Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Almond Tree

Title: The Almond Tree
Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Available on: Various sites
Author's blog: Click here
Link to a book review in The Hindu Business Line

Gist of the book as available on GoodReads and the Author's website:Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ichmad Hamid struggles with the knowledge that he can do nothing to save his Palestinian friends and family. Ruled by the Israeli military government, the entire village operates in fear of losing homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other. On Ichmad's twelfth birthday, that fear becomes a reality. With his father imprisoned, his family's home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to the dangers of war, Ichmad begins the endless struggle to use his intellect to save his poor and dying family and reclaim a love for others that was lost when the bombs first hit."The Almond Tree" capitalizes on the reader's desire to be picked up and dropped off in another part of the world. It tackles issues that many Americans only hear about on World News or read about at The Huffington Post, such as the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the scholasticide that is being imposed upon the Palestinians in Gaza and the current Gaza blockade. But even more, it offers hope.

The Almond Tree humanizes a culture and brings characters from a distant land to life, with a family united by love but divided by their personal beliefs. From Ichmad’s staunchly traditional and at times overbearing mother, to his father who believes in the power of education, the crux of the family’s story lies in the growing dispute between two brothers who choose very different paths in order to create a new future.

The Almond Tree brings humanity and clarity to the Arab-Israeli conflict and reveals themes of redemption and family sacrifice. Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s personal experience of living in Israel for seven years while attending high school and obtaining her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the Hebrew University lends her the perspective, insight and ability to shed new light on a controversial history. The Almond Tree showcases the resilience of the human spirit and brings forth a message of the necessity of education and a plan for peace in the conflict.

My views:

When I began to read this book, I cried. It is not just a story of Ichmad Hamid, a Palestinian boy and his journey starting as a young boy in 1953, but of just any little boy or girl, caught between two warring forces.

Ichmad's world comes apart, when arms and ammunition are hidden in his garden. He sneaks upon the person hiding them - but for fear of being killed he keeps mum. The Israeli forces find these arms, his father is branded a terrorist - is jailed for years together and tortured. Their house is burnt down and the Israeli forces do not grant a permit to build another house. His world begins to fall apart.

He and his younger brother are forced to find work - back breaking work. Unfortunately, a co-worker, deliberately pushes Abbas his younger brother - crippling him for life.

Ichamd has to soldier on alone, he even faces torture on his rare visits to meet his father in the prison. Take this sentence for example:
“The guard pulled my buttocks apart and I gasped with pain as the instrument penetrated my rectum. I held my breath. When the instrument scraped my insides, my eyes watered. It was all I could do to keep from whimpering. My ears popped when the guard finally removed it.”

It is always the innocent civilians who bear the brunt of the fury. Fertile land is stripped away, education is denied, these measures cause irreparable harm even for future generations, even as lack of clean drinking water, lack of sanitation facilities has a more immediate and equally unfortunate impact.

Coming back to the book. A local teacher recognizes Ichmad's talent in maths and physics and coaches him whenever Ichmad has some time to spare after his back-breaking work. This local teacher, goads him to enter a contest - a sole ragged Arab participant in the midst of well to do Israeli kids.

There is hope ahead. Ichmad gets a scholarship to study. Professor Sharon, who despises the Arabs eventually becomes his mentor. He makes Israeli friends, he finds support from within the 'enemy group'.

Ichmad's father had rightly said that people hate because of ignorance or because of their own past painful experiences - as was the case with Professor Sharon. The bond between Ichmad and Professor Sharon continues to gain in strength and they join MIIT in America. Ichmad also finds love - he marries Nora, an American Jew.

This itself has its own impact on his family and her family. She had thought her parent's to be broadminded, but they are unwilling to accept Ichmad. In Gaza, Ichmad's father whole heartedly supports this union, his mother is not that welcoming (not to begin with) and Abbas completely disowns his brother. Unfortunately, while on a visit in Gaza, Nora dies while trying to protect the family's home from the onslaught of bulldozers, intent to rip their lives asunder again.

Life goes on, Ichmad buries himself in his work, several long years later he remarries a young Arab wife, who with the help of Professor Sharon and his wife, slowly adjusts to America.

Abbas, much to Ichmad's horror has gone underground. Ichmad moves heaven and earth for one last meeting with his brother.

He does manage to meet Abbas, now part of the Hamas outfit one last time in Gaza. He is taken on a tour of the Gaza strip by Abbas' grandson Majid. Here on the burnt-streets chocked with fumes from white phosphorous shells, which can cause multiple organ failure, children such as Majid carry backpacks which contain no books. There are no books to speak of - the entire generation is ripped of its right to education.

Instead of trading baseball cards these kids trade fragments of shells. Majid shows Ichmad one such shell which says: Produced in Saltsberg, Pennsylvania. Yet, another kid, pops out his artificial eye. Ichmand and his wife Yasmine haven't seen the worse, not just yet.

Abbas' youngest son, Khaled has inherited his Uncle's prowess in science and maths. Ichmad promises to take him to America for further studies. This proves to be impossible. Khaled commits suicide because he sees no way out of a dismal oppressive existence. Ichmad realizes that he has killed his nephew by promising him a new life, which he could then not fulfill.

Abbas tells his brother: Israel had turned a hard-working, proud and resourceful people into a “nation of beggars.”

In this book, Professor Sharon and Ichmad jointly help create a more peaceful future by setting up a scholarship fund - so that many other youngsters do not have to resort to what Khaled did, but can cling on to the hope of a better future. If two individuals could celebrate their differences,focus on their commonalities and work together to advance humanity, so can others.

May the peace forces, be it the conflict area covered by the book, or any other part of the world, gain greater strength.

The Almond Tree, nurtured Ichmad and his family, all through the years, we need to learn how to nurture each other.

And as we enter 2013, let us all, in our own tiny way, resolve to work towards a more peaceful co-existence.

Author's message to me via GoodReads:

I think The Almond Tree is a universal story about oppression. Through my book, without giving away the plot, I try to show that there's a better way. I try to show that we should celebrate differences and focus on our commonalities to advance humanity, instead of our differences and destroying it. I try to show how strong we would be if we worked togehter to advance each other.

I wasn't a writer. I went to Israel in high school and was horrified to find out that everything I had been taught about it turned out to be a lie. I wanted to become a human rights activist, but 20 years ago, there was little anyone could do. After I read The Kite Runner and realized a writer can reach into peoples' hearts and change them forever, I decided to write the Palestinians story. I tried to shine a light so bright the whole world would see the horrible injustices they suffer and help try to bring about a real and just peace. Every life is precious. I think we were put on this earth to lift each other up.

With the latest massacre in Gaza, you wouldn't believe how many Americans wrote me that before when they heard of things in Gaza, they just thought Israel was defending itself against terrorist. They told me that my book has made them see the situation completely differently. They were so concerned for the Palestinians in Gaza and so against what Israel is doing. They said it wasn't a far away situation anymore. They felt like they knew the people there.

Author's detailed bio is available on her website:
Click here
Her motto: "May the battles we fight be for the advancement of the human race."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping Score, a guide to love and relationships

Title: Keeping score, a guide to love and relationships
Author: Marc Brackett
Author's blog: Keeping score

I was very hesitant about reading this book and also about reviewing it. I wrote to the author that the culture in India would be different and the tests prescribed by him in this book would perhaps not apply. Marc persisted a bit and I was intrigued. After all, I hadn't ever read a book of this genre and really wanted to know whether a book like this would help anyone.

I've seen friends who have gone through painful divorces and yet others who are anxious to find their soul mate. And what is worse, during the festive season -- people do feel extra lonely. Just to get over this loneliness, they jump into a relationship with disastrous consequences. So yes, perhaps the book could help people think through their relationships, their marriage, their potential relationships/marriage with a clearer head.

When I got the book, even as I began to skim through it, a friend who was in a bumpy relationship borrowed it and found it to be a sensible read. Her take: the many questions in her head were more or less set down in this book and all she had to do was honestly answer them and get a clearer picture. Of course, the path she would opt for would be entirely her own.

The background:
As the author points out in one of his blog posts, Over the past few decades, the common sense knowledge that men and women communicate differently has been proven time and again through numerous studies. Regrettably though, this knowledge hasn't improved our ability to communicate with one another- well, not enough anyway. So if we are aware that men and women communicate differently, then why can’t we learn to communicate better?
Perhaps a serious reader of this book, needs to also visit the author's website and the frequent blog posts.
The four components of Keeping Score are:
1. Adam and Eve: This section comprises of relationship evaluation tests designed specifically for each gender. The reader has to answer the questions and fill in the score sheets provided at the end of the book. One of the sections dealing with 'Common interests' is the same for both genders. Else the questions are gender specific. For instance, the woman, even if financially secure would take into consideration the income of her potential partner/partner, whereas the man would probably take into consideration not just how she looked when they first met, but also her looks down the years. (It seemed a bit stereotyped to me, but my friend claims it is true - women are held to a higher standard when it comes to their physical appearance).
2.Knowledge is Power: This section is a review of the factors creating the relationship score. Each factor is explained in great detail with suggestions to improve your score and ultimately your relationship.
3.A Score to Win: This is a guide on improving relationships by examining the strengths and weakness and analysing where there is scope for improvement. (I liked this section and my initial apprehension what the book is stereotyped began to fade away)
4. Lastly one can hop across to the website, to share scores online and compare it with others (I am doubtful on whether everyone would want to share their scores).

My views:

I agree that men and women communicate differently. That said, maximum points have been prescribed for your answers for parameters across various sections. You have to deduct the points applicable to your answer from the maximum points to arrive at the difference. The difference is graded and helps you ascertain the severity of your problem.

In the Indian context, since the family still does play a crucial part - you marry not another person, but you marry into a family - a higher weightage (maximum points) to questions in this realm would have suited the Indian reader.

The book does not wrap you in a feel good cocoon, it brings forth some hard facts, on issues that are best dealt with upfront and honestly.

The questions are well set and deal with a variety of parameters against which the partner/proposed partner is scored starting from the basics of education and money; habits; behaviour; attentiveness; religion (a touchy subject in India); relationship with the other family members; to name a few.

The book can act as a guide and the author is wise enough to say - the score is just a starting point. Focus first on modifying your own behaviour. Before your receive you must first give.

If you have questions buzzing around in your head about your relationship, this book could help you get a clearer picture.

Interview with Marc Brackett

1) What prompted you to write this book?

I started out writing this book just to see if I could. I had a concept that was making good sense, I was getting good feedback and wanted to see if the idea was correct. As part of writing this book it involved a lot of talking with people to test the various questions. What I came to see is that there is a lot of needless suffering, in that most relationship damage is self-inflicted. We also have a lot of damaged people who are then creating more damaged people, this creates a real cost to society both in terms of human capital and financial capital that threatens all of us.

So what started out as a big experiment and adventure for me eventually became much more personal. There is no shortage of relationship material out there, nearly all of it is garbage that at least in my mind does little to break the cycles people are in. The problems with the existing approaches are that either a strict moral tone is used or it turns into psycho babble. I thought people would best be served by a relationship book that engaged them in a non-threatening manner. People also like to be entertained, thus Keeping Score was crafted to deliver factual information in a light mannered format that people would be more open to receiving.

I believe we can play a part in shaping the world we live in, and the world our children will live in. While this book started out being about my relationship and my family, it's all part of a bigger picture. What we are currently doing as cultures and societies is not sustainable. This was my attempt at seeing if it was possible to change anything. If you can improve one relationship how many others might be improved because of that?

2) What were the best inputs received from your wife, Kristin - who I understand helped you with the book?

The best input I received and still receive daily is that I know almost nothing. Relationships are in a constant state of flux that requires regular repair and special attention. A large dose of humility is one of the best ingredients to start with, something Kristin serves me on a regular basis.
Writing this book and all the blog posts has provided us both with a great deal of insight into our own relationship. Things that either of us in the past had spent a great amount of time and energy trying to do for our partners turned out to be of limited value. A fraction of that time and effort spent in other areas provided a far greater return and increased the level of satisfaction in our relationship immensely. The changes involved were small and easy to make but the results were exponential.

4) Do you think pre-nuptial agreements help avoid a messy bickering situation in case of a divorce? Would you advocate a pre-nuptial agreement to everyone?

There is little doubt that a pre-nuptial can help simplify matters if a relationship ends in divorce, that's one of the reasons for a pre-nuptial. However some will argue that a pre-nuptial makes a divorce more likely and should thus be avoided. I don't think we can reduce the question of pre-nuptials to the simple arguments that many people insist upon doing so.

As part of addressing financial matters in Keeping Score the blog spent some time on financial planning and pre-nuptial agreements were discussed in considerable detail. The only solid conclusion reached was that a couple had better be able to comfortably discuss the issues a pre-nuptial agreement would address. Whether or not a couple decides a pre-nuptial is needed is a personal decision. Every relationship is unique, the individuals involved in a relationship are unique, and the circumstances surrounding a relationship will also be unique - thus there is no one size fits all rule.

This link goes into much greater detail and provides a list of six factors a couple should discuss to determine if a pre-nuptial is something their relationship needs. An inability to discuss the factors openly should be a warning sign.

5. Is it really wise to keep score in a relationship?

Score is kept in relationships whether or not couples care to acknowledge it. The problem is that these mental scores are usually one sided and don't reflect the value of the whole relationship. An inaccurate private score is a recipe for problems as the issues are not resolved.
Every relationship has it's own unique mixture of issues that should be learned about and then addressed in a manner that both sides find acceptable. Keeping Score merely draws these issues out and provides a format for their discussion that can be a positive and productive experience for the relationship.

To learn more about the optimal ratio of positive to negative interactions in relationships see what Dr. Gottman has to say.

6. Is it realistic to expect a relationship to have a perfect score?

Observations so far have shown that couples with either a high C or low B score are in very good position. Their relationships enjoy sufficient positive interactions and there is an adequate safety margin in place against unforeseen adverse events. What selection of factors a couple chooses to focus on to arrive in this zone is of their own choice and is customized to best suit the needs of their relationship.
Natural systems tend to avoid perfection and focus instead on optimization. This preference allows for a great variety in the solutions that will be found for problems. Just as we have plants that can survive in water we have plants that can survive with very little water. Each relationship will have a different means of optimizing it's interactions to best suit the environment and participants, thus every relationship has it's own optimal score.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mom! There’s a Lion in the Toilet!

Title: Mom! There's a lion in the toilet!
Author: Lisa Anderson

Author's blog: Click here
Available as an e-book via smashwords and in print format. More details on the author's blog. Click here

My views:

Five months of travelling around the world, made it one helluva educational trip for the Anderson family. During this trip they were not ‘home-schooled’ but ‘world-schooled’.

As Derek, the oldest of the kids, all of 16 years old, pointed out in the opening chapter, it all began with the family tradition. Each new year, the Anderson’s make a family goal and for Rick their father the goal for the coming year was a trip around the world. What is more, each one got to choose where they wanted to go.

So, Katie, the 6 year old wanted to ride an elephant and Thailand was jotted down on the itinerary. Twelve year old Jaclyn was studying pyramids and Egypt is where she wanted to visit, Travis, 14 years old wanted to hike the Inca Trials, in Machu Picchu, Peru and other countries were added along the way.

Unlike most backpackers, this family also had to pack a pair of dancing shoes! Just before the world trip began, Jaclyn sailed through the competitive Irish dancing feat and made it to the nationals – she had to practice to be in form when they returned for the nationals. With all this and more happening it was a mad rush to their first destination – Peru.

Their experiences around the world – six continents to be precise – with countries and locations as diverse as Peru in South America; Los Angeles in United States; Pompei in Italy; Pelopennese area in Greece; the beaches of Thailand; Cario, the black and white desserts the closed zone south to Luxor in Egypt; a lot of travel in Australia and lastly some “rest and recuperation” in Hawaii (where they experienced the Tsunami! ) are vividly captured through the voice of different family members in the book. Fortunately, the Andersons just about escaped the the uprising in Egypt, which took place six weeks after they had left Egypt.

Many things stand out in this book. Such as the encounter with two teenage moms outside a swanky mall in Peru. Each of them were holding an infant and gesturing that they needed money to feed their children. After a bit of deliberation Lisa gave them a few bills. Jaclyn wanted to know why. Her response: “That’s a hard question, JC. In honesty, I don’t think tourists, or anyone, should support the action of begging. It sends the wrong message, because it is demeaning for them, and contributes to a negative environment. If looking sad, dirty and needy is rewarded by a big purse, then people in need are not encouraged to make positive changes in their life.” “But if that’s the way you feel, why did you give those girls some money?” she countered. “There’s the dilemma. They looked like they could really use the hand up,” I answered. I wished I had a better answer, both for her and for them.

(Isn’t this something that each of us have to battle with, when travelling in a developing country where beggary is rampant. Sadly, beggars are themselves sometimes victims of a larger gang that takes away their daily earnings from begging, leaving them with almost nothing. In some countries, begging is considered to be a criminal activity and the homeless who are victims of circumstances find themselves punished for being poor.)

The kids also matured along the way, they learnt how to accept diversity, to learn what acceptable behaviour is, and they developed empathy and understanding. Take for example, their experience at the Arizona Memorial, where many of the staff members were Veterans.
Travis protested against the raucous behaviour of another group of tourist-kids, was overheard by a Veteran, who was most touched by the respect that Travis was showing and thanked him.

Even issues of genetically modified crops and the impact it is having on the lives of several rural folks in some parts of the world were dealt with in this book.

In addition to raising such serious issues, the book also captures vividly the fun and laughter, the Christmas spent in warm Phuket, Thailand and finally the joy of returning to the comforts of home.
Of course, one of the cutest experiences has led to the title of the book. Katie, at the Bali Safari, got to visit a clean porcelain toilet with an easy to flush mechanism and was pleased as punch. Till she went to the wash-basin to wash her hands and found a lion staring at her, rather he pressed his nose close, much too close. The lion was on another side of a thick glass wall! But, startled and shocked Katie left the water running and tore out of the washroom yelling at the top of her lungs, right through the restaurant, “MMMMMOOOOOOMMMMM! There’s a lion in the toilet!!!”

As the book is written in many voices – it is more in the nature of a family’s diary and makes for an interesting read. That said, it is likely that young readers may not be able to keep track of who experienced what and where. I also wish a biography of the family had been provided at the beginning of the book.

All in all, this book is a good read, packed with knowledge and funny moments. It may inspire other families to travel to another country, if not globe trot across the world.

Lisa will be sending along two copies for the school that I support, it will be a good addition for their library. Thank you, Lisa.

Interview with Lisa Anderson

1) If you could do anything differently on this trip or in planning for this trip, what would you have done differently?

Planning for our trip happened on the go - it enabled us to be responsive to our family needs as well as the natural disasters that occurred and had us changing plans. I wish we might have visited the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand, as we had intended originally, but as you read, that could not happen. I am glad we were able to keep our family safe.

2) Which moment will linger on with you for a lifetime?

The feeling of complete satisfaction while sitting in silence at the top of the volcano in Hawaii, watching the sun set over the ocean with our family holding hands together. It still chokes me up thinking about it, because we all realized how much we had seen and done, and how much closer we felt to each other because of these common experiences. It was the exact reason Rick and I took our children away on this adventure, and we all knew it had been accomplished.

3) What would you like to tell a family with school kids, which is hesitating to travel for a long duration?

It was a life-changing experience for us, and for our children. I love the saying: Parents give their children two things. One is roots, the other is wings. The five months they "missed" at home were not really missed at all.

Source of the photograph: Downloaded from Flickr and used as per the terms of the Creative Commons License.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Sealed Fate

Title: A Sealed Fate
Author: Lisa Gordon
Available on: Amazon (including Kindle) and in other online stores and bookstores

Gist as available on GoodReads: Upbeat and contemporary in style, this riveting narrative features an eclectic mix of characters awash with local color. To escape the pain of failed relationships and careers, both Valda and Larissa take themselves to the exotic locale of Dubai, seeking not only success but a general purpose in life. Valda does indeed find fulfillment--and, to her astonishment, love--but all is threatened when she is introduced to a billionaire Sheikh. Her clandestine relationship with the Sheikh propels her into a murky web of deceit, and she turns to her friend for help. As an astrologer, Larissa predicts that Valda and the Sheikh's destinies were decided from the moment of their first meeting, but she keeps the dire outcome foretold in the charts a secret. Together, the two women soon find themselves gambling in a game of cosmic Russian roulette where the stakes are their lives and their adversary is fate itself. Bravely merging genres and sensitively embracing personal relationships, this spiritual and gritty thriller illustrates the complex theme of choice versus chance.

My views:
For everyone who believes in friendship at first sight, this book is a must read. The characters are well conceptualized and the author's knowledge of the settings, be it South Africa or even Dubai are excellent. I do believe settings also have a very important role to play in any novel.

Fate brings Valda, a singer - who has taken up a job in Dubai - to escape from a failed relationship and Larissa (Lara) - an astrologer who is perhaps searching for her own self, together. The client-astrologer relationship fades away in the very first meeting and a true, trusting friendship is born.

There are so many snippets of wisdom in this book. I quote two of my favourite paragraphs here:
In one scene, Lara tells Valda - Success is ephemeral and when it ceases to be, you cease to be with it. We are all more than our date of birth, our martial status, and our successes and failures. It's all ashes and dust, but the lessons we learn stay within our soul for eternity.

I've been a firm believer that we are in the driving seat of our life's chariot. True, unexpected painful things can happen. Not being able to find a soul mate, separation, illness, loss of a loved one, and so on. It is up to us how to handle such obstacles and overcome them, as we continue to drive on life's pathway. But then, does fate have a say in how things pan out? This is a question I've often asked myself and it was answered by Lara.

"When we can't decide or fail to choose, or if we believe we have no choice, fate chooses for us. I believe that we fail to decide or commit to something totally due to a battle raging between our conscious will and our spiritual will; this produces a frustrating stalement of depression and torment. We stumble along until our higher conscious and ego come into alignment, then anything is possible."

But, let me not digress. Valda is trapped in the web set down by a Sheikh who owns many hotels, including the one she works in as a singer. There is perhaps no escape or perhaps Valda is also dilly-dallying a bit in the quest for riches, which her job in Dubai offers. Lara - comes to her rescue and Valda manages to escape from the web she was trapped in, just in time. While this Sheikh meets a justified end... the ending of the book is not perhaps what I had visualised.

Lara and Valda meet for one last time in New York, and Valda is eagerly anticipating a visit from Brett - perhaps this romance would blossom? There is an unexpected twist, even as both Lara and Valda are able to move on, albeit in different dimensional spheres (let me not say more, for this you have to read the book).

The last sentence in the novel, aptly is: The End, and The Beginning.

Let me clarify that there is no romance brewing between the Sheikh and Valda, instead the Sheikh is attempting to entrap Valda in devious business deals - as perhaps he has done with many former employees. It is about misuse of power, and instead of the Sheikh it could be just be any other powerful scrupulous employer anywhere else in the world.


1) Tell us something about yourself, how and why did you become a writer?

Actually my best friend at school wanted to be an author and at that point I had no idea I could write and no intention of becoming an author.

At school writing was actually my weakest subject and it was not until I was seventeen that my English teacher, Mrs Worth noticed that I had talent and gave me some really good advice; advice I still follow today. A great teacher really can make a difference and Mrs Worth was one of those gifted teachers who made a difference to so many of our lives.. As an only child I spent most of my time by myself and so developing characters in my imagination and creating a fantasy world was second nature.

At the age of thirty and with the advent of email; I became a prolific email writer to my friends all over the world. Many of them said that they enjoyed my emails so much; that I should consider writing professionally. I didn't take them seriously. I happened to go for a psychic reading at that time and the psychic said, "You are going to be a writer!" - I was amazed that she had picked up on my ability and I took it as a sign that writing was indeed for me. I started my novel A Sealed Fate the next week.

2) Do you still practise astrology? What are your clients actually seeking in terms of advice?

I still do astrology, but my time is now taken up with writing, promoting other writers and accounting.

My clients wanted definitive answers most of the time; I think they thought I was an emotional and spiritual satnav - "To meet Mr Right take the next left; straight up this street for the perfect job"etc. But should fate be taking all the credit, or blame for everything in people's lives or is it free will, our own choice, however influenced by our surroundings, which govern our actions? My clients and their questions about their lives really got me thinking – astrology is all about freewill, encouraging clients to use the impetus the planets are giving them at any one time to make positive changes in their lives. However it seemed that most people almost wanted to believe that they had NO choice and that it was all written out for them and what they wanted me to do was just tell them how it would all work out, rather than what they needed to do to get the result they wanted. Astrology gives you the ingredients; you still have to ‘make the cake yourself’.

I hope that the storyline in A Sealed Fate will get people debating in their heads whether Lara’s prediction became a self-fulfilling prophesy, whether Valda’s choices alone determined her fate or if it all would have happened regardless of ‘the reading.’ A Sealed Fate will make readers think about how much we all put down to fate and how much we could change our lives by taking more control.

3) Who is your favourite character in this book?

I had a soft spot for Valda - she is such a risk taker and so cool - I am such a conservative nerd. I experience my wilder side via her. Lara is very much like me and her experiences strongly mirror my own in terms of her life path and philosophical outlook...NB. I have not be on the wrong side of law though LOL!

Valda and Larissa clicked instantly and were alike in many ways; however I often think that although Larissa genuinely grew to love and care for Valda, Valda’s feelings for Larissa did not run as deep and she perhaps used Larissa.

4) What are your future plans.

I have written two more thrillers: one set in the UK and Japan and one in Italy. I now adhere to more traditional thriller genre guidlines. I am so proud of A Sealed Fate as when I started it, I had not idea that I would have the ability to take it right to the end. A Sealed Fate is a story with many elements and it is hard to catagorise as one genre; it is a thriller, but it is many different things to different people. Perhaps for those who never question their life path and who never wonder how many strings fate is pulling, it does not have the same meaning. A Sealed Fate was different, a little too different and out the box for conventional publishers.

I still make sure my novels contain originality, intriguing diverse characters, peppy dialogue and the unexpected. Location remains an inspiration and I do research my settings thoroughly.

Novels should make a reader think and those questions and thoughts should remain long after the story has been read.

I have written a play and two screenplays and hope to master the screenwriting genre one day.

Writing give one endless possibilities!!!

As was once said, "No one has lived only once if they have a read a book!"

Author's bio:

An only child to a single Mum, Lisa was born and brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite a lifelong ambition to act, she enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand to do a BCom Law. She later moved to UK, where she achieved a BSc Industrial Economics Hons Degree from Warwick. Still wanting to be a star - her Mum encouraged her to study 'The Stars' and Lisa became an Astrologer. Lisa worked on hospital radio for many year, before becomming a regular Astrology guest on BBC local radio. As an Astrologer Lisa was always asked by her clients to make black and white definitive predictions about their futures: this made Lisa ponder the role of fate in our lives and how much freewill we really had. Hence the plot for her philosophical thriller, 'A Sealed Fate' was born. Choice versus chance - which prevails?
Lisa wrote her book while also writing the ACA Chartered Accountants exams. She hopes to become a successful writer, not an accountant! Lisa is grateful to the wonderful support of both strangers and friends and their inspiration. Lisa is also grateful for having a 'power-house' Mum; who is her biggest supporter and best buddie.

Source of the photograph: Dubai Online White Pages