Category: iread

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure

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Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses.

About Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses. The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.

My Thoughts

Life in the Camel Lane shares Doreen’s (and many other women just like her) story about life abroad in the Middle East – adjusting to a new environment, culture, way of life while still trying to maintain a little bit of their own culture and sense of ‘home’.

Doreen embraced change and adventure (not for the first time) when she decided to move with her husband to Saudi Arabia. I love how she breaks down her choice and how she tackled it head on. I can’t even begin to imagine the preparation and planning that went in to this move (the items to move with them, to stay in the US, etc..). I found it really interesting how she broke up the different stages of this type of life event: arrival, honeymoon, frustration, adjustment. She also includes many stories of other women in the same position as her which gives an even greater appreciation of the culture, the experience and what these families go through. I always pictured in my mind this glamorous experience but many times throughout the book you realized this was not so (the trailers leaking, shared phones, booking phone times!). I have such great respect for the families that work abroad, I always thought I could do this but now reading this, I am not sure I am quite brave enough! These moments spent abroad would definitely give you a greater appreciation of family, life and culture.

I loved the way she wrote the most – she shared her experiences for what they were. There was no judgement, nor criticism of any part of the culture, people or experiences she had in Saudi Arabia. She shared them exactly as they happened and what she and others experienced. Some of the scariest parts were just after 9/11 and still she approached them with respect and compassion.

This is a well written book that covers Doreen’s time spent in Saudi Arabia, sharing not only her story but the stories of many women just like her who chose adventure. It is full of appreciation, understanding and bravery. I enjoyed every moment reading about her experiences.

You can purchase a copy of this book here.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives. Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad. 2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

You can connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

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Inside the Sun Book Review

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The 8th Island Trilogy includes Above the StarBelow the Moon, and Inside the Sun. Over the three books, we follow the adventures of a quirky family, the Wellsleys. The main characters are frumpy senior citizen Archie, his daughter-in-law, Tessa, and his ill fourteen-year-old granddaughter Ella.

About Inside the Sun

All worlds are dying, and it’s up to one broken and dysfunctional family from Earth―the Wellsleys―to save the day.

Cancer-ridden Ella celebrates her fifteenth birthday beneath an enchanted mountain, but it is what lies even farther below―the mysterious Star in the sea―that demands she grow up quickly. While Ella grapples with the sacrifice she must make and the lies she is forced to tell, her mother, Tessa, is hell-bent on protecting her.

Through bizarre encounters, love-sick Tessa realizes that she is not the lonely orphan she believes. Her husband, Arden, and father-in-law, Archie, are not the only ones with magical bloodlines. This revelation changes everything. As Archie chooses to embody his unexpected ancestry, he learns that leading the charge in the ultimate battle against evil won’t be as easy as he thought. He’ll need his family―and the strange allies he has gained―by his side to give Ella enough time to set things right.

Can they defeat the unstoppable Millia sands―and another unexpected foe―before everything they hold dear is destroyed? Or will their adventure tear them apart for good? The finale to The 8th Island Trilogy will hold you spellbound until the final page, and long after.

My Thoughts

Inside the Sun is a stunning, incredible finish to this trilogy that I could not put down. This is the final battle between good and evil – can they defeat what feels like an overpowering evil, will they find Ella’s cure and who else will fall in this epic struggle?

I love Ella’s character – she is strong, smart, sassy and vulnerable. While her cancer diagnosis has shaped her life and the way others view her, she refuses to let it stop her. I love this strength and goodness in her. It allows her to see the goodness in others and show compassion and strength, even when she has so little left to physically give.

What was really amazing in this novel was how all of our characters evolved. Archie embraces his true ancestry and leads his new people but is conflicted – can he handle the responsibility and stress of leading his people during such an epic battle? Is he strong enough mentally and emotionally for this responsibility? Tessa, Ella’s Mother, who was always special (regardless if she knew it or not) finds out her own special past that blew my mind! My heart was so happy for her as she has struggled for so much of her life feeling unloved as she was orphaned at such a young age.

This is a well written, action packed series that young adults and adults will love. The plot is unique and I loved the character development, they are all so special and unique. I loved the messaging in this series – it is full of hope, forgiveness, love and family. Our characters are just like you and me – you can relate to their emotions and their sufferings. This is a definite must read novel in this series!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Book Depository and Google Play.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning author, artist, photographer, art curator, filmmaker, and public speaker. She has received over 40 noteworthy distinctions for her visual and literary work. Her award-winning fantasy series The 8th Island Trilogy includes, Above the Star, Below the Moon, and Inside the Sun. The series has been described as “A WRINKLE IN TIME meets THE PRINCESS BRIDE” by The Perpetual You magazine, and “Fast and bizarre… never a dull moment” by Forward Reviews. The 8th Island Trilogy “weaves STAR WARS-like characters with a WONDER-like message to form an enrapturing read for blooklovers of all ages” – US Review of Books. Chute’s bestselling memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, was a top Kirkus title of 2017 and received a plethora of other literary distinctions. The memoir was accompanied by the feature documentary of the same name, which has screened internationally for the last three years. Chute received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design from the University of Alberta, Canada, and studied at Media Design school in Auckland, New Zealand. She graduated valedictorian with her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, USA. Chute is a highly regarded public speaker. She has presented on art, writing, bereavement, and the healing capacities of creativity around the world. Contact the Author/Artist for bookings info@alexismariechute.com When not in her art/photo studio or at her computer, Chute loves to spend quality time with her family, read fiction and non-fiction, watch reality TV, paddleboard, and canoe. She is not a winter person but lives in frosty Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her husband and their three living children.

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Below the Moon Book Review

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The 8th Island Trilogy includes Above the StarBelow the Moon, and Inside the Sun. Over the three books, we follow the adventures of a quirky family, the Wellsleys. The main characters are frumpy senior citizen Archie, his daughter-in-law, Tessa, and his ill fourteen-year-old granddaughter Ella.

Below the Moon

Ella Wellsley is not your typical teenager. Cancer left her mute, but not powerless. Trapped in a parallel dimension, Ella rallies her strength to join her family―her mother, Tessa, her grandpa Archie, and her magical boyfriend―in locating the cure to her illness. This cure is entangled in the fate of all worlds, and threatened by the presence of an evil Star anchored in the sea. The Star has thrown life everywhere into chaos―and it is Ella who holds the key to unlocking its mystery.

Caught in a web of betrayal, mistaken identities, secrets, and love triangles, Ella, Tessa, and Archie must overcome their troubled pasts to ensure a future for all worlds. On this journey―armed with unearthly abilities and unexpected allies―each member of the Wellsley family will learn the power of love in the face of their greatest fears.

My Thoughts

Below the Moon takes off from the first book in this series and is one incredible, fast paced ride that you will not want to put down.

While I really enjoyed the first book in this series, I fell in love with this one. Our story really soars and I loved how Ella takes a lead role in this novel. Despite not being able to speak and her cancer diagnosis looming over her head, she shows her strength, compassion and her youthful nature. You can’t help but fall in love with her! And to see her relationship with Luggie develop is special.

The plot takes off in this novel as the team works to destroy the star that has caused havoc in the once peaceful Jarr-Wya and find Ella’s cure. But just like in the first novel, this is no easy task. The group is faced with both new and old enemies, and have to use everything they can to stay alive. They face terrifying scenarios but do so with bravery, quick thinking and team work.

There is so much to love in this book – from the vivid scenes, to the strong characters and the unique plot. I could not put this novel down, I had to know how their story would evolve, what would happen to Ella, how would her parents relationship evolve (can this relationship be healed?), how does her Grandfather fit into the bigger picture, can they help heal this beautiful planet?

I loved the second novel in this series and cannot wait to start on the third novel. A definite must read!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Target, Book Depository and Google Play.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning author, artist, photographer, art curator, filmmaker, and public speaker. She has received over 40 noteworthy distinctions for her visual and literary work. Her award-winning fantasy series The 8th Island Trilogy includes, Above the Star, Below the Moon, and Inside the Sun. The series has been described as “A WRINKLE IN TIME meets THE PRINCESS BRIDE” by The Perpetual You magazine, and “Fast and bizarre… never a dull moment” by Forward Reviews. The 8th Island Trilogy “weaves STAR WARS-like characters with a WONDER-like message to form an enrapturing read for blooklovers of all ages” – US Review of Books. Chute’s bestselling memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, was a top Kirkus title of 2017 and received a plethora of other literary distinctions. The memoir was accompanied by the feature documentary of the same name, which has screened internationally for the last three years. Chute received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design from the University of Alberta, Canada, and studied at Media Design school in Auckland, New Zealand. She graduated valedictorian with her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, USA. Chute is a highly regarded public speaker. She has presented on art, writing, bereavement, and the healing capacities of creativity around the world. Contact the Author/Artist for bookings info@alexismariechute.com When not in her art/photo studio or at her computer, Chute loves to spend quality time with her family, read fiction and non-fiction, watch reality TV, paddleboard, and canoe. She is not a winter person but lives in frosty Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her husband and their three living children.

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Above the Star Book Review

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The 8th Island Trilogy includes Above the StarBelow the Moon, and Inside the Sun. Over the three books, we follow the adventures of a quirky family, the Wellsleys. The main characters are frumpy senior citizen Archie, his daughter-in-law, Tessa, and his ill fourteen-year-old granddaughter Ella.

About Above the Star

When frumpy senior citizen Archie goes in search of his missing son in the Spanish Canary Islands, he stumbles upon a higher mission: locating a magical cure for his ailing fourteen-year-old granddaughter, Ella. Using a portal-jumping device called the Tillastrion, Archie and a stone-headed creature named Zeno are transported to Jarr-Wya, a magnificent yet terrifying island in a connected realm―along with Ella and her strong-willed mother, Tessa, who accidentally stow away on this not-so-secret quest.

What they find on Jarr-Wya is an island tortured by a wicked Star anchored in the sea, and a raging three-way battle for dominion between the stone-wielding Bangols, the fiery Olearons, and the evil Millia sands. Ella’s wit and resourcefulness emerge in this new world, while Tessa is forced to confront her long-buried secrets and a confusing new love triangle. When Ella is captured, Tessa and Archie―with the help of a company of peculiar allies―set out to save her and unravel the terrible mystery of her cure. A mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night adventure of three unlikely heroes, Above the Star reminds us that even the smallest act of bravery can transform our lives and the fates of the worlds around us.

My Thoughts

In this novel we are introduced to quite a few key characters in this series and an amazing magical world that is facing a crisis that could destroy the world as they know it.

At the heart of the story is a family that is struggling through their daughter’s diagnosis (and potential death), a father who has disappeared and a grandfather who is quirky. Archie (grandfather) is determined to find his son and find a cure to save his granddaughter. He follows a magical trail that takes himself, his daughter in law and sick grandchild on a cruise and mysterious clues tracking his son. Nothing could have prepared him or any one on that cruise for the horrors and mystery that awaits them when they are all accidentally transported to a new world.

When the ship is transported to a brand new world, they are met with violence and death which threw me a bit (I wasn’t expecting this at all!). Alexis draws us into this new world with brilliant descriptions of the people and land, I could easily bring the characters to life in my own mind. It is a beautiful but terrifying reality that they live in.

I loved the characters, they are real, with flaws that we can all relate to and struggle with parenting, making decisions and coming to terms with illness. You can’t help but adore Ella, who is smart, full of spunk and is a fighter. She is a young girl caught between wanting to enjoy her youth and knowing that she is so unwell. She struggles with her relationship at times with her Mother but loves her family more than anything in the world. Her family is doing everything they can to fight for Ella, keep themselves together, and picking up the pieces after her Father disappears. Throw in some magical creatures, mysterious civilization, a world that is falling apart and at war – you have quite the tale!

This is an excellent novel for readers of all ages, there is something for everyone, adventure, science fiction, mystery and more. It is well written with well developed characters that you just can’t help but love. It is a definite must read!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Target, Book Depository and Google Play.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Alexis Marie Chute is an award-winning author, artist, photographer, art curator, filmmaker, and public speaker. She has received over 40 noteworthy distinctions for her visual and literary work. Her award-winning fantasy series The 8th Island Trilogy includes, Above the Star, Below the Moon, and Inside the Sun. The series has been described as “A WRINKLE IN TIME meets THE PRINCESS BRIDE” by The Perpetual You magazine, and “Fast and bizarre… never a dull moment” by Forward Reviews. The 8th Island Trilogy “weaves STAR WARS-like characters with a WONDER-like message to form an enrapturing read for blooklovers of all ages” – US Review of Books. Chute’s bestselling memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, was a top Kirkus title of 2017 and received a plethora of other literary distinctions. The memoir was accompanied by the feature documentary of the same name, which has screened internationally for the last three years. Chute received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design from the University of Alberta, Canada, and studied at Media Design school in Auckland, New Zealand. She graduated valedictorian with her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, USA. Chute is a highly regarded public speaker. She has presented on art, writing, bereavement, and the healing capacities of creativity around the world. Contact the Author/Artist for bookings info@alexismariechute.com When not in her art/photo studio or at her computer, Chute loves to spend quality time with her family, read fiction and non-fiction, watch reality TV, paddleboard, and canoe. She is not a winter person but lives in frosty Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her husband and their three living children.

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Five Before Rome: 5 Preludes to the Roma Series

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Learn all about the five men who the Roma Series centres around in Five Before Rome.

About Five Before Rome

These five novellas precede Roma, Underground, the first novel in the Roma Series. Meet the five men, who form the team around Bianca, and learn about their personal history, their respective parts of Italy, and why they each have a stake in the fight against organized crime.

My Thoughts

I loved the Roma series and the way that Gabriel writes his stories. The stories keep you on your toes, always guessing what would happen next and the characters are well developed and realistic. I couldn’t wait to pop open this book to see how these five men began their careers fighting organized crime. I love to learn about that turning point in a persons life that sets them down their current path and this novel does not disappoint.

Gabriel packs a lot of background and history into each of the five novellas, which is no easy feat. Sometimes I worry when I read a novella that it would feel rushed and have gaps but these ones were perfect. The novellas introduce us to slightly younger versions of our favourite characters and their exposure to organized crime. We follow along in these novellas as they solve the crimes in each of their regions. We learn more about their personal history and how they came to their current region, their family life and more.

Five Before Rome is an excellent read that is not overwhelming but weaves a great story around organized crime, murder, lies and more. The novellas are well written and engaging, and are a great prelude to the Roma series.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End where he enjoys the local restaurants. When he isn’t appeasing Munchkin, his cat, with tuna, he documents the #dogsofsouthendboston on Instagram. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. He was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery for Company Files: 2. The Naming Game in 2020. Gabriel has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest in 2018. Dirty Old Town, the first in the Shane Cleary series, was published in 2020 by Level Best Books. Gabriel attends crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. He is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Connect with him on his website, Twitter and Facebook.

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