Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Book Review -- The Vineyard by Michael Hurley

The VineyardThe Vineyard by Michael C. Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A digital copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

This is a superb read about self-realisation, existentialism and facing life as it comes. Dory, Charlotte and Turner are three ladies who had been friends since their college days. They each are in different circumstances in their lives. Dory invites the other two to spend a summer at Martha's Vineyard. While Dory is at crossroads with her destiny, on the verge of having to take up the reins of her inheritance and family tradition, Charlotte has a very sinister solution to end her disappointments and depressions in life. Planning to end her life once and for all, she turns up at Martha's Vineyard hoping that the place will help her put her plan to effect. Turner, on the other hand, desperately needs an aim, direction and propulsion in her life, clinging on to her blog for sanity. They each happen to encounter the mysterious and enigmatic Enoch, or simply the "fisherman", as he is often referred to, in different ways. The encounter changes them all - in radically different ways.

The book was gripping and thoroughly absorbing. The opening shook me up - with Charlotte and the ashes. The effect continued throughout! The characters' have their own uncanny sense of living. The characterisation is remarkable. Be it Dory's reticence on taking up her family's matters in hand, or Turner's skepticism about how much good a "fisherman" can go, the author's writing brings to life the character's emotions. The book has a refreshingly original plot which is delivered deftly at a brilliant pace - neither dazingly fast nor achingly slow.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of drama, existentialism and philosophical realism.

My rating for this book: 5 stars

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Book Review -- Thief by CL Stone

Thief (The Scarab Beetle, #1)Thief by C.L. Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was provided with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The book revolves around Kayli Winchester, a girl hit hard by fate and life, and a group of boys she befriends. This was the first book I've read in The Academy series by the author. Kayli is a pick-pocket but a conscientious one at that. She does what she does to support her dad and kid brother. She follows her own code of principles about not picking money from children, old ladies or helpless victims. She gets the attention of a group of boys, who are all part of The Academy, living on the wrong side of law. They, in exchange for her skill, offer to help her hone her skills and teach her a trick or two of the trade. She meets with Axel, the leader of the gang, Marc, Brandon, Corey and Raven. They all ending up becoming more than friends. When Kayli is in danger, her new companions protect her, but do they succeed, and what befalls them all, is what the book takes us through.

It was hard to classify this book as mere adventure, for the characters have a lot of depth to them and there are many emotionally pulling moments. The characters are nice - the ones that stand out are Kayli, having been forced to stand up for herself and to hide her fears; Axel who is sure of himself; and Corey, who forms a foil for all the others in the group, as he is not someone who induces fear, but is in fact a sweet person. For a nice plot and theme, I felt that the book came loaded with a tad higher dose of explicit scenes, descriptions and violence, that perhaps stole away the many dimensions of the characters and the scenes. I would recommend this for a casual read, but be warned that not all pages are suitable for all readers.

My rating for this book: 3 stars

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Finish That Book: 5 Mindset Tips for Writers -- Tamara Branch

Your heart wants you to write. Your spirit is begging you to express yourself. You are bursting at the seams, with the desire to finish this THING you’ve been working on. I know how you feel. I’ve started so many writing projects. For years I would get really excited about writing my first book or first script. I would start with a bang and then life would get in the way. My thoughts were blocking me. My enthusiasm faded. My attention moved somewhere else. Sound familiar? Apparently, it’s not enough to just have a great idea. After years of starting and stopping, I changed my approach and finally wrote my first book and published it this year. Seriously, the best feeling.

Here are some of my productivity mindset tips to help you finally finish your book.

1. Let your passion lead the way. If you are not truly interested in what you are writing about, you are going to run out of steam. Write from the heart. It’s important to keep coming back to your center, what moves you, what excites you, what inspires you. Tell the story you want to tell. Create your world. Go on your journey. Always come back to the core purpose of what you are writing and why you are writing it. Keep your passion alive. That fire in you is the fuel you need to finish.
2. Make a commitment to yourself and to your project. You will finish your book when you make it important. Honor your dreams and you honor your life. Decide to complete what you start, period. How would you feel if you let this project and all of your other creative projects fall by the wayside? I asked myself that question years ago and I burst into tears. I remember listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer speak. He was talking about tapping into your creativity. He paused, looked at the audience and said, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” What a statement! I don’t want to die with my music still in me, do you?
3. Stop thinking so much. You can THINK yourself to death, ya know. Many writing projects have lost their life due to the over judging, over thinking, over analyzing activity of the writer. Less thinking — more writing. Schedule specific times to write and honor that time. Some days you’ll be in the flow, other days you won’t. Every time you sit down to write, you get closer to your personal victory.
4. Focus. Work on ONE creative project until it’s done.That’s how I finished my book.  Yes, you will have to resist the urge to jump around to 50 million other creative temptations. I did. It wasn’t easy. Writing can be frustrating and often times makes you want to run for the hills. Don’t run. Refresh. Renew. Refocus every day until you get there.
5. Take Breaks. Back away from the computer.Personally, I take a dance break every 25 minutes, when I’m writing, even if it’s for a minute or two. No stagnant energy allowed in the writer’s room. This is also a great way to infuse some extra joy into the process. A quick walk and stretch are also good to get the circulation going in your body and free up the mind to release more of it’s brilliance.

Cheers to finishing your book:-)

Tamara Branch is author of ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more, available now on Amazon
For more info on Tamara, check out

The Vineyard -- Michael Hurley



Ten years after college, three very different women reunite for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. As they come to grips with various challenges in their lives, an encounter with a reclusive fisherman threatens to change everything they believe about their world—and each other.


Book Excerpt:

It was a question that would never have occurred to her mother or to any of her mother’s friends. Of course she would marry Tripp Wallace, they would say—or wouldn’t say, rather, because the subject would never come up. But if they were asked, they would be pained to explain what was self-evident. He met all the necessary criteria. He was from a well-respected family. He had gone to the right schools, as had his father and grandfather and great-grandfather before him. He had the right friends who had gone to the same schools and traveled in the same small circles. He was accomplished at the right sports—sailing in summer and skiing in winter—and he knew how to say and do the right things at the right moment in a way that bore testament, along with his good looks, to an obvious breeding. He was tall and well-formed and not overly bright or bookish or moody or sensitive. He would love Dory with fraternal affection and a benign indifference that would immunize him from the terrible angst that afflicts the lovelorn. There would be affairs, perhaps, but he could be relied upon to keep them discreet and meaningless, and there would be no brooding or melancholy or naval gazing in the wake of their discovery. New love would falter and stumble as it invariably does, but the business of marriage would march on. There would be no mid-life forays into the wild unknown, because he was not a curious man. His life had followed a well-worn path thus far, and he would stick to that path without the danger of navigational error that comes from needless reflection. He would lead a good life, not a well-examined life, and thereby make it possible for Dory to do the same. He and Dory would produce tall, lithe, gorgeous, tow-headed children and grandchildren who, on their way to fulfilling their central role as heirs to the family’s fortune and curators of its legacy, would by their laughter and playfulness banish the awful silence that would otherwise creep into their marriage, like a pestilence.

Michael Hurley and his wife Susan live near Charleston, South Carolina. Born and raised in Baltimore, Michael holds a degree in English from the University of Maryland and law from St. Louis University.

The Prodigal, Michael’s debut novel from Ragbagger Press, received the Somerset Prize for mainstream fiction and numerous accolades in the trade press, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, BookTrib, Chanticleer Reviews, and IndieReader. It is currently in development for a feature film by producer Diane Sillan Isaacs. Michael’s second novel, The Vineyard, is due to be released by Ragbagger Press in December 2014.

Michael’s first book, Letters from the Woods, is a collection of wilderness-themed essays published by Ragbagger Press in 2005.  It was shortlisted for Book of the Year by ForeWord magazine.  In 2009, Michael embarked on a two-year, 2,200 mile solo sailing voyage that ended with the loss of his 32-foot sloop, the Gypsy Moon, in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti in 2012. That voyage and the experiences that inspired him to set sail became the subject of his memoir, Once Upon A Gypsy Moon, published in 2013 by Hachette Book Group.

When he is not writing, Michael enjoys reading and relaxing with Susan on the porch of their rambling, one-hundred-year-old house.  His fondest pastimes are ocean sailing, playing piano and classical guitar, cooking, and keeping up with an energetic Irish terrier, Frodo Baggins.




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IT Girl for Life by Tamara Branch


Publisher: Heart Project Publishing

Release Date: June 2014 Buy Link(s):

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Book Description:

"YOU have IT. IT is the GREATNESS you were born with." - from the book

Writer, Artist and Speaker, Tamara Branch serves up 40 bite-sized chapters on how to build unshakable self-confidence, honor your life, and shine bright in the world, in ITGIRL4LIFE:How to bring out your special something and so much more. Get ready to fall in love with your own wisdom, beauty, and strength.



Author Bio:

Tamara Branch is a writer, artist, and speaker, on a mission to help girls unlock their brilliant potential. She's from New York, born and raised in the Bronx, and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. (long version) Tamara Branch is from New York, born and raised in the Bronx. She is thrilled to share her first book release, ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more. The book kicks off the ITGIRL4LIFE self-esteem movement to help empower girls to stand up, stand out and shine bright in the world. Tamara has worked as a professional model and actor for almost two decades. She strutted down the runway for designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Christian Dior, acted in a few independent films, co-hosted PBS New York’s education series, “What’s up in Technology” and appeared T.V. commercials and print ads for Levi’s, Old Navy, Hershey’s, Colgate, Kellogg’s Special K, Revlon, Hanes, Nike and many others. A Penn State alumnus and lifelong student of personal development, Tamara is deeply passionate about uplifting the human spirit.

After graduating from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, studying under Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and some of the top health and wellness experts in the world, she was inspired to raise the bar on her own ‘self care’ and support others in living more vibrantly. She is an abstract artist and teaches a dynamic dance class, where she gets to fuse her varied background, having trained in everything from jazz, ballet and modern to Afro-Caribbean and Salsa. Tamara was recently asked to become a Female Visionary Author guest blogger for The Brave Heart Women Global Community. She's a SAG/AFTRA member since 1998, a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is represented by Abrams Artists Agency. Tamara currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband of seven years and offers ITGIRL4LIFE workshops to assist girls on their self empowerment journey. Her second book is due out next Spring. Stay tuned!  

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