Frames – A Fulfilling Review

A glowing review is a delight for any author. But receiving such a review from a writer you admire is a priceless treat. Thank you for your beautiful words, Carol!

I’ve always liked Ana Linden’s books. She’s very good at getting inside her characters’ heads.

Frames consists of four short character driven stories. These are not ordinary characters and through their flaws Ana Linden gives us insight into relationships and human nature.

The subjects of her stories range from the damaged educational system, the cruelty of abuse, loneliness, losers and guilt.

[…]

Linden’s writing is not ordinary. She is unafraid to show the rawness of human nature in a unique literary voice. She is an artist using words as her medium. It is reflective writing.  The stories in Frames are the kind that you want to savor and allow the beauty of the writing sink in. There is no sermonizing in these stories and we understand what is not being said. This makes for quite satisfying reading.

(Carol Balawyder)

Visit Carol Balawyder’s site for the full review of Frames and if you have a moment to spare, check out her books as well. She is such a gifted writer!

Warning Signs – A Gripping Psychological Thriller by Carol Balawyder

Warning Signs, Carol Balawyder’s first psychological crime novel will pull you in from the first page. Nowhere near the typical whodunit, it provides a compelling, complex image of the emotional process behind becoming a serial killer, the struggles tormenting such an individual, and their social and amorous interactions.

Thorough psychological research and her background as a criminologist provide the author with a strong foundation on which to build realistic characters and trace the effects of their damaging history and dysfunctional relationships. Brilliant in their own ways, the killer, the woman who loves him and the detective trying to stop him are inevitably drawn to each other in a fashion dictated by their obsession, trauma, guilt, loneliness, loss and despair.

“I’ve worked on so many cases where there’s a history of a violent parent. There always seems to be. Mothers abandoning them. That alone can stir a lot of anger in a kid. If he’s not allowed to express his anger, it’s going to get directed at someone else. I have yet to work on a case where there isn’t some kind of abuse in the family,”
Balawyder, Carol. Warning Signs: A Story About Obsession

Continue reading “Warning Signs – A Gripping Psychological Thriller by Carol Balawyder”

Honey Ko – A Thrilling Romance

After reading Honey Ko, William Pennington’s debut novel and “a labor of love thirty-five years in the making” as the author notes, the first thing that comes to mind is, please don’t make us wait this long for your next book!

“Time passes, and grinds mountains into rubble and erases history into dimly recalled, tentative tales of memory, but it cannot erase the memory of the love a man and a woman feel but once, the love of a lifetime, the love of the ages. The love for which the heart burgeons into a breathless burst of yearning and passion and tenderness and fulfillment. The human love.”

Pennington, William C.. Honey Ko: A Novel

Love is indeed the keyword and main theme in Honey Ko, the complex, skilfully penned characters struggling to understand it, find it, preserve it and survive it. Heart-warming, intertwining love stories surpass the limitations of time, life and death, providing a fascinating, in-depth analysis of the happiness, sorrow and motivation behind the central life force this feeling represents.

It’s not an easy task to describe love, its torments or passion, but Mr. Pennington manages it beautifully and eloquently, in countless creative ways abounding in inspired imagery. Delicate moments and feelings are vastly explored, stereotypes are shattered, painful memories dealt with as the main character discovers himself, tirelessly questioning his feelings and motivation in order to learn what he needs from the woman he loves and how he needs to love her. From an all-consuming, fairy-tale kind of love to a more realistic and mature version, the characters’ journey makes for an enthralling, compelling read.

Artful raconteur, Will Pennington (author of Writers Envy blog) puts his own experience to good use while describing in great detail the exotic setting and the interactions between men and women from different cultures, with varied backgrounds and aspirations, and the way these aspects influence their romantic choices.

The multiple narrators create a well-rounded, dynamic, witty story, which certainly doesn’t lack suspense and twists. Nature itself, together with the exotic beauty of the Philippines and Hawaii, enhance the thrill of this novel, making it a deep, must-read, feel-good book, perfect for the summer ahead.

“When God created love, he created it from a perfect form. The love between Susanna and me was that form. All other love was a copy of the love we shared.”
Pennington, William C.. Honey Ko: A Novel

Ana Linden: Albatross

Thank you for your wonderful review, Carol! You always have insightful, supportive words for your fellow-writers and you share your own experience so generously. ❤

Carol Balawyder

albatross

In her collection of stories Ana Linden refuses to have her characters see through rose colored glasses or have happily ever after futures.

Don’t expect extraordinary individuals, always able to make the world a better place, when they can hardly save themselves. This world is not one of untainted, selfless, righteous spiritual leaders either, just as it is not one devoid of violence, crime, pain or punishment.
https://analindenblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/albatross-the-big-day/

In Albatross, the opening story, Linden gives us an honest perspective of husband and wife regarding the staleness of their marriage.

Then there is the single woman’s paranoia and fears that accompany what it’s like to live alone after being robbed.

And the story about the affair. “The moment we met, we knew the week spent together would be one of those times so essentially shallow, that it can have nothing less than a profound effect on both of us.”

Ana Linden…

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Carol Balawyder’s “Mourning Has Broken”

Instead of sharing an image of a spectacularly dangerous corner of nature or of anything else around us that might suggest great peril, I’m stepping outside the confines of this week’s challenge. In fact, I’m dropping the “photo” part of the challenge altogether, and I’m focusing on the topic alone. Thus I would like to share a few thoughts on a book I’ve read recently, a book written by somebody you might already know from the blogging world. And yes, there is a connection… As I see it, one of the relevant dangers of being human and of allowing ourselves to experience the greatest joys of our nature is loss. Death is part of it – an unavoidable part of it. So we are all confronted with it and we have no choice but to learn how to deal it.

“Death is messy and often is accompanied with unfinished business. The leaving behind of everything and everyone you could possibly imagine. There is no way out of it.”

Carol BalawyderMourning Has Broken

Putting pain into words is one thing; putting those words in writing is another. But putting that writing out there, for everyone to access and interpret is an act of bravery. After reading Mourning Has Broken, one can only admire Carol Balawyder’s courage to share her experience with grief and loss.

I’ve read other books written by her, but this one touched me the most. Perhaps it’s the disarming honesty with which Carol writes about the pitfalls of dealing with death, loss and grief. Perhaps it’s the fact that everyone who has ever dealt with such issues can relate to the tone of the book and the emotions shared, if not also to some of the exact manifestations. Either way, a sense of gratefulness and respect builds up as one keeps reading – gratefulness for sharing and respect for the woman who has managed not only to work through incredible loss, but to also find hope and meaning in her experiences.

Grief is personal and there is no sure “recipe” for surviving it, and Carol’s book doesn’t try to give advice; but in trying to make sense of pointless, heart-breaking events, she does manage to cleverly insert a sense of hope. Somewhere, underneath all the pain, guilt and regret, there is strength – strength to move on, strength to remember, strength to hurt and fall apart, yet somehow continue living. The dead survive through the memories and feelings of the living, and allowing this connection to manifest itself once in a while is not only natural, but it can also be helpful, we are reminded. Memories of the past find embodiment in the present – a recipe, a book or a clothing item are not only a reminder, but a way to reconnect, to understand, to find peace.

There are numerous kinds of death and they never really find us prepared. What we know may seem useless, so we despair, but we also try and create our tools to help us deal with such situations. If nothing else, Carol’s book is a ray of hope from somebody who has survived and wakes up every day knowing she has to keep working at surviving. This is something that had to be said, Carol Balawyder’s fluent style convinces the reader – the same reader who gets a distinct feeling that the writer not only knows what she’s talking about, but has also thoroughly researched the matter, to facilitate the mourning process. The answers she found, she shares with us… and for that, we can only be thankful.

“Mourning, I realize, must come in small parcels. To realize the immensity of the loss at once would be too overwhelming and unbearable. It must be done in bits and pieces of dreams disappearing one sliver at a time.”

Carol Balawyder – Mourning Has Broken

Books, Reviews And Awareness – Carol Balawyder

Carnations are the symbol for Multiple Sclerosis, I recently learnt from Carol Balawyder’s blog. In order to raise awareness, she is offering one of her books, Not By Design, for the bargain price of 0.99$ the entire month of May. While I don’t usually review books on my blog (this is only the second time it happens), I find Carol’s writing worthy of such an exception. Not only is she a talented writer, but she is also very supportive of fellow authors, so if you haven’t come across her blog yet, perhaps it’s time you had. Summer is right around the corner and in case you’re looking for something to read on the beach, her books are a nice alternative – engaging, entertaining, yet also well researched and interesting.

Getting To Mr. Right

getting to mr right

Carol Balawyder has managed to create four relatable, strikingly real protagonists and this, together with the highly relevant and complex subject it tackles is what makes her book a real page-turner. Whether we like to admit it or not, the Prince Charming myth – under its various shapes and interpretations – occupies a significant place in a contemporary woman’s love life, regardless of her age, social status or background. No matter if she is desperately seeking this ideal man or she is incessantly trying to debunk the controversial myth, a woman cannot deny the relevance of this concept and the inner struggle it creates.

So much more than a selection of dating stories and disastrous sentimental experiences, the book gives a detailed account of the profound effect an absent father figure might have in determining a woman’s development and the way she will perceive and handle future relationships with men. Getting to Mr. Right is certainly not a “how to” manual. On the contrary, what becomes clear early on is that finding the right partner needs to be a journey to understanding and finding one’s true self.

Campbell, Missi, Suzy and Felicity could be any one of us and most likely, we have been in their shoes more than once. The four very different ladies have one thing in common, they all face some sort of personal, emotional crisis, and this is what brings them together. What might at first sight seem to be a narration focused on the relevance of finding the ideal man and the perfect relationship is actually an ode to female friendship. These four wonderful ladies manage to find their way, realize their potential, understand who they are and what they need not with the help of a man, but with the support of their friends. Once they heal, they make peace with their past and form a realistic view on relationships, they can find balance and love.

We are never too young or too old to discover ourselves or to make a change for the better, we are gracefully and discretely reminded. As for all those huge everyday questions we all have about compromise, independence, career and the way they affect or are influenced by romantic relationships and family connections… it’s a delight to see Campbell, Missi, Felicity and Suzy try to figure them out. At times hilarious, at times heart-breaking, their adventures and feelings are nicely punctuated and enhanced by setting and weather, thus improving the reader’s literary experience. But I’ll let you discover such details on your own…

Not By Design

not by design

Sometimes we have control over our destiny… and other times life simply happens, and not by design. That’s what Felicity Starr, the protagonist of Carol Balawyder’s fourth book in the Getting to Mr Right series, finds out when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Not By Design is not your typical “boy meets girl, they overcome various obstacles and live happily ever after” romance.

We find Felicity about to reach a fairy-tale ending – a spectacular wedding in Rome – but her life turns upside-down when she discovers her illness and Marco, her wonderful prince, turns into a frog. Struggling to deal with health and financial issues all on her own, left by the man she was about to marry, recovering after her father’s unexpected death, Felicity needs to accept the truth about her own life. In many respects, what she believed to be real turns out to have been an illusion and her choice in men still reflects some of Felicity’s past mistakes. It may have taken her a long time to see her father for who he really was, but that hasn’t obliterated her need for acceptance and approval. Not only does she acknowledge it eventually when she has to sort out all the emotions triggered by his death, but we see it clearly when looking at Marco and noticing how much his character and behaviour towards Felicity resemble her father’s.

The father-daughter relationship becomes secondary in Not By Design. Felicity’s relationship with her mother, Nicole, is emphasized this time, as the two finally get closer and past wounds start healing. Her need for a mother figure also plays a big part in Felicity’s choice to marry Marco, as it becomes obvious from her feelings for his mother. But the relationship that needs the most work is that with herself – her MS helps her grow, become independent and establish a new, more realistic system of values and priorities. First and foremost, she needs to accept herself. As her story progresses, we find Felicity using a cane, but she no longer uses people for crutches.

The setting complements the flow of the story, also enhancing our reading pleasure. Rome and its history infused streets are the romantic, almost surreal scene for the first part of the book, but as the fairy-tale mirage starts dissipating, Felicity moves back to Montreal, the place where reality takes precedence in the best of ways. That is where she finally finds her way and starts seeing her dreams come true, as soon as she understands what is important and what she truly wants.

Felicity is a strong character and the first person narrative brings her closer to the reader in what is a very enjoyable, interesting story. Just like in the first book of this series, Getting to Mr Right, Carol Balawyder has managed to provide us with relevant facts (this time about the physical and emotional struggles of those suffering from MS) without disrupting our reading pleasure. In spite of all these complex matters, Not By Design is a light, relaxing read, perfect for a lazy day on the beach or for a quiet evening at home, when one needs to clear one’s mind and forget about all those troubling daily issues.