**REVIEW** Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories by Valeria Kogan

Love Bites: V. 1: A Collection of Short StoriesTitle: Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Valeria Kogan

Genre: Contemporary dark romance, women’s fiction, dark read

Release date: March 1st, 2013

Released by: Wattle Publishing

Length: 133 pages

Blurb: Love Bites is the provocative debut collection of short stories by Valeria Kogan. From heartbreak to redemption, Love Bites provides a spellbinding interpretation of love and friendship, glamour and guilt, secrets and deceit.

Each story provides a captivating insight into the world of love; its profound impact and effect; and how women relate to their partners.

This cleverly constructed collection of short stories will leave you tantalized and yearning for more. Love Bites is a must-read for every modern woman, reader of romance and romantic enthusiast.

REVIEW

Love Bites is an assortment of eleven short, dramatic stories. Most are told from the female perspective, whilst some are told from the male point of view. In this book, love certainly does bite as each story shows the effect love can have on us as an individual. It explores the state of the mind during grieving and hard times, or even as new love sprouts without us realising until it falls upon us in an instant.

Valeria Kogan explains in the preface that she is providing the reader a taste of how far she can take her characters, or rather how far they take her. This makes for a more natural process of where she feels the characters are going, rather than always having an intended ending in mind. Thus, making it an unpredictable read.

There are some real eye-opening moments as we read about each individual’s state of mind and follow the way that they are thinking. Some of the stories are very touching, especially the last story, ‘End of a Story’ as we realise the true depth that a man can love a woman. This story in particular reached me as it was so beautifully written and packed with so much emotion – it will bring tears to your eyes!

There are some characters with psychological issues, whilst philosophical musings are also present in others. For instance, in ‘Tonight’ we follow a woman, a prostitute, who has always been used to her way of working, and working for big bucks! After promising her boyfriend she’d stop, she begins to think deeper about her situation. Should she begin a 9 to 5 job with little money, or stay working fairly flexibly for a few hours a week for more money?

There are many questions to be asked of the characters, but I love how the author has written it in such a way that the reader, too, will ask themselves these questions about the story. Some of the stories left me wondering, what next? The author hints at certain endings, but I like the idea that the reader can decide, or elaborate the story in their own mind.

The characters are stretched in their emotions and are overwhelmed with their experiences in many of the stories. There were moments when I felt that there were some realistic aspects as the characters are flawed, just as we all are, and at other times I felt disconnected to the story. This left me a little torn with some of the stories.

Love Bites is not a typical, refreshing and heart-warming romance read. However, it is powerfully dark, emotional and gritty, leaving the reader a great deal to ponder over. I was left feeling that – love may be the most powerful and emotional feeling of all, which is why it brings us so much bliss and yet so much pain!

Love Bites was provided by Wattle Publishing for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Love Bites: A Collection of Short Stories by Valeria Kogan is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

*REVIEW* Travel Bites by The Hungry Traveller

Travel BitesTitle: Travel Bites

Author: The Hungry Traveller

Genre: Non-fiction, travel, food

Date released: February 2012

Published by: Wattle Publishing

Length: 224 pages

Blurb: Travel Bites is a collection of short stories that criss-cross the globe. It is the first work by The Hungry Traveller who has combined his two great life passions: travelling and eating!

The Hungry Traveller has been travelling for the last fifteen years and, along the way, has experienced many different sights, tastes, smells and cultures. Central to his travel experiences has been the role of food. Through his unique and very personal style of storytelling, you too can share in the highs and the lows of his stories from around the world. At the end of each story is a recipe for a dish inspired by his adventure.

Travel Bites will capture your imagination and curiosity; and will leave you yearning to plan your next holiday, adventure or escape!

The Hungry Traveller is a travelling enthusiast who loves to eat! When travelling, he enjoys meeting new people and engaging with locals to learn about their culture, history and the food that they eat. He is ‘currently between trips’, saving money, but always has his passport on hand, ready for his next adventure! He always likes to hear about other peoples’ travel experiences and your thoughts on his book!

REVIEW

Reading Travel Bites is a journey in it’s own right! It is a relaxing and enjoying read, as well as being informative and entertaining. As the synopsis suggests, it is the diary of a traveller who shares many a thought on his experiences, most notably his experience on trying different food and drink. He provides a detailed account of each place and food/drink he has had the pleasure of tasting and remaking to recapture the essence of the country it is from. This book is a treat for anyone who enjoys travelling and/or cooking.

Each chapter is set at a different place, and there is a handy recipe at the end of each experience which is fantastic for the reader to experiment with and try out! (I am not much of a cook, but I will be encouraging my partner to try out some of these recipes!) From camel burgers to cheesesteaks, Thai green chicken curry to steak and Guinness pie, and Moroccan mint tea to The Hungry Traveller’s perfect capuccino and many, many more delicious dishes to try out in your very own kitchen! It would be an amazing experience to try the different foodstuffs from various places around the world.

The Hungry Traveller has travelled (and lived) in other countries for over fifteen years. He has ample experience to compare his trips, or at least compare the food he has tasted. The fantastic prologue explains it all:-

“… During the time I had been traveling, I had lacked the interest and self-discipline to keep a travel diary, so I jotted down all of the events that I could remember on a page. When I looked at the list that I had compiled, I found that, like the story of eating the camel burger, many of my memories and experiences were linked to food!”

The reader can also enjoy reading about the different cultures and people. You can liken some of the stories to history and geography lessons as we find out about historic buildings and events, and shifts in society – both socially and politically – in many different countries. It is certainly great for building up general knowledge as we learn about Rome, the “Death Railway” (known to many as Bridge on the River Kwai in Thailand), and Vietnam, to name but a few!

The author also adds a personal touch as there are some nostalgic and emotional moments, especially when mentioning his ‘nonno‘ (grandfather) in Italy making pasta from scratch! There are also moments of amusement, beauty and even fear. It is written so well and fluid-like, easy to follow and set at a nice pace. It is a pure gem!

Two beautiful and thoughtful scenes that really reached out to me were:-

“…, in a scene that has not changed for hundreds of years, dhows sailed gracefully past. These traditional sailing vessels have ploughed the established trading routes between East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent for centuries. It was not just the beauty of the sunset, but this feeling of witnessing a link in a long chain of human history, that so caught my imagination that evening.” (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

“It was a perfect evening to reminisce… The combination of the haze from the hot day and the sparse clouds in the sky produced a sunset with the most amazing colors. As the sun started to dip behind the horizon it gave off a deep red-orange light, complementing the darker red of the earth. The distant streaks of cloud turned a pink-red color while the sky directly above us turned purple. It was a perfect end to the day.

… I was… literally sleeping under the stars! I kept looking at the stars for as long as I could before falling asleep, wondering how long it would be until I would again be lying back gazing up at a night sky with so many stars?” (Eastern Africa)

There were a couple of moments that even reminded me of a Top Gear road trip. The setting off and finding campsites as he experiences The Highs and Lows of Bush Camping in Eastern Africa. This is just an example of the beginning of his journey from this chapter, but it does continue in the book as we read about the journey from Nairobi in Kenya to Harare in Zimbabwe. The vehicle used for transport was a 30yr+ red truck (with old bus seats for passengers) that creaked when it stopped!

“Once we had set off, cleared the traffic of Nairobi, and were on the open (empty) road, it became quite clear why we would spend so many nights bush camping. The truck had a top speed of around forty miles per hour, yet we would be traveling between towns, cities, and, more importantly, campsites that were many hundreds of miles apart. However, there was something quite mellowing about traveling at that speed. You could sit back, relax, and see the landscape gradually unfolding in front of you. And at that speed there was the opportunity, if you had keen eyesight, to spot wildlife, such as the occasional giraffe.” (Eastern Africa)

On approaching Harare events began to get a little scary as they drove into a riot!

“… people taking to the streets in response to high inflation and food shortages. At this stage the target was Robert Mugabe’s government as the cause of their problems… Although the truck was pelted with rocks and pieces of concrete, people jumped out the way of the truck once the driver floored the gas pedal.

… this attack was pretty unnerving… Foreigners being attacked and killed in campsites was not uncommon at that time in Africa.” (Eastern Africa)

Travel Bites is a very insightful first-hand account of knowledge and experience. You can feel the experiences that The Hungry Traveller has had through his words, and even provides some travel tips in there for good measure too! Travel Bites is not only a personal adventure of the author, but one that the reader can take too. The idea of adding the recipes of some fantastic and authentic food is a delicious side order of this brilliant read! It is more than fair to say that I enjoyed reading The Hungry Traveller’s stories very much.

Travel Bites was provided by Wattle Publishing for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Travel Bites by The Hungry Traveller is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

You can follow The Hungry Traveller on his blog at www.travelbitesbythehungrytraveler.com, or on Twitter at @travel_bites.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

**Review** Entropy by Robert Raker

Entropy_WP2014Book title:  Entropy

Author:  Robert Raker

Publisher: Wattle Publishing

RRP:   PB: £8.99 | Kindle & eBook: £5.99

Synopsis: When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s.
United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

Review:

Entropy makes for a different type of crime drama. The story is about the impact that the killings have on the individual as opposed to the mystery of who done it and how/why. It focuses on the inner thoughts of these individuals whose lives are changed for the worse forever. These lives belong to those who are parents of a murder victim, a diver who witnesses and retrieves the dead, an undercover agent who has to pretend to be like these calculating and manipulative sex offenders/paedophiles, and also a member of the public who believes they know who is responsible.

What is fascinating about Entropy, is that the story is written from four very different perspectives, each one being written in first person. The first person allows the reader to be that particular character, to see inside their mind and feel every thought. It is a very strong and powerful connection and it grows as the story moves on and we hear from all four characters. Not only do they have the murders of these children to connect them, there is also another situation that brings these particular four together, without each of them realising the first connection they all have. Each section from all four characters ties in to make more of a narrative than the reader suspects.

The diver

The first section, told from the diver’s point of view, is extremely informative of each murder scene. Being a diver by profession, he falls into the role of assisting the police during times when they haven’t the time or manpower to provide their own. It is very interesting to read from this perspective, as it is quite shocking and difficult at times for the diver to deal with what he is seeing and dealing with. This is a completely different take on a crime scene, and I would imagine that not many have spent too long pondering on how one, such as a diver, would cope under these extraordinary devastating experiences.

The musician

The former celloist has many dark issues to contend with. Recently being involved in an accident which disfigured him plays a huge role in how it affected the one thing that he truly loved: music. Not only damaging to his career, but due to his introvert behaviour since, he has become distanced from his wife. His life is at a very dark moment. During this time he has been provided with information concerning the murders and has a strong suspicion on the culprit. Only his intention is not to take his suspicion to the police but to handle it his own way, taking out all of his anger and problems on the one person who truly deserves it.

During this second section it became clearer that Entropy is a heavy story, with little dialogue at times. There is a great deal of information to take in, and moments when I wanted to go back and re-read some points. It is very cleverly put together and interesting looking at each perspective in detail.

The agent

This section reminded me of ‘Legends‘ (tv series starring Sean Bean), where the undercover element of their job causes them to forget who they really are and has a strong, and sometimes damaging, impact on their personal life. The agent in this instance cannot let his wife in and it becomes clear why. The agent has to try and infiltrate a group of paedophiles. Although his role is necessary and he is carrying out his duties for all of the right reasons, it does make him sick at times, especially when he comes across photo’s of children to be sold and one is a familiar face linked to the murders.

At times part of the story is sickening with some graphic details of what was carried out with some of the victims. It does feel very real when you’re reading this. Some readers may not like parts of this section, however these lines are needed for the story and to allow the reader to realise just how some of these victims were treated.

From the words and context it is written, I was easily able to grasp the dark, powerful emotions that the agent’s wife is feeling and the pain that she faces on a daily basis. It is similar in some ways to the wife of the musician, how both women are left feeling quite alone, and abandoned by their partner emotionally.

…. Everything is so vacant here so I leave and go out to dinner all dressed up and alone. I sit outside because it’s cool and calm. I look for you in the people on the street, even though I know you’re not going to be there. The waiter feels sorry for me. I can see it in his eyes when he pours me a glass of red wine. I don’t even care that he can probably see my breasts in that dress. I want him to touch me, to ask me to stand up, and to take me right there outside, in the peaceful breeze. The hard truth is that I want another man, any man, a stranger to fuck me so that I can just feel something, and not feel like I am wasting away….

The model

The final chapter follows the mother of a victim. She has lost her child to a sex offending murderer, and this she finds incredibly difficult to live with. Her life has been torn apart and will never be the same again. To make matters worse, she has a husband who left her due to his infidelity. She is at a loss. The world she knew has gone.

It is an emotional read and one that will stay with you. But it does make the reader think about consequences, how one action can lead to so many more. It allows you to empathise with each character as we are taken on a journey through the lives of these individuals and can feel the devastating affects which lead to them all being in the same place at the same time.

I love the bus scene at the end of each section which ties all of the characters together, as well as the murders. Entropy is certainly a story which needs to be read until the very end before everything becomes clear. Each character looks within themselves for answers of the repercussions following the murders. They all ask themselves, and some mentally ask their partners, ‘what went wrong?’ Each story, as the synopsis suggests, is quite individual even though that one or two circumstances bring them together.

A copy of Entropy was provided by Wattle Publishing for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

Entropy by Robert Raker is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Author biography:
Robert Raker graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he enjoys art, music, literature and live theater. He is currently working on his next novel.

Link to retailers: http://wattlepublishing.com/catalogue/entropy/

Twitter:  @RobertRaker1
Facebook:  Entropy by Robert Raker

**REVIEW** The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras

TheLoveofMarisol_WP2014

The Love of Marisol is a beautiful short story that publishers, Wattle Publishing, brought to our attention. It is a short story of love, loss and the possibility of a new love, that will truly eat away at you.

Synopsis: When Leo’s marriage ends, he falls into the depths of depression. He decides to escape the loss and the heartbreak with a trip to the other side of the world – Lima, Peru. In some ways, his journey becomes an unexpected salvation as his passions are reignited by the local food and people, the climate and the beautiful and alluring Marisol. The Love of Marisol is a poignant and passionate journey of heartbreak, loss but most of all self-discovery… it reminds us that at the end of one love story, there is always the possibility of a new one…

REVIEW

The Love of Marisol is a profoundly emotive read, exploring the effects of romance, love and divorce on the main character, Leo. Initially, Leo is in great pain and has a deep sense of loss that leaves him feeling empty and lonely, and even small, in this big wide world.

Leo is hurt so much that he feels he will never love again or experience love again. And, another factor for Leo is his 3yr old son. This has a detrimental effect on his thoughts even more, as he knows that his ex-wife will one day meet a new love and over time this new love may also be living with her and his son. His son will have a new father figure and where will that leave Leo?

The beautiful description, from the author of these emotions and reactions that Leo has, really pulls the reader in. It is a story many can relate to and it is written very much in a realistic tone, almost biographical, where the main character opens his mind, questions his thoughts and others’ actions of love and their views.

Not only this, but The Love of Marisol is also an adventurous, travelling story. Leo questions why he is travelling but knows no matter where he goes the heavy feeling and slow, short breathing will follow him. He is taking a trip to Lima to meet with his cousin. Although the reader senses how lost he is, he knows he needs to get up and do something, go somewhere, and this might be just what he needs.

During his stay in Peru, Leo speaks with his cousin, Dom, meets Dom’s friends and beautiful women. He hears Dom’s, and his friend’s, stories of their love experiences. All of the opinions and experiences make him ponder over his situation. But it is the beautiful, Marisol, that helps him to open his mind and begin contemplating other possibilities for his future, than the dark, lonely path he believed he would take a few days ago.

The reader is left contemplating many of the views expressed by Leo and the people he encounters. Who is right? Is it different for everyone? Reading this narrative certainly made me dig deep to seek my true feelings and beliefs on love, as well as the long-lasting relationships we have.

The Love of Marisol is extremely touching, beautifully written, and realistic. It will reach out to your soul and make you explore your thoughts, remind you of past loves and experiences. It may even open your heart!

A copy of The Love of Marisol was provided by Wattle Publishing for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

 

For November: A Crime Thriller or an Emotional Adventurous Romance Novel?

Hi readers, we are already thinking ahead into November, and once we have all been zombied out, witched out and spooked out over Halloween we are thinking maybe you would like to relax a little with either a crime thriller or an adventurous and emotional romantic journey!

We have two reviews scheduled for next month that just may be what you are looking for. Two great reads from Wattle Publishing: crime thriller, Entropy, by Robert Raker and contemporary romance, The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras! Please scroll down for blurbs and author bios.

Happy reading!

Caroline & Tina 🙂

Entropy_WP2014Book title:  Entropy
Author:  Robert Raker

RRP:   PB: £8.99 | Kindle & eBook: £5.99

Synopsis:

When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s.
United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

Author biography:
Robert Raker graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he enjoys art, music, literature and live theater. He is currently working on his next novel.

Link to retailers: http://wattlepublishing.com/catalogue/entropy/

Twitter:  @RobertRaker1
Facebook:  Entropy by Robert Raker

TheLoveofMarisol_WP2014Book title:  The Love of Marisol
Author:  Christos Toulouras

RRP:   PB: £6.99 | Kindle & eBook: £5.99

Synopsis:

When Leo’s marriage ends, he falls into the depths of depression. He decides to escape the loss and the heartbreak with a trip to the other side of the world – Lima, Peru. In some ways, his journey becomes an unexpected salvation as his passions are reignited by the local food and people, the climate and the beautiful and alluring Marisol. The Love of Marisol is a poignant and passionate journey of heartbreak, loss but most of all self-discovery… it reminds us that at the end of one love story, there is always the possibility of a new one…

Author bio:
Christos Toulouras was born in Cyprus. He has lived in South Africa and Cyprus. He studied Tourist administration in Thessaloniki. He continued his studies in the UK at Leicester University where he received his MBA. He currently lives in Cyprus.

Link to retailers: http://wattlepublishing.com/catalogue/love-marisol/

Twitter:  @wattlepub
Facebook:  Wattle Publishing