Snowflake Obsidian by Sage Steadman: Book Review

Title: Snowflake Obsidian: Memoir of a Cutter

Author: Sage Steadman

Genre: Memoir

Snowflake Obsidian is a very honest book, ‘beautiful and sincere’, as the main protagonists are. It is the story of Willow, her seemingly picture perfect life with her relationship and identity issues forming a backdrop. My ‘word’ for this book is ‘Redemption’ which is what I felt when I closed the book, having read it in a few breathtaking swoops.

The Book Blurb

Willow’s your basic potty-mouth Mormon hippie with anger issues. Despite her parents fighting, her life is seemingly perfect. She has lots of friends, little responsibility and a stunning collection of sequined pillows. But everything changes when she and her best friend fall for the same guy. River is sexy, mysterious, and likes to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But there is something more behind his troubled jade eyes that draws Willow in. Relationships are tested and Willow ends up friendless and alone as she navigates the rough waters of a fiery first love. Soon, the illusions of her perfect world crumble and Willow must reexamine the beliefs that once built her rocky foundation. This quirky coming of age story follows Willow and River’s unlikely romance as they battle their own inner demons and struggle to find themselves and their place in the adult world.

Review

Willow describes herself as a Mormon Hippie who has a wonderful life. She has a good social circle, with a loyal gang of friends who seem to be hanging out with each other forever. Heck, they even have regular sleepovers, drifting in and out of each other’s houses without much hesitation. Parents or any kind of adults are strangely absent through these interactions. Even when these teenagers/adults face aggravated conditions like sexual assault, drug use or mental health issues the adults are in the background, sympathetic but not really playing an active role in their children’s lives.

The protagonists are on their own mostly, with their doubts, insecurities and identity issues, looking for guidance and support through their friends. And yet, this is the chronicling of a different kind of struggle where the protagonist, Willow, reaches the end, not just ‘whole’ but positively glowing.

Snowflake Obsidian touches on the difficult topics of drug use, depression and self harming behaviour like cutting oneself and dies do with a great amount of sensituvity. I had expected to feel repulsed by the cutting but I felt a lot of sympathy towards the main characters. Therapy is mentioned in some detail and the entire process of healing through thinking, understanding, analysing and getting there takes some time and false starts but they get there, the protagonists do.

In the middle of all the teenage angst, multiple relationships and manipulative people, is a light of rare sensitivity and beauty, through art, through genuine expression and the voicing of deep felt emotions.

I was intrigued by the name of the book and when the stone, Snowflake Obsidian takes an important place in the book, I had to look it up. It is a rock, used for healing purposes to help balance body, mind and spirit. Willow keeps this rock with her all the time when she is in the depressive phase of her life and trying to find balance in her emotions.

Even though the language is unpretentious and casual in places, the narration is never rambling. The pacing is also good, with short and long chapters, which move the story forward fast.

In midst of all the teenage-and-beyond troubles, there is real beauty of expression and language.

“I … realised that loving was easier to do than not loving, and not loving only led to suffering.”

The redemption of the book is not just about messy relationships and getting back to a place of love. It is also about self acceptance and openess.

There is also a quirky sense of humour, an ability to laugh at oneself.

“Every thought I had came with its own editorial on the subject. As if I had my own gossip column running in my head, complete with wild assumptions, scarring opinions, diluted facts and unwavering criticism.”

And then, there is the peanut analogy that kept getting funnier with each unpeeling layer.

Verdict

Don’t miss this gem of a book. Snowflake Obsidian is a real book with real issues and it shows the way to light and peace.

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My Haunted Bed & Breakfast by Phyllis Moore: Book Review

Title: My Haunted Bed & Breakfast

Author: Phyllis Moore

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Destiny Series

My Haunted Bed & Breakfast is a delightful novella of hauntings and ghosts and magic that bring in more fun than chills.

Eleanor Rune is a woman running from memories, wanting to bury her past and get on with her life. Trying to get over the sorrow of the death of her partner, she comes across a damaged house that she feels she can convert into a B & B and earn a living. What she does not know is that the house is haunted; it has three friendly ghosts who turn her sorrowful and purposeless life into a roller coaster of fun: earning money, finding a husband and the biggest of all: magic in her life.

Review

The best part of the book is the fun factor. The MC is able to accept the ghosts without much trouble. Even her guests at the B & B have more fun with the capers of the ghosts than feeling afraid because they feel that these are just special effects.

There are many other incidents of ghosts and magic that just bring a lot of childish fun and joy in people’s lives. So, the reader settles down to enjoy the good side of the magic.

The three ghosts and the haunted house guide the MC to unlikely places and people who are to become an important part of her life.

I liked the characters very much; they are well etched out, intriguing and engaging. Sarafine as the eccentric woman is the most lovable. The twins, Eleanor’s children, have very strong characterisation. The ghosts are well rounded too. I only wished that the husband Codere was etched out better.

The story is very interesting, engaging and at no point does the pace of the story slows down. Phyllis has a way of getting straight to the point, without much awkwardness and really that is a very strong point of this novella. It could have been a simple book about the ghosts at the haunted house, however, the author manages to bring a large chunk of the MC’s lifetime to this book, setting the story for further books in the series and for a deeper story and conflict.

Verdict

An entertaining novella about haunted houses and magic that brings more joy than scare.

Download the book from Amazon.

A Day in the Life of a Writer: Romila

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days…”

Annie Dillard in The Writing Life

People imagine writers to be gainfully occupied, writing up things most of the time. But writers also grapple with plenty of self doubt. To get better at their craft, they have to be consistent in what they are doing. They are not always motivated and that is where routines and schedules come in.

To show up in spite of what they feel is what makes them dedicated writers.

On Read Write Live, let us celebrate writers and their days so that we get a glimpse into what makes them tick.

The first Featured Writer in this series is Romila, who gives us a glimpse of what her typical day looks like.

About today’s Featured Author

Romila is a mix of North and South Indian traditions. She is one of the best produce of 1980’s. She wears many hats on her head- Writer/Blogger/Author/Poetess/Reader. She likes good food and music. She doesn’t have any cats and dogs at home. She writes about topics as assorted as art, relationships, style, pop culture, genders. She loves her diamonds D’s. She is a kohl-eyed girl. A coffee addict. She is a wannabe world traveller and a compassionate Scorpio.

You can read her work on her blog.
Get in touch with her on Twitter.

The funniest thing about being a writer is that my job is expected to be made up of a more supernatural substance than most. It is not just another hobby but a serious work and hardly people understand this!

Telling people that I am a writer is like telling them you’re distant cousins with Jacksons or Kardashians — where people tend to think this is a very cool thing when it is, in fact, not easy. I find myself trapped in a conversation where I have to answer the same omnipresent questions: What do you write? Do you make any money? You should write a story about your life? I’m working on a novel; do you want to read it? Did you get nominated for awards?

I love being the centre of attention because of my work. I’ve been a full-time employee of many publications. At times I’ve worked on publishing many articles per day in print medium, at other times I’ve worked on sponsored content, editing work for other people, writing books, ghost-writing articles, writing poems, journaling, fiction, social media content and just about anything else that requires stringing a few words together. For me writing is more like other careers than it is an island unto itself. This applies the same formula: work hard, practice, put the hours in, be nice to people, get lucky if you can, if it doesn’t work try something else, look at what people who are successful in your industry do and listen to what they have to say about getting to where they are.

I get ideas for articles or little snippets when I’m walking around, working on something else, watching YouTube, trying to fall asleep, or exercising. No matter how it is, I write it down in my journal or in my phone. One thing is important- consistency and building a habit of writing every day, regardless of how inspired I feel. For myself my writing routine varies. I use the day to respond to emails, read, publish what I’ve written the night before, listen to music, get ideas, brainstorm, edit pieces, but night-time is my time. It’s when things slow down; the world is calm and quiet. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one. I listen to music when I’m working. I’m able to work fairly well (read as write) when I have my coffee and chocolates with me. My bedroom and writing room is the same. There’s a lot of traffic as I live on the main road. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. I am used to write in this situation. I strongly feel a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

Why do you write so much? – I seem to get asked that question a lot on daily basis. This year alone – hardly 6months down it is of 2018 I have written 189 posts ( in my own blog), 19 guest posts, 2 eBooks, reviewed 42 books and I have much more for the next few months. If I had to guess, that’s somewhere in the range of 1, 50,000 words and more. The short answer is that I LOVE TO WRITE. I’ve committed to doing it and creative commitments help with motivation. I feel like I’d go crazy if I didn’t. It feels good to say and get out things that are inside me. If I wanted to publish an article every single day–or 10 articles a day–I could. And those articles could find readers if they were good. This is a blessing. Writing is how I express myself. It’s how I make sense of the world I live in and the thoughts that I have. If a writer doesn’t consider themselves as an important member of their own audience, they’re just showing off. A huge chunk of what I publish is published because I felt I needed to hear it.

Fortunately I am one of those blessed ones who never experienced writer’s block. I am always buzzing with ideas irrespective of the situation I am in. I have been asked for advises to overcome this problem and I would say – eliminate distractions, do something to get your blood flowing- (I like running and jogging), Listen to music, brew some coffee (my personal favourite), spend time with someone who makes you feel good and discuss ideas or brainstorm ideas in bullet points. The possibilities are endless, but movement is critical.

I’ve been writing for a long, long time. My first memory of writing is asking my mom for a pen and a stack of paper at age three or four, because I wanted to scribble. I was and I am still surrounded by pens, pads and books. I’ve been writing – poems, stories, essays, blogs. Writing is My Thing. I make a living from my writing and I’ve learned the ins and outs of how it all works, but it wasn’t always easy. It’s a lot of work, and you have to be up for the challenge to be successful.

Every so often, budding writers message or tweet me asking for advice. If you’re thinking about starting a career as a writer, here’s what you should know – Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism from those you respect and trust. Listening and learning will only improve your writing. Write as much as possible. Write it out and save it all. It’s surprising which words become the important ones.

I laugh a lot at people’s ignorance when they come up to me and say -being a writer means just sitting at Starbucks and tap-tapping away at the backlit keys of your computer while swaying to smooth jazz and breathing in a dark roast. It’s these kinds of faux-chic images that make people think writers are just people with a lot of time on their hands or that the craft of writing is all effortless inspiration. I scream loudly to make the world listen that I am a writer, I am a pen bearer, the font fanatic, and the late-night warrior, know better. My daily life isn’t always so romantic or easy—there’s annoyance, there’s monotony, there’s absolute horror. Creative careers are fantastic, but they don’t fairly pan out smooth as each one expects.

I write by hand and type out the final draft. I have a serious stationery fetish and if I see a nice new notepad or pen I will have to buy it, regardless of whether I have finished the one I am currently using. I never feel guilty about this. The very particular pleasure of writing on virgin paper is worth it, regardless of how useful or wasteful it is/was. When I write on my computer, there is, of course, the temptation of the internet. Email and Twitter are my primary culprits.

There are weekends, when I don’t write, but I use the internet instead. I see the internet as a beautiful resource. On my writing desk is my journal, on to which I jot down things I need to look up – some to do with the book I am writing, my next articles drafts or others completely unrelated.

Almost all of my writings (perhaps including this one too) are longed-for. I have won awards of being the best among the huge lot. Winning them has affected my writing life in a positive way. These titles mean a lot. It’s so nice to have people appreciate what I am doing. I am always figuring out as to what is going to be the reaction of next published work. It’s an insane, insane honour to be liked for your work.

Dare to Dream by Huma Masood: Book Review

Title: Dare to Dream

Author: Huma Masood

Genre: Self help, Inspirational, Motivational

Dare to Dream is a concise handbook that guides you through the big and small decisions to an effective and fulfilling life. The book helps you chart out your vision and goals and gives tips on managing the stumbling blocks that you encounter along the way.

Review

Dare to Dream is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on where we want to go and what we want to achieve in life. To clarify our understanding of our aspirations and our future self, the author advocates the creation of a Vision Board.

The second part focuses on the action we need to take to move towards our desired self and the life of our dreams. It talks about the importance of right attitude as a preparation to reach for our dreams. It moves on to talking about simple changes a person can make that can cultivate growth, bringing about a compound change in lives.

There are quite a few parts in the book that resonated with me. There is a detailed discussion on the importance of a Vision Board and the instructions on how to go about creating one.

The section on Procrastination and the real reasons we procrastinate is very useful.

The book lays out very clearly how to uncomplicate and simplify our living. It involves decluttering not just the physical but our mental space as well.

I liked the portion on Positive ways to say no and how it is useful to an individual.

The section on Simple changes that cultivate growth is very useful, considering that it is very doable for anyone.

There are many parts in the book that each reader would relate to, depending on her need.

It is a rather wide sweeping book, covering a lot of unconventional material. There are tips on finances, on taking care of health, the importance of routines and habits and of getting a clear vision for your future. It is a mix of little tips and large changes backed with commonsense and a sound understanding of the principles of leading an effective life.

What works well

Examples bring clarity and interest to the subject. Also, the book is peppered with personal anecdotes which brings relatability to the content.

There are some real gems of advice in the book. I found myself highlighting text in the book that I wanted to return to.

About the Author

Huma Masood is a full-time stock market trader. She graduated from AMU and then did MBA in Finance / Marketing. She spent many years in Kuwait, where she completed her school education and worked in top MR consulting firms, before finally
settling in India.

Verdict

Dare to Dream is a handbook to being a better version of you. Work on the tips to be more focussed in getting what you want in life.

Download the book from here.

Insta Gita by Nupur Maskara: Book Review

Title: Insta Gita

Author: Nupur Maskara

Genre: Self help, Poetry, Religion, Theology

Insta Gita is a transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita, a poetic version of the verses in the scripture with the author’s added poetry, giving reactions from Arjuna’s perspective.

Review

The Bhagvad Gita has 700 verses in Sanskrit. While this Hindu scripture has acceptance across religions in India and is referred to as a guide to living right and with purpose, the original requires an in depth study.

Nupur’s Insta Gita distills the essence of the 18 chapters of the Gita in easy English language verses, summarising the important points, followed by author’s own little poems which are presented as reactions from Arjuna’s viewpoint.

The Gita is set as dialogue between the Pandava Prince, Arjuna and his charioteer, God Incarnate Lord Krishna as they stand in the battle field, ready to fight Arjuna’s extended family, the Kauravas.

At the moment of the commencement of the battle, Arjuna is beset with doubts. It is then that Krishna speaks to him of his duty, also elaborating upon many other philosophical concepts. This philosophical treatise becomes the text of the Gita.

For the layperson, it is difficult to wrap around one’s head around the philosophy that is propounded in this ancient text. And it is here that Insta Gita comes to the rescue of a reader like me, who has never read the original scripture but only come across a few of the learnings.

The book is divided into 18 chapters, each chapter talking of one part of the philosophy. The text captures the essence of the original and keeps it relatable and interesting.

The chapter names are not cryptic at all. I particularly liked the chapter names, God Zilla and Living La Vida Calma. In fact, the entire book is a friendly exposition of the deeper principles. I also found the usage of words like FYI, methinks, The Three Musketeers, K for Krishna as little steps that demystify the text and make it feel accessible.

The highlighted text in each chapter makes it easier to assimilate the important points in each chapter.

As a pointer to the practical usage of this knowledge in a person’s daily life, Nupur ends each chapter with a little poem of hers. She addresses Lord Krishna as K., which immediately makes the reader feel that the verses are accessible to anyone. She speaks from Arjuna’s perspective, of how he tries to use this philosophy in his life, training his body and mind.

Arjuna pauses midway
Between war and peace
His mind splits in two
Whichever way I choose
I know I’ll rue
But first to mine own self
I must be true

What works well

The format and the design of the book is very attractive. The heavy, prohibitive Sanskrit verses are transcreated in a form that is easy to follow.

The coloured pages, the summarising of the salient points and the little endearing images give the book a very contemporary feel.

The book ends with a colourful, easy to understand infographic on the Bhagavad Gita and how to use it in everyday life.

About the Author

Nupur Maskara likes writing short stuff that packs a punch. Expectedly, she began her career in advertising and is now in content writing. Her friends have branded her frequent blonde moments as Nupurisms. Read more of her work at her blog.

Verdict

Insta Gita packs a punch of wisdom in these bite sized verses that summarise the Gita’s main teachings.

Read it as a refresher and an immediate reference text.

Get the Kindle edition from Amazon.

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories by Priya Bajpai: Book Review

Title: Murder in the Palace and Other Stories

Author: Priya U Bajpai

Genre: Short Stories

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories is a delightful collection of stories where world building and exquisite language go hand in hand.

Review

The book has twelve stories, short, sweet and tangy. Starting from a contemporary detective story, the book moves on to other genres that explore time travel, sci fi, romance, feminism among others with a wide variety of settings. There is a story for everyone here.

The book starts with the eponymous story, Murder in the Palace and the most striking detail of the story is the detective herself. It seems a complex whodunit but the answers are found surprisingly fast and through deduction. I liked the way the story gets straight to the point from the first paragraph itself and yet there is no glossing over the backstory.

Geisha is expectedly set in Japan. It is such a lovely and poignant story. I was transported to a world of beauty, grace, elegance and love that is expressed in subtle ways.

Horrific Holocaust is set in Germany and brings into focus the Holocaust through teenage angst.

I’m II is science fiction that is chilling and is a little too real for comfort. The narrative is captivating.

The Mysterious Globe is almost magical, but it teases and seems unfinished.

I liked the Killer very much. It has an interesting twist in the tale and was so different from the stories I had read till that point.

Mia of Maya is wondrous. The narrator here is from the Mayan civilization and it is not the mere life but the wiping out of an entire people that the story addresses.

Dazzled and Banon’s Conundrum are also very striking stories, with completely unexpected endings.

Neil’s Shoe closes this collection and I was left with an other-worldly feeling, not just from this story but from the heady mix that I had just finished.

What works well

Priya has a very literary writing style and a way with world building that is very elaborate and yet succinct. All through the book, I was constantly struck by how versatile she is, through the choice of the storylines.

Each story is a different world and an experience in itself. I did not read the stories in one go. I picked them at random, savouring them.

The cover art of the book is gorgeous and is a definite plus for the book.

About the Author

Priya U Bajpai is a short story author and poet. She has also been published in mainstream newspapers. This literature scholar is a versatile story-teller. She is adept at writing fast-paced and layered tales across genres. This extremely modest writer lets her craft do the talking.

Verdict

This eclectic mix of stories show case a wide range of settings and emotions. Pick this collection if you like vivid descriptions and a literary writing style.

Download the book here. It is free for a limited period.

My Blog to Book Journey

This post about my eBook is part of Blogchatter EBook Post Chain.

I take on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival from Lavanya whose ebook ‘The Cockatiel Confessions and Other Collected Works‘ is also part of the mix.

About Lavanya’s ebook: Do you know why the moon is blue? Or why the cockatiel complains? A poor little rich girl & another girl who likes to gamble away her life credits. A tribal warrior & a time traveler. A celestial journey and a missing damsel.

My EBook Journey: When Love takes You Places

I am a compulsive list maker, in my daily life. I love writing listicles, in my blogging life.

For my readers who have been with me for some time, this wouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year I started a weekly listicles feature called Friday Listicles. I talked of how and why I loved listicles. I talked of books, of quotes that inspired me and the learnings in my writing journey. It was a busy time for me, non-blog wise and I was struggling to write regularly.

Sometimes I would wonder how to keep my inspiration strong. At other times, I struggled with being productive, having to juggle various projects. I was also editing my first draft of the previous year’s NaNoWriMo. Editing can be a frustrating and prohibitive experience.

I was sure that there were other writers out there facing the same problems as I did. Sometimes, I would settle down to think deeply about the writing itself, not just the words I was writing but the entire process of coming up with something I wanted to write about, keeping at it and making a good thing out of it. I realised that writing is not just writing the words but also the thinking, the researching, the editing, the rewriting. If I wanted to be good at the entire spectrum, I must acknowledge the stumbling blocks and know how to work around them.

My musings on writing came to the blog in the form of listicles. I was also aware that this would benefit many others who were struggling with some or the other aspect of the writing.

I wanted to put my blog posts in the form of a book.

When I joined Blogchatter this year, my dream seemed to be getting wings. Blogchatter is a community of bloggers on Twitter. It is an amazing place, a wonderful group of dedicated people who give support, provide information and opportunities for bloggers to grow better.

For Blogchatter EBook Carnival, bloggers curated content from their blogs to publish as eBooks. And that is how my own eBook came into being.

About my eBook

Finding Your Writing Flow will inspire you to pick your pen and explore your authentic voice to become the writer you want to be.

Simple and profound at the same time, the book guides you through self doubt, offering tips on recognising your passion for writing, finding inspiration when you feel stuck, staying productive in your writing projects, getting better at your craft and renewing yourself as a writer.

Experience a sense of calm, unleash the writer within and stay motivated with this book.

You can download the book from here. It is free for a limited period of time.

I pass on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival to Mayuri whose ebook ‘26 Favourite Foods & a Little Bit of Me‘ is also part of the mix.

About Mayuri’s ebook: Food and Memories – that is what her book is all about. Food has the power to keep you connected to your past, even as it evolves to fit the future. Come walk down memory lane with her as she shares with you her favourite foods, and memories.

Do click on the links and download these excellent books and support the authors.