Monday, 30 May 2016

Poetic journey of love (Book Review- Sarah Elle Emm's Absence of you)

Title: Absence of You
Author: Sarah Elle Emm
Released On: 17th May, 2016
Genre: Poetry

Sarah Elle Emm's Absence of You is a love story. Yes, it is a collection of poems, but these poems tell a tale of loving, losing, and surviving with a renewed, stronger relationship.

The book is divided into three parts - Fallen, Broken, and Renewed.

I have read a romantic thriller Last Vacation by the author before this. In its' review, I wrote that the characters leave a mark.

Absence of You, being poetry, is obviously abstract. Yet while reading from the first poem about love at first sight to the last about mature love, Sarah Elle Emm manages to give an identity to the nameless lovers in the mind of the reader.

From across a crowded room
You gave your heart to mine
Before we'd even met,
You told me with your eyes.

As I said before, this collection conveys a touching story.

Absence of You are not the typical love poems. They use unusual metaphors to convey the feelings.

I was in a box
A convenience
A tool for the occasional need...

It is the second part of the book - Broken - that dominates. It has the maximum number of poems and they leave a lasting impression of longing.

The first poem of this part, 'Somewhere Between' is one of my favorites. It describes a couple that the lovers had once seen arguing at a restaurant. The poem ends with -

We became that couple,
We forgot our vow.

There's desperation -

Don't call me pretty
Forget the lies
Whatever keeps you drawn,
I'm here, by your side.

There's fond remembrance -

If I could paint a still life,
I would capture your photo inside,
Right next to the deck of cards
We used to play into the night

The 'Renewed' part has semblance of maturity and acceptance. Is it also compromise, I wonder...

We don't waste our time with regret 
We see the bond that grew from the pain,
We're imperfect, human, and utterly hopeless
But our love's unshakeable all the same.

Contentment is in the air as this poetic journey of love ends -

Our love had been tested, but fortified
And is now truer
Than we ever could have dreamed.

Sarah Elle Emm's Absence of You celebrates the many emotions of a lover.
The poems are an enjoyable read. The subject of love is certainly a charm.
But it is the fact that each poem is so different, that each poem has a depth of expression, that makes this collection especially fascinating.

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The italicised, colored text are excerpts from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book

Absence of You, a collection of poems, takes you through stages of love, from the first moments of falling, to heartache, to healing and growing. With Sarah Elle Emm’s simple, yet powerful, words and rhythm, venture through the ups and downs on this heartfelt journey.

Book Links
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About the Author

Sarah Elle Emm is the author of ABSENCE OF YOU, LAST VACATION, the HARMONY RUN SERIES, and MARRYING MISSY. She has lived in Germany, England, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and traveled extensively beyond. Her writing cave is currently located in the Outer Banks. When she’s not leading kitchen dance parties with her daughters, she writes poetry and fiction.

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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Celebration of writing (Brenda Moguez's Nothing is lost in loving)

Title: Nothing is Lost in Loving Author: Brenda Moguez Genre: Women’s Fiction

Nothing is lost in loving starts as Stella's period of mourning over her husband's death is ending. It is not the ceremonial mourning period that has ended.
It has been two years since the death of her husband, Bobby.

"I don't tread lightly over the past. The incidental memories we made in the passing of a day are addicting and all too alluring. After his death I could cocoon myself in. I held on to the past with a vengeance."

Stella's son, Santi and best friend, Bono are the two constants in life now.

But things are changing. She's dreaming of another man and Bono sees this as a sign that Stella's ready to let go of the past.

"Grief recovery is an arduous process to say the least. You eventually get to the other side, where breathing isn't labored, the sky becomes blue again, you can feel the breeze on your cheeks, and little by little the heart you thought was covered in layers of freezer burn gradually thaws. After after, long, long after, the love you thought you lost forever resurfaces and you take your first sip of life."

In Bono's words to Stella - "Who are you, and what have you done with comatose Stella?"

Brenda Moguez has carved each of the characters of Nothing is Lost in Loving with care. Even as they move forward, even as they seem to change, their underlying qualities are reflected.

Stella is an honest preson. She speaks her mind, and is happy doing so.
As she herself says -
"I don't spend a great deal of time rearranging my words before speaking. I tried it once or twice, but the other person left before I finsihed processing."

Brenda Moguez's Nothing is lost in loving is written in first person narration of Stella. Despite the typical office job that she has had for a while when the book starts, she is a 'creative woman', a writer at heart.
The author has reflected this writer's flair while writing from Stella's point of view.

The story of Nothing is lost in loving is not predictable.
As the story started, I assumed a few things. The author makes sure that the story continues to surprise and interest you.

" is big like the ocean and sometimes it feels like the waves are crashing against my legs. Do you remember how the sand can sometimes hurt when you fall? That's what love is like. It feels good most of the time and sometimes not so good."

I enjoyed this story of Stella's life at a time when it is undergoing a lot of changes. But for me the highlight of the book are the words that the author uses to describe Stella's thoughts.

"The awareness hovers just out of my reach, and I feel a little like Scarlet O'Hara when she is attempting to clarify her feelings for Rhett."

"As I lose myself inside of his kiss, I wonder if there is a hall of fame for 'the  best of the best' somewhere in the Smithsonian, and remind myself to Google kisses later."

Nothing is lost in loving is not a run of the mill story of romance and loving, it is more about life and experiences and embracing them despite the outcome.

"Sometimes life is like that. You catch a lyric in a song, or see yourself in the storefront window, and something about the moment sends a bolt of electricity through your veins, and in the latter half of the moment, the body surges. And you know, you just know, what you felt is change. It's a fleeting but moment. I have no idea where my life is going, but I know it's moving forward."

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The italicized text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Buy Nothing is Lost in Loving

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When Stella Delray unexpectedly loses her job a week before Christmas, which is also the anniversary of her husband’s death, she is forced to stop talking to his ashes, come to terms with her loss, and get her life back on track for her young son’s sake as well as her own. She never expected that posting an ad on Craigslist would send her into the arms of not one but two men, one of whom is her former boss. Now she’s working as an admin for a retired Broadway star, bookkeeping for an erotic video production company, and writing love letters for the mysterious "Oaklander." Adding to the craziness of her new life, her monster-in-law resurfaces and the father-in-law she never met shows up on her doorstep. With the guidance of her best friend, Bono, Stella will learn to redefine the rules she’s always lived by.

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About the Author
Brenda Moguez writes the kind of stories she loves to read--women’s fiction, starring quirky, passionate women who are challenged by the fickleness and complexities of life.
She’s particularly drawn to exploring the effects of love on the heart of a woman. She has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for a room of her own. When she’s not working on a story, she writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. Her second novel, Nothing is Lost in Loving, is set to release April 2016.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Absurd, yet so good (Book Review - David S. Atkinson's Not Quite So Stories)

Author: David S. Atkinson

Publisher: Literary Wanderlus LLC

Pages: 166

Genre: Absurdist Literary Fiction

The stories of David S. Atkinson's Not Quite So Stories are, for want of a better word, weird.
They are not your typical short stories and they are certainly not what I had expected.

So, the 'not quite so stories' are weird, atypical and unexpected. And I enjoyed reading them. Read between the lines and you'd be surprised by their depth.
Read them superficially and they are 'absurd'.

The author's dedication for this book is
"For Shannon, who graciously puts up with my absurdities and loves me anyway.
Also for every third person named Fred."

When I re-read the dedication after having read the book, it held more meaning. Thus my use of the word 'absurd'.

The stories are very well-written.
The humor, the emotions, the terror - it is all subtle.
The paradox is that everything is exaggerated and yet the underlying message is subtle.

Yes, 'underlying message'.
I am reminded of when as kids we had to read stories in school. In the end, we had to write 'The moral of the story is...'
Each of the 'Not Quite So Story' has a message. I am sure I can write moral of each of the stories.
They inspire you to let go of your fears, to take a moment to relish the beauty of the small things around you, and much more.

I had a smile on my face after almost each story. A smile with a lingering sadness in some cases.

A story - 'Domestic Ties'. Charlotte is cleaning her house to welcome a prisoner. She wants to make him feel at home. Something he refuses to do. It is an insane situation that author describes with meticulous detail. You can't figure out where the story is going. And the ending shocks your senses.

One of my favourites is 'Changes in the Ch√Ęteau'. A budget room at this French hotel include surprise, rude intrusions by the owners. Annoying the guests was part of running the hotel, which came as a package, according to the owners' insane logic.

'The Des Mones Kabuki Dinner Theatre'... another one of the 'not so stories'. This one is sweet and romantic. Don't imagine for a minute that the author has tamed his writing for this though. It's romance with mystery and humour and, has to be, absurdity.

Atkinson gives feelings to the inanimate. I really wonder what my house thinks of me as an owner. I have a feeling it would want to leave because I am busy writing while there is a mess around me.
Really, the author has me thinking absurd now :)

Anyway, Atkinson gives feelings to the inanimate and makes humans passive.

The stories are over-the-top representations of normal. Actually as you read these gems by David S. Atkinson, you end up questioning what is really 'normal'.

Am I going around in circles while writing this review?
The bottomline is I loved Not Quite So Stories.
I have a feeling you will either love it or hate it. You can't ignore it.

Atkinson's stories made me smile. They made me think. There is a depth to them which deserves to be re-read. And above all, each story is a surprise package. You can not imagine what the next story or even the next page will bring.

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The italicized text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping's Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that's hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

NOT QUITE SO STORIES is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Watch the book trailer at YouTube.

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      Margaret's heels clicked repetitiously on the polished marble floors of Finklebean's Mortuary. The sharp sound echoed down aisles of metal-faced vaults in the chilled, solemn hallways. Her steps were quick but purposeful, her stride constrained by the tight skirt of her starched navy business dress. An invoice was clutched tightly in her talon-like hand. Someone owed her an explanation…and that debt would be paid.
      Catching sight of the plain brown wooden door hidden off in a back hallway bearing a faded Caretaker's Office sign, Margaret halted, causing her heels to clack loudly on the stone. She pursed her lips as she scrutinized the sign. As if using the white metal sign with flaking black letters as a mirror, she adjusted the smartly coiled chestnut bun of her hair. Then she shoved open the weathered door and marched inside.
      "Excuse me," she called out sternly before looking what the room happened to contain, or even whether it was occupied.
      A portly man in old blue coveralls sitting at a rough wooden worktable looked up at her calmly. Long stringy gray hair framed his face around a set of coke bottle eyeglasses perched on the end of his reddened bulbous nose. A metal cart, half full of plastic funeral flower arrangements, was positioned next to the worktable. Individual plastic flowers littered the table surface.
      Unlike the somber and silent polished gray marble trimmed in shining brass of the hallway outside, the caretaker's room felt more like a basement or garage. The walls were cinderblock, unpainted, and the floor was bare concrete. Obviously, the room was not used for professional services.
      "My bill is incorrect," Margaret said, thrusting the invoice out at the frumpy little man between a thumb and forefinger, both with nails bearing a French manicure. "You maintain my grandfather's plot, but this month's bill is way over the usual twenty-five sixty-three…nine hundred dollars more to be precise. You may not be the person in charge of this, but you're who I found."
      The older man quietly looked at her still presenting the invoice even though he had made no move to take it. "Name?"
      "Margaret Lane," Margaret said curtly.
      "No," the caretaker shook his mess of oily old hair. "I won't remember you. I meant your granddad's."
      Margaret pursed her lips again. "Winston Lane."
      "Ah, yes." The heavyset man leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head and cocking out his elbows. His belly pushed on the table slightly, causing loose plastic flowers to roll around on the tabletop. The flowers were separated into piles according to color: red, white, yellow, purple, and orange. "Winston Lane. His is over on hillside four, I believe."
      "I'm sure." Margaret crossed her arms, still clutching the invoice. "So why do I have a bill for over nine hundred dollars?"
      The caretaker hunched forward, setting his chin on a pudgy arm and wrapping a flabby hand around his mouth. "Let's see…Winston Lane…bigger than normal bill…oh, that's right!" His face brightened with recollection.
      Margaret smugly waited for the expected rationalization to begin, the extras and add-ons designed to take advantage of the gullible grieving. She wouldn't be so easily manipulated.
      "He got an apartment."
      Margaret's expression cracked.
      "That's what the extra money is," he pleasantly explained. "It's to cover the rent."
       Margaret stared, blinking occasionally. A thin purple vein throbbed angrily at the side of her neck.
      The man smiled. Then he pushed his round glasses further back up his nose and grabbed one of the plastic funeral arrangements from the cart. It had a block of dense green foam set in a fake bronze vase and various colors of plastic flowers stuck in the foam. The man pulled all the flowers out in a single movement and set each in the respective colored pile on the worktable. Then he placed the vase in a pile of similar vases on the floor.
      "You…rented my grandfather an apartment?" Margaret finally asked. "Why?"
      "Don't be ridiculous," the older man snorted, dismembering another arrangement. "He rented the apartment, not us."
      Margaret sneered, having recovered her self-possession and indignation. "Sir, my grandfather is deceased."
      "Yep," the caretaker agreed. He started quickly taking vases from the cart, ripping them apart, and then tossing the materials in the respective sort piles. "Guess he didn't like the plot he picked out. Maybe it wasn't roomy enough, I don't know. Some things like that you just can't be sure of till you get in a place and stay there a while. Anyway, he must not have liked something about it because he went and got himself that apartment. He wouldn't have done that if he'd been happy where he was at."
      Margaret stood rigid. The toe of one foot tapped irritably. "How could my grandfather possibly rent an apartment? He's dead!"
      "How couldn't he?" The caretaker snorted again. "It's a great apartment. Plenty of light. Nice carpets. Good amount of space. It's got a nice pool, too. Not that pools make much of a difference to a guy like him, being dead and all. Anyway, take a look; happen to have a photo of the place right here. Can't rightly remember why."
      The man handed Margaret a bent-up photograph he pulled from a coverall pocket. It depicted a pleasantly-lit living room with vaulted ceilings. Tasteful black leather and chrome furniture was arranged around a delicate glass coffee table. On top of the coffee table sat her grandfather's mahogany coffin, looking just as stately as it had at her grandfather's funeral service.
      Margaret glowered, unsure what to make of the photograph, noticing after a moment that she was chewing her lip as she ground her teeth. Her brain couldn't keep up, it was all just too ludicrous for her to grasp. The man sorted more funeral arrangements. "So…you're telling me that my deceased grandfather rented an apartment. Him, not you."
      "Yep. That's the long and short of it." The man jammed the photograph back into his pocket.
      "My dead grandfather."
      "Yes'm." He took the last arrangement off the cart and disposed of it as he had the others. He paused to dust off his hands. Then he grabbed a vase from the floor, jammed a plastic flower inside from each stack, and set the newly arranged arrangement on the cart.
      "How could anyone rent my grandfather an apartment!?" Margaret threw up her arms. "He's dead! The landlord couldn't do that!"
      "Sure they can," the caretaker countered, paying more attention to the funeral arrangements than Margaret. "The building is zoned for mixed use."
      "Mixed use?! He's dead!" She wiped her hand down her face slowly, stretching her skin as it went.
      "So? He's residing there. That's a residential use. Certainly isn't commercial." The caretaker accidentally shoved two red plastic flowers in the same vase. Laughing at himself, he ripped them out again and started over.
      Margaret stepped back, perhaps wondering if the caretaker was insane as opposed to just conning her. That would explain the photograph.
      She crossed her arms loosely and tilted her chin upwards just a little, trying to mentally get a handle on the situation. Her brain felt like an overheated car with no oil in the engine. "I'm sorry, but that's very distracting," Margaret commented, pointing at the plastic flower piles on the worktable. "Is there any way that you could stop a moment?"
      "Sorry." The older man shook a thick calloused finger at an old clock on the wall, stopped as far as Margaret could tell. "I got to get this done."
      "But…what exactly are you doing? You're just taking them apart and putting them back together."
      The rumpled man gestured at the flowers. "Well, people pay us to put these on graves, don't they?"
       "They come from a factory, don't they? Someone paying someone else to bring something a machine made? I don't think much of that. My way, there's at least some thought in it."
      Margaret did not respond. Instead, she watched the man fill up the cart again. The arrangements looked exactly the same as before.
      "Anyway," the caretaker went on, "don't you owe your granddad?"
      "Pardon me?" Margaret puffed out her chest.
      "Sure," the man said, peering up at her through the finger-smudged lenses of his glasses. "He said when he bought the plot that you were going to take care of it and he was going to leave you money to keep going to school. He thought you should start working, but helped you out since you were going to mind his spot."
      Margaret swallowed, ruining her attempt to look indignant. A few beads of sweat gathered at her temples.
      "You figure you've done enough?" The man had his head held low, hiding the tiny smirk on his face.
      Margaret's eyes widened. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her shoulders slumped. "But…"
      "Hey, that's between you two. I just take care of things like I'm paid to. If he wants his plot, I do that. If he wants a two-bedroom palace, I do that instead."
      Margaret absentmindedly twisted an old, ornate gold ring on her finger. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed as if the light in the dim room had gotten brighter. The meticulously squared corners of her mind twisted and stretched deliciously. "That's right…it was a deal."
      "Come again?"
      "I agreed to have his plot cared for."
      "Well…" Her lips slipped into a pointed grin. "I pay you a fixed monthly amount to care for that plot. Apparently this apartment is his plot now, so the rent should be part of your monthly care. I expect you to take care of it accordingly. After all, caring for his plot is caring for his plot."
      "Now see here–"
      "Regardless, I can't help but think," she went on, "that it reflects poorly on your services if grandfather isn't happy with his plot, not mine."
      The caretaker gawked at Margaret, his mouth hanging loose. "Is that what you think now?" The older man finally growled.
      "It is," she responded with a saccharine tone, "and I expect that all future bills will be for the correct amount."
      "Hmph," he huffed, settling back into his chair. "Wonder what your granddad would say about that."
      Margaret smirked. "You're welcome to go and ask him, if you think it will get you anywhere."

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About the Author

David S. Atkinson is the author of "Not Quite so Stories" ("Literary Wanderlust" 2016), "The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes" (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in "Bartleby Snopes," "Grey Sparrow Journal," "Atticus Review," and others. His writing website is and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

Visit David S. Atkinson’s website.
Connect with David on Facebook and Twitter.
Find out more about David at Goodreads.
Visit David’s blog.

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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Voyage Within (Book Review - Ruchira Khanna's Voyagers into the Unknown)

Title: Voyagers into the Unknown
Author: Ruchira Khanna

Ruchira Khanna's Voyagers into the Unknown is a story of finding happiness in whatever life dishes out to us.

It begins with 'Arrival of the Birds' in the historic city of Agra. A city where chaos mingles with the beauty of history. 'Birds' are the tourists who are to join the tour of Raj Touristry - a tour that is more about resolving personal issues than just exploring the city.

In the beginning, it seems that the individuals are on a luxurious tour with a very capable guide, Raj. As we get to know the 'birds and their thoughts, it is clear that they are not here on a typical vacation. They are expecting more.

What is it, you wonder.

Ira is recovering from a broken relationship.
"One the outside, she was considered 'healed' but on the inside, her scars felt just as raw as the day she'd tried to end her life."
A fellow passenger in her flight asks her about her eagerness and her reply is - "Yes, I am seeing Raj. He is going to change my world and my perception."

The tension between Darci and Lennard Jensen is glaringly obvious. There is a brewing tension between them, making one wonder how they are still together.
"This trip will do wonders for your relationship", Darci thinks to herself.

Then there's Carl Baker, a seventy-five-year-old man with lots of money, but suffering from a severe lack of personal attachments.

Asha is a mystery. She is a widow from Delhi. She is alone, yes, but not lonely. What are the problems in her life that have brought her together with this dejected lot?

As the author describes the emotions of each of them including Raj and a few others, their struggles are revealed.

The past of each of them is told in italics after they are introduced in the story. They are all going through a troubled phase in their life. They seem to have lost their emotional anchor and that is what has brought them to Agra. A search for a resolution to their problem.

"...people were traveling from far and wide to pay a visit to Indian history and delve into the world fo the 18th century. His goal was not only to share these wonders but also to help people to reflect on their own lives and personal goals."

The motto of Raj's tour business is "Discover Yourself Amidst History!"

When I went to see Taj Mahal, the tour guide narrated the history of Shahjahan and Mumtaz such that I came back wondering if we were fools to consider Taj Mahal as a symbol of true love. That memory remains and so does the question, honestly.
But Raj's perspective negates the negativity in the history. And brings out a warmth.

It is this perspective of Raj that the author has used to give a beautiful hue, not just to the stories of the history, but also of the characters of the book.

Voyagers into the Unknown expresses a passion for the history of India. The author has mingled the many stories of the times gone by with the path to embracing for the future.
The author uses simple language and conversations to take the story forward.

I did feel that the change of heart, at times, is too sudden. Then I wonder, if it was really a change of heart, or was it just accepting one's subdued emotions.

As you can see, this book made me think.

My one concern is that the circumstances that lead to things falling into place are unusual. I would love to read about Raj in action in routine/other situations.
As the characters of Voyagers of the Unknown find varied resolutions to their problems - some obvious, others a little strange and too sudden, there is a positivity of faith.
So, much as I have my concerns about the circumstances being unusual, there is the belief of the aura of good people, faith and positivity making way for smiles and peace.

"All of humanity is suffering from one big problem, and is a loss. However, all of us strive for one big goal as well, and that is happiness."

This book is a good read, as it makes you question the tendency of letting a small problem breed into a huge strain on our relationships.

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The italicized text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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In the historic Indian town of Agra, you can find a very unusual tour company, which is owned by a charming young man named Raj. Although Raj's official job is to show off the historical landmarks of Agra, including the legendary Taj-Mahal, his true mission is to heal the souls of his broken "birds," as he affectionately refers to his tour participants. His business operates purely upon word-of-mouth referrals, ensuring that all of his tour members arrive in Agra with their hearts in their hands, ready for the spiritual growth and cleansing that Raj is known to provide. Healing the hearts of the spiritually damaged can be a difficult job, and in this particular tale, Raj finds himself faced with his most challenging tour group yet. First, there is Ira, a stunningly gorgeous but fragile young woman on the brink of suicide. Next, we meet Darci and Lennard, a couple on the verge of divorce. Then there is Carl, an irritable, antisocial workaholic who has burned all of his bridges. Lastly, we meet Asha, an elderly widow who still yearns for the company and comfort of her late husband. When disaster strikes the tour group, everything is thrown into jeopardy, including lives, relationships, and Raj's very reputation as a tour guide. Raj must find a way to lift the spirits of these five special travelers, even in the face of death and despair. Venture into the unknown and discover how Raj Touristry heals the brokenhearted, one soul at a time. 

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A Reiki Master where she passes out information about channeling universal energy and conducts sessions. The author of “Choices”, “The Adventures of Alex and Angelo” but just another soul trying to make a difference in this lifetime.

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