Review of Jihadi: A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov


About Jihadi

A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions.

Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.

My Review

Absolutely brilliant, a read with a labyrinth of complexities demanding the perusers razor sharp focus and intelligence.

The layout of the book creates a multilevel story requiring the reader to savor at a somewhat languid pace otherwise the intricacies will be unappreciated. You’ll find yourself caught in the tangled web of truth, there are blurred lines on who to believe and authenticity.

Jihadi, government, politics and extreme circumstances. As the story unfolds you will experience shock and awe as well as disgust and loathing. Thelonius Lidell is a man caught up in a mess, he’s memorable along with his unimaginable story.

A challenging read well worth your time and effort. Masterfully crafted, reeling you in from the onset leaving you a mess at the end – no doubt you will be digesting what you have read long after the conclusion. A riveting, frightening yarn.

Yusuf Toropov will all certitude is a master storyteller, nothing less than impressive.

About Yusuf Toropov41qQTKOSMmL._UX250_

Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co-author of a number of nonfiction books, including Shakespeare for Beginners. His full-length play An Undivided Heart was selected for a workshop production at the National Playwrights Conference, and his one-act play The Job Search was produced off-Broadway. Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel. He currently lives in Northern Ireland.

Orenda Books (May 1, 2016)


Review: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr


About The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.

Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.

From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.

My Review

A potent story of passion, love and loss mixed with stunning prose. Tracy Farr’s stunning mesmerizing language will captivate your attention. Clearly an author telling a story masterfully, her words a tactile experience. Her description of the theremin is outstanding, you visualize as well as hear the instrument at the hands of Lena. She delves headfirst emotionally into Lena leaving you spent.

Lena Gaunt a woman of quiet strength, you understand her pain as she reflects on her past. A bohemian, fearless, goes with the wind until the unfairness of life strikes. Compartmentalization, her strength lessening, she’s a woman exhausted, tired of living stoically, self-medicating fails to sooth her prolonged agony. Farr knits a profound emotional connection with this protagonist, she’s dimensional and every emotion and feeling hidden resurfaces with extreme visibility.

“We all thought of ourselves as bohemian, as modern, as artists apart from the workaday world around us, and free from its morals and strictures, its curtain-twitching and mouth-pursing.”

The narrative was centered around music and art which I enjoyed. I’m not a fan of split narratives but in this instance it was done wonderfully. The premise of filming Lena emphasized her losses and heartbreak to both Lena and the reader, opening the proverbial Pandora’s box.

Between Farr’s marvelous writing and the in-depth sketch of Lena, this is one moving story, a story penetrating your heart and senses, memorable evocative and intense. Impressive debut from Farr, her originality, historical references marrying with fiction form a enthralling contemporary read.

About Tracy Farrtracy-farr-2013-colour-web-660

Tracy Farr is a novelist, short story writer, and former research scientist. She grew up in Perth, and has degrees in Science and Arts from the University of Western Australia. Since 1996 she’s lived in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tracy’s debut novel was The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies and literary journals (including Westerly, Indigo and Sport). She’s been awarded writing residencies and fellowships in Australia and New Zealand, including the inaugural Mildura Writers Festival Residency and a Varuna Second Book Fellowship in 2015.

Varuna Second Book Fellowship (2015)
Barbara Jefferis Award (Shortlisted 2014)
Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award (Winner 2014)
Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (Shortlisted 2014)
Miles Franklin Literary Award (Longlisted 2014)
R.A.K. Mason Writers’ Fellowship (2014)
BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award (Runner-up 2001)

Connect with Tracy:   Website | Twitter | Facebook

Published September 1st 2013 by Fremantle

Spotlight & Excerpt: Steady is the Fall by Emily Ruth Verona

General Fiction / Literary
Date Published: October 29, 2015

About Steady is the Fall

Holly Dorren can’t breathe. Think. Feel. Her cousin is dead. Nothing will bring him back. And nothing will ever make her whole again.

In the days following Larry’s funeral, Holly begins to reflect on the childhood they shared. She looks for answers in both the past and the present, convinced that understanding his fascination with death might somehow allow her to cope with his absence. She doesn’t want to disappear, but already she’s fading away from the life she’s led.

Holly knew her cousin better than anyone, she was his best friend, and yet there is still a great deal she cannot accept in their relationship. In him. In herself. She doesn’t know how to move on without him, but refusing to accept his death carries it’s own devastating price.

READ AN EXCERPT Steady Is the Fall

Purchase Links:


About Emily Ruth Verona31bw (3)

Emily Ruth Verona is the author of the novel Steady Is The Fall. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from the State University of New York at Purchase. She is the recipient of the 2014 Pinch Literary Award in Fiction and a 2014 Jane Austen Short Story Award. Previous publication credits include work featured in Read. Learn. Write., The Lost Country, The Toast, and Popmatters. She lives in New Jersey with a very small dog.

Connect with Emily Ruth Verona: Website | Twitter | Goodreads


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Excerpt & Giveaway: More More Time by David B. Seaburn

MMTFCover3General / Literary Fiction
Date Published: July 18, 2015

Maxwell Ruth, a cantankerous, old high school history teacher falls down his basement stairs and soon thereafter starts hearing “The Words” over and over again—

endingtimeendingtimeendingtime. His life is changed forever.

In this story we learn about the lives, loves, and losses of Max, Hargrove and Gwen Stinson, Beth and Bob Hazelwood, and Constance Young. They are lively, funny, at times; a little bit lost or wounded, yet resilient and hopeful. They are wrestling with life’s most challenging issues, including, abuse, loss, infidelity, aging, secrecy and what gives life meaning. And, like all of us, they would like more, more time to find the answers to life’s most important questions. The clock, though, is always ticking and time is always short..

Read Excerpts From More More Time

Purchase Links
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Savant Books and Publications

About David B. Seaburn
David B. Seaburn served a rural country parish, worked in community mental health, was an assistant professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for twenty years, and also directed a free public school-based family counseling center before his retirement in 2010. He has written five novels: More More Time (2015), Chimney Bluffs (2012), Charlie No Face (2011—Finalist in General Fiction, National Indie Excellence Awards), Pumpkin Hill (2007), and Darkness is as Light (2005). He and his wife live near Rochester, NY. They have two adult daughters and two wonderful granddaughters.

Contact David: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Enter to win a copy of Charlie No Face. See entry form for complete details.

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Promo Blitz & Giveaway: Falling on the Bright Side by Michael Gray

Falling on the Bright Side

•General Fiction / Literary
•Date Published: November 2014

Larry works in an Albuquerque nursing home and like many of its residents he is not thrilled to be at this last-stop warehouse for old folks. Trained as a counselor, he hardly notices the human spirit flowing around him until he meets Bill Foster. Bill, a successful clinical psychologist, is lying comatose after a left hemisphere stroke, as Philip Cook, one of his oldest patients, leans over the hospital bed listening intently to his inarticulate attempts to speak.

Through Philip’s uncanny understanding of Bill’s incoherent mutterings, an unlikely collaboration begins, linking the unconfident Larry with the experienced but speech-damaged Dr. Bill. That summer, with Larry’s wife and son out of town, Bill’s counseling practice helps renew Larry confidence as a therapist and–at the nursing home—he starts to see residents, families, and fellow staff as fellow human beings.

But old traumas (the drowning death of his brother and his misplaced blame of his father) run deep: each step seems to open the door for further falls from grace.

This is a novel about disability and the human depth that is left behind after the loss of physical and cognitive faculties. It is also a book about the power of forgiveness.

Falling on the Bright Side EXCERPT Chapter 1

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

About Michael GrayFalling on the Bright Side Author

Before coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he now reside with his wife and two sons, Michael Gray lived in Montreal, Canada and published short stories and poetry in the Antigonish and Wascana Reviews. He traveled in Europe for six months and South America for three months, but it was while working on farms, ranches, and an open-pit copper mine in Canada that he heard a door into the future creak open.

Michael’s memoir, The Flying Caterpillar (ABQ Press, 2012), as well as being a travel log of his life to-date, gives an account of his two decades with Friends in Time and explores the teachings and encounters which have proved to be valuable for a lifetime. In 2012, he also published Asleep at the Wheel of Time (ABQ Press), a SF novel about Whales, Aliens and humans. Both these books express his concern about the state of planet Earth in light of our accumulating indifference to the plight of our only home.

Michael’s newest novel, Falling on the Bright Side draws directly on his experience working with the disabled (For more than five years he’s also been President and sometimes ED of Pathways Academy, a school for kids with Autism and other learning issues). Falling tells the story of people who have been shelved in nursing home warehouses, or have otherwise lost their livelihood and value to society, and the narrative arc explores how the human dimension continues to shine in these human beings.

In his own life Michael has discovered that people who are in the process of losing their identities, occupations, and old friends are able to help him recognize a deeper truth about the human predicaments they share. This is a human truth which he also finds celebrated in Eastern spiritual teachings. Encountering the core of humanity in people whose familiar lives have dissolved, he seeks to learn their secret while he still has time on my side.

Connect with Michael: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Enter for a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, please complete the giveaway form below. See complete details on entry form.

Thrilled to be included in the tour for Michael Gray’s Falling on the Bright Side. Be sure to click on the Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you RAVBT!

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My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes

My Face for the World to See

Hollywood, where the tonic for anonymity is fame and you’re only as real as your image. At a party, the narrator, a screenwriter, rescues a young woman who staggers with drunken determination into the Pacific. He is living far from his wife in New York and long ago shed any illusions about the value of his work. He just wants to be left alone. And yet without really meaning to, he gets involved with the young woman, who has, it seems, no illusions about love, especially with married men.

Before there was Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction……there was My Face for the World to See

Alfred Hayes a man with incredible exact and blunt prose. Detailed, immaculate however he allows the reader to insert the intensity through actions and pauses described. It’s as if he places a dot on the page and it bleeds words cumulative into penetrating text.

The narrative is a disturbing tale of an liaison between an unnamed man and woman. The man is married, working away from home. In a lifeless marriage, he suffers from loneliness. He meets the unnamed woman under exceptional conditions. He saves her from near drowning undetermined if it was intentional or accidental. We discover the woman is burdened with issues of abuse, both physical and emotional leading to mental instability.

“The girl wavered a little now, with the cap gone and the cocktail glass at sea, and then she began to walk deeper into the ocean. She was pushing out into the water now, and she evidently wasn’t, as I had thought, wading. A big breaker came in and she went under. She really went under. I shouted something and jumped off the porch.”

Leary of his companion his loneliness prevails and they continue their interaction. As the story progresses the relationship deteriorates until it hits rock bottom.

A disturbing, ugly and savage tale of two strangers and the unforeseen end of something never having a beginning, middle or end.

Published July 23rd 2013 by NYRB Classics
Pages 152
ISBISBN13: 9781590176672

Recommendation: 5/5

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Womanimage
Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Woman is simply a beautiful piece of literature. Alameddine’s writing style is exquisite and stunning. He provides a character that is charming and memorable. This is truly a novel all will enjoy. So many passages I wanted to quote but I didn’t want to be greedy or ruin the magnificent reading journey for you. One word -breathtaking – basically summarizes An Unnecessary Woman, this novel is among my favorites sitting proudly on my shelf and will be revisited many times in the future.

Alameddine’s writing commands attention. His proficient use and manipulation of language mesmerizes the peruser. His words provide a visual and tactile experience. Full of emotion and depth, his prose is nothing less than bewitching. A wordsmith, an artist, the paper his canvas, every word a brushstroke, the final outcome crafted a true masterpiece.

‘Shame. Such a worrywart I am. I miss miracles blooming before my eyes: I concentrate on a fading star and miss the constellation.’

‘My soul is fate’s chew toy. My destiny pursues me like an experienced tracker, like a malevolent hunter, bites me and won’t let go.’

Beirut is the setting, a powerful and explosive environment. Surviving each day a challenge. War, violence, death surrounds and consumes you. The ebb and flow of war and peace is affecting. Alameddine transports the reader into the bowels of this turbulent country, its people and culture. Experiencing Beirut through the lens of a insightful author is an unforgettable educational experience.

”Beirut is the Elizabeth Taylor of cities: insane, beautiful, tacky, falling apart, aging, and forever drama laden. She’ll also marry any infatuated suitor who promises to make her life more comfortable, no matter how inappropriate he is.”

We have the privilege of meeting Aalyia Sohbi, a 72-year-old translator residing in Beirut with no plans on leaving. I defy you not to fall in love with this incredible woman. As she recounts her life, you feel her strength, her losses, her passion, her tenacity. Drained from the demands of disgruntled people, she loses herself and regroups by total immersion in literature. An introvert by choice, this woman prefers her solitary and meager lifestyle. Alone, childless by decision and by the hand dealt, you sense her lack of regrets but deep desire the end result could have been improved upon. She owns her life and accepts her choices without bitterness. A woman setting the bar high for autonomy. I saw myself in Aalyia and many of the women I love and admire. She is who I want to be and yet the woman pieces of me are.

”Although I know the characters of a novel as a collection of scenes as well, as accumulated sentences in my head. I feel I know them better than I do my mother. I fill in the blanks with literary personas better than I do with real people, or maybe I make more of an effort. I know Lolita’s mother better than I do mine, and I must say, I feel her more than I feel my mother. I recognize Rembrandt’s painted face of his mother better than I recognize the real face of mine.”

Combing amazing prose, a powerful narrative and setting along with a memorable and charming character An Unnecessary Woman is flawless. A novel leaving you lost in thought, its acumen is powerful. A piece of literature the discerning reader will appreciate beyond measure, more than a well written novel full of impact, An Unnecessary Woman is a reading experience. A novel you will never forget, I venture to say life altering.

A story of war, loneliness, grief most of all resilience. A tale of courage, courage to see the beauty behind the wreckage. A must read. A book lovers book.

“I walk myself back to my bedroom, back to the stacks of books on my mirrorless vanity, unread books that I intend to read, a large stack. Choosing which book isn’t difficult. The choice is typically the last one I brought home. I acquire books constantly and place them in the to-read pile. When I finish with whatever book I’m reading, I begin the last book I bought, the one that caught my attention last. Of course, the pile grows and grows until I decide that I’m not going to buy a single book until I read my stack. Sometimes that works.”

Recommendation:  5/5