1954, this substantial novel tells the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. They're the ancestors of most of the British royal family. It's set in the 14th century: knights fight in battles, serfs struggle in poverty and oppression, and the magnificent Plantagenets rule despotically over a court rife with corruption and intrigue. John of Gaunt, the king's son falls in love with Katherine, who is already married. Uh oh.

6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

What was it like to be young, poor, and endlessly creative in Paris in the 1920's? If you've ever wondered about this question, the answers are in this book. Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921. At the time Picasso was experimenting with cubism, James Joyce was working on Ulysses, and Gertrude Stein was holding court at 27 Rue de Fleurus. This book contains reflective sketches of Hemingways's circle of artist and writer friends, some of whom achieved fame and glory.

7. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Seinfeld has nothing on the Pickwick Papers. Dickens' comic masterpiece, written when he was 24 years old, catapulted him to fame. And no wonder: these characters--Snodgrass, Tupmon, Winkle, Pickwick, and Sam Weller--are hilarious and manage to get themselves into more scrapes than they can escape.

8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Okay, so technically this book was written for children, but adults will find it no less mesmerizing. Orphaned Mary Lennox finds herself living at her uncle's large house on the Yorkshire Moors. At night she hears the sound of crying down one of the mansion's long corridors, but no one will tell her what's going on. The house's large gardens provide Mary's only escape from the strangeness and coldness of the house. One day, Mary discovers a secret garden surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. If ever there were a book about springtime, renewal, and life, this is it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

EXCERPT TOUR: PROMISE LODGE by CHARLOTTE HUBBARD


SUMMARY
Energetic widow Mattie Bender Schwartz is working day and night to get Promise Lodge going. She’s also hoping the change will help her son Noah’s heart to heal after his broken engagement. But his former fiancée, Deborah, is looking for a fresh start too. Filled with regret, and cast out by her dat for a reason she can’t yet reveal, Deborah can only pray Noah will forgive her foolishness.

Deborah is the last person Noah expected to show up at Promise Lodge. But with her cruel words still ringing in his head, he’s reluctant to accept her apology—even if the Old Order ways demand he try. If only he could obey Christ’s most important commandment: love one another. But one thing is certain—his mother and aunts, and their beloved Preacher Amos, will do their best to help him get there.

EXCERPT
Noah led the horse into the corral and topped off the water trough. The steady pounding coming from the barn told him that either his brother or Preacher Amos was inside. Until new families arrived, they were the only three men at Promise Lodge, and he felt more like talking with one of them than subjecting himself to the hens in the lodge—not to mention facing Deborah again so soon.

As Noah entered the shadowy structure, where cracks in the weathered lumber allowed some daylight through, his older brother Roman looked up from the stanchion he was constructing. When this property had been a church camp, riding horses, tack, and hay had been stored here, so he and Amos were renovating it into a dairy barn for Aunt Christine’s Holstein herd. After her husband died last fall, Roman had taken over the milking and the care of the cows.

“Problem?” Roman asked. “By the look on your face, your mouth was open when a bird flew over.”

Noah grimaced. “Deborah’s here. Begging for my forgiveness.”

His brother’s eyebrows shot up. “And you said—?”

He thrust the canister at Roman and then walked around, checking out the progress on the remodeling. “I told her I wanted no part of courting her again.”

“Gut answer! Amos brought five more letters from the post office this morning, from families wanting to come to Promise Lodge,” his brother said in a rising voice. “Three of those families have daughters. They’re looking for affordable land and fresh bloodlines to marry into. So here we are, brother. The answer to their prayers, right?” Roman pried off the canister lid, inhaled deeply, and then stuffed a brownie into his mouth.

Noah sighed, allowing the thrum of the agitator in the bulk milk tank to fill the silence. Before fall, they needed to construct a separate stable for their horses, and within the next week or two they’d have to build a roadside stand where the girls could sell their produce. So much work, so little time.

“Still can’t argue that Deborah’s brownies are the best, though,” Roman remarked. “Looks like you’ve eaten a few.”

“Jah, they were a peace offering. But once the sugar wears off, you’re only hungrier for something more substantial.”

Roman chortled. “That’s where these new girls might be just the ticket. But if Deborah has asked you to forgive her, you know Mamm and the aunts will side with her,” he pointed out. “And Preacher Amos’ll be reminding you about that seventy-times-seven thing, when it comes to letting go of old grudges. Even if you don’t want to marry her anymore, he’ll tell you to forgive and forget.”

It was true. Preacher Amos was an admirable man, even if he’d come to Promise Lodge mostly because he had his eye on Mamm. He was more laid back than Preacher Eli or Bishop Obadiah Chupp, but he insisted on following the rules Jesus had taught. There would be no wiggling out of forgiving Deborah, no crying foul just because she’d jilted him. Forgiveness was the cornerstone of the Old Order faith. They had both joined the church last year, so he couldn’t ignore Christ’s most important commandment: love one another.

But he couldn’t forgive Deborah. Couldn’t let go of the pain that gave him a reason to get up in the morning. If he was hurting this badly, he was still alive, right? It was proof he hadn’t curled up in a ball and rolled into a hole.

He intended to move on. To love again and marry someday.

But Deborah no longer figured into his plans.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Many moons ago—like, in 1983 while she was still a school librarian—Charlotte Hubbard sold her first story to True Story. This launched her into writing around seventy of those “true confessions” stories over the years, and she’s been a slave to her overactive imagination ever since. Over the course of her writing career, she has sold nearly 50 books—most recently, Amish romance series she’s written as Charlotte Hubbard or Naomi King.
Charlotte lived in Missouri for most of her life, so her Amish stories are set in imaginary Missouri towns. These days she lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband of 40 years and their Border collie, Ramona.

GET THE BOOK
Promise Lodge, Book 1
Zebra (February 26, 2016)
ISBN-13: 9781420139419 •• ISBN-10: 142013941X

Click on these links to buy this book now!

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=142013941X/
Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=9781420139419
The Book Depository http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781420139419
B-A-M http://www.booksamillion.com/product/9781420139419
Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/a/9781420139419-item.html
IndieBound  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781420139419
Powell’s  http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781420139419
Kensington Books  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/32120

 Ebook:

Kindle  http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Lodge-Charlotte-Hubbard-ebook/dp/B00Y6RB2PA/
Nook  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/promise-lodge-charlotte-hubbard/1121998591?ean=9781420139426
iBooks  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/promise-lodge/id1013564715?mt=11
Google Play   https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Charlotte_Hubbard_Promise_Lodge?id=mZOmCQAAQBAJ
Kensington  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/32119
Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/promise-lodge

WEBSITE   www.CharlotteHubbard.com

Facebook    www.Facebook.com/Charlotte.Hubbard1

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Charlotte will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host.

















Thursday, February 25, 2016

REVIEW of AS THE SUN RISES by NATHAN SMITH

Ravenswood Publishing
February 1, 2016

SUMMARY
A dying man pulls himself across the Sahara Desert. His only company, a talking macaw. And his only reason to continue, love. Somewhere across this desert is the girl who is worth everything to him. 

Flash back to the man’s childhood. He and his parents live in Guatemala City during the 1980s where there is talk of a communist rebellion in the jungle, and the whispers have reached the United States. 

Events force the boy and his mother to return to their ancestral home, a Mayan village deep in the jungle where rebels hide. During this time, the boy grows into a young man and falls in love with a girl who to him is worth everything. But then the genocides, funded by the United States, find their village. 

REVIEW by Sara E. Dykes
As I read Nathan Smith's new work, As the Sun Rises, the recent passing of Harper Lee still rings fresh in my mind. Mr. Smith strives to do for the Mayan genocide of Guatemala what Ms. Lee did for Southern race relations: bring to the forefront something which is not readily discussed. However, there are striking differences. Ms. Lee's work discussed political and social issues which were merely uncomfortable or improper subjects for polite company. The subject discussed in As the Sun Rises, in contrast, I would wager is not discussed because most people have never heard of the Mayan genocide of Guatemala. Before reading this work, I had never heard of this issue, which I am sure is true for most Americans. It simply was not taught in our history books. This is of little surprise when one learns that it was we Americans who provided the weapons and ammunition with which these killings were committed. Therefore, I am grateful for Mr. Smith's work which not only dares to shed light on a little known political and historical topic, but lends to the thought process of how such a travesty occurred. A sage quotation of Harper Lee is apropos here: “The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.” As the Sun Rises does just that.

Blending Christian faith with Mayan legend, our tale begins with José's impossible adventure through the Sahara Desert. Starving, dehydrated, and on the brink of death, José quite literally crawls from one side of Africa to the other, struggling toward both a home and love lying across a vast ocean on yet another continent, neither of which he is certain wait for him there. Along his path, José receives help from Lupe, a Mayan god in disguise, and from Jesus who - just as in real life - is always there, but particularly when you need Him most.

The tale shifts between José's desert trials and his childhood in Guatemala. There we learn who José is, how he met his love, Elena, and how their love can be strong enough to drag him out of captivity, through one of the world's most barren lands, and across a broad ocean just for the hope that she awaits him there.

José experiences hardship and doubts on his journey. At some points, he even wants to quit. At some points, he does – or at least he tries. Nevertheless, Lupe's guidance and José's undying love for Elena push him onward toward his goal. His story brings to mind another Harper Lee truth:  “Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”As the Sun Rises is a short work; I read it in one sitting. I could not put it down. It is a page turner. Mr. Smith's writing is moving and deep. His words not only tell an overarching story, but he has the power to drive home a point in just the few words of one statement. Two particular quotations struck me as I went through the book: “'Mama, look! Mama, it was Jesus and they asked him to leave.'” (p. 13) and “That day, the price of cola around the world became higher than it ever had before, even though one could still purchase a bottle with the same number of coins.” (p. 28)

The cruel captivity and torture that José experiences and the violence and murder that plague both the cities and villages of Guatemala are disturbing. Tales of woe, heartbreak, and death often are. Although the book focuses on José's journey through the desert, the story is compelling and brings a spotlight to an otherwise unmentioned tragedy in which our American government was complicit. I commend Mr. Smith for heeding that persistent nagging that would not relent until he brought this issue to light in writing. I recommend this book not only for its stunning story and writing, but for the education on this rarely touched issue. Thank you, Mr. Smith, for writing a book to make us think.


Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REVIEW of WAR AND REMEMBRANCE by HERMAN WOUK

WAR AND REMEMBRANCE
Herman Wouk
October 1978
Little, Brown & Company



SUMMARY
The multimillion-copy bestsellers that capture all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of the Second World War -- and that constitute Wouk's crowning achievement -- are available for the first time in trade paperback.

REVIEW by Sara E. Dykes
Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.


These two classic works [War and Remembrance and The Winds of War] capture the tide of world events even as they unfold the compelling tale of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.


Despite devouring The Winds of War, it took me a long time to finish War and Remembrance. I wanted to read it. I longed to read it. I stared at it every single day on my shelf, wishing I had the energy to continue. I tried to gorge myself on it in May of 2015, hoping to finish it in time to celebrate Mr. Wouk's 100th birthday. I failed. I made the mistake of reading some birthday tribute articles, one of which spoiled an upcoming plot line. I then found I could not pick up the novel knowing the fate of one of the characters, though I had guessed it myself from the first book. After this setback and a trying year of personal health issues, I was determined to honor Mr. Wouk by finishing War and Remembrance before year's end 2015. And so I did – New Year's Eve night.

War and Remembrance is the continuing story of the Henry family and their in-laws, the Jastrows, as they navigate the wartime waters of the Pacific, as well as the tides of Nazi-occupied Europe. The plot lines of The Winds of War are continued and thickened. While Mr. Wouk has often said that War and Remembrance is itself the true story and The Winds of War merely a prequel, it would be hard to deny that knowing the characters as well as if they were family assists this journey into the heart of the world's darkest hours. Despite that, the author's talent creates a story that one can absolutely follow without its pre-War companion.

When the tale begins, we find our beloved characters where we left them. All three Henry men are stationed in the Pacific. Pug commands one of the best ships of the Pacific fleet, at one point joining Admiral Halsey in his plight. Warren Henry enthusiastically hunts the enemy by air, joining thousands of flyboys who flew harrowing missions during the War. Always Warren's contrast, Byron, the once reluctant submariner, begins to enjoy the thrill of the underwater hunt as the war with Japan brings the seas to a boil. Despite that, he admittedly would rather be in Europe, hunting his missing wife, child, and well-respected uncle-in-law.

Yes, the Jastrows are still somewhere in Europe. We follow their flight for survival through underground networks utilizing filthy and dangerous transportation, close calls with officials, an all too brief reunion, and, unfortunately, into Nazi-established ghettos and concentration camps. As with any World War II novel, the horrifying and inexcusable treatment of the Jewish people is brought home, sometimes in excruciating detail. The worst part might be that (and she admits this herself) Natalie could have prevented all of this by staying in the U.S., but her love and devotion to her Uncle Aaron are too strong. Guilt and second-guessing plague all of the characters' minds, as I am sure it would in any survival situation. “What if?” But “What if?” will not save you in the Jewish ghettos, so Natalie and Aaron find ways to withstand the Nazi torment and take it one day at a time.

Overall, the novel is a tale of love and survival on many fronts. There are harrowing scrapes, profound heartbreaks, and – as with actual war – not everyone makes it out alive. In this particular novel, there are many casualties of war, including both relationships and beloved characters. Even those who survive will never be the same again; they, too, are victims of war.

When I finished this novel, I was heartbroken. I wept not only for the characters and the tragedy of war but, as always, because I had just finished a great work of art. Mr. Wouk's stunning words and artistry of story never cease to amaze me. I am truly grateful for his talent and that he chooses to share it with us. I meant to complete this review in time to serve as a 100th birthday tribute, a gift if you will. Obviously that did not happen. I will say this: Thank you, Mr. Wouk, for your gift of writing to us. 


Sara E. Dykes enjoys reading, writing, classic film, and any combination thereof. She is a Georgia licensed attorney with an LL.M. concentration in gender and health law. Sara currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where she works in the discovery side of the legal field.

Friday, January 22, 2016

INTERVIEW with ANDREA BENNETT, author of GALINA PETROVNA'S THREE-LEGGED DOG STORY


Andrea Bennett lives in Ramsgate, Kent, UK. Her debut novel Galina Petrovna's Three-Legged Dog Story has been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and French. We're so glad to have her with us on the BookPound today. Thanks for taking the time, Andrea!

Who have been the biggest influences on you as a writer?
That's hard to say, as I haven't studied writing: I just decided to write a book and didn't think about the way I wrote it, the style or genre, or even the potential audience. I'm learning! I love the works of Mikhail Bulgakov, a Soviet writer of the 1920s - 1930s. I like the way he deals with serious subjects with humour and humanity. He was a writer who suffered greatly under Stalin, but his writing remains gentle, funny, intricate and hopeful. 


I love light-hearted literate: PG Wodehouse is a favourite, especially when life is busy and I feel the need to get away from it all. I also love Graham Greene, Alan Bennett and Wilkie Collins.


You worked as a translator in Russia for several years. Do you think translating changed the way you write your own stories? What were some of your favorite experiences there?
Translating changed the way I think about words: it made me concentrate on their essence, their order, and the grammar too. I was a translator and editor, working mainly on laws, contracts and market reports. I was always being pushed to make things more succinct: to cut out everything that wasn't necessary. So it definitely helped me remember to get to the point. 


I had a lot of interesting experiences in Moscow - mostly not to do with translating though! It was a city of huge contrasts: lines of poor old women outside the mainline stations trying to sell any old rubbish (like single spoons, single shoes) in order to scrape together the money for a loaf of bread, meanwhile the streets were clogging up with Hummers and Alfa-Romeos. 

There was a lot going on culturally. Picture this: I remember a gay club that ran once a week in a Pioneer Club (like a Soviet scout club) out in the suburbs. Everyone was talking about it: pop stars would turn up and play, unannounced. There was no advertising, just word of mouth. The highlight of the evening was when a pair of male synchronised swimmers would dive into the fish tank (it was one of those ones that covers a wall) and do a fabulous swimming display to music, which would end with them whipping off their trunks. It sticks in my mind as one of those crazy Moscow nights. I should add here that Russian society is generally highly homophobic, so the whole thing was both crazy and brave.


Tell us about the process of writing Galina Petrovna's Three Legged Dog Story.

I started writing the story in spring 2012. I was in the middle of some difficult life changes and I found it really helped to sit down and write of an evening (or morning) instead of sitting around worrying or taking up smoking again. I had to force myself to sit down and concentrate, but after a while I really looked forward to that time spent with my characters. I found it very settling, and they were good company.

The story was based on kernel of truth, as they say: when I lived in Moscow I had a boyfriend whose family lived in Azov. And he had a grandmother who had a three-legged dog called Boroda. I met them both. The real Boroda was sadly taken away by the dog warden -- and unfortunately she was never returned. It was such a sad story, and my boyfriend's grandmother was such a feisty, strong woman: I just decided to rewrite real life. 

It took me about 18 months to complete, with long gaps where I did nothing, like when I moved house and at Christmas and the school summer holidays. When I'd just about finished it, a friend sent me an email telling me about the Borough Press open submission, where any unpublished and unagented writer could send in a completed manuscript and they'd pick one to publish. I couldn't believe it when my story was chosen: I was so amazed.


How is your son doing? We read your piece about him in The Telegraph.
My son Archie will be 18 at the end of January: I can't believe it! In some ways time really has flown. He is quite a character and is doing well, despite the special school he attended for 10 years being closed down due to financial difficulties just before Christmas. He is now attending another local school that specialises in supporting students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and he's settling in well. We've really been lucky in that he remains physically well and pretty robust. He also loves his food and a blustery dog walk.


As he's going to be 18 soon we have to start thinking about where he will live and how he will be supported in adult care (as opposed to children's services). It's a whole new ball game, but we know how it's played: we have to do the leg-work, and we have to hold our ground if we think he's being offered care that is not suitable. Onwards and upwards!


Are you working on any new writing projects? What's next for you?
I am working on a new book -- I'm just taking a break from it to do this interview! I have a deadline for the manuscript to be with my editor by mid-February, with a view to publication in February 2017. This novel sticks with the setting of the town of Azov, but we meet a new set of characters, and the tone is a little darker, although hopefully there are still plenty of laughs in it. Once this one is finished, I will start the next one - which will be a complete departure. I'm thinking 1980s coming-of-age small-town punk band near Birmingham: but we'll have to see what my publisher says.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell BookPound readers?
I'd like to say that you don't have to be interested in Russia to like Galina Petrovna's Three-Legged Dog Story: just people's stories. And also that it will be available in paperback in the USA as of 3rd May!

Connect with Andrea Bennett at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.