Tag Archives: literary fiction

Interview with Author Sharifullah Dorani

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Before I start, I would like to thank you for the interview and your review of The Lone Leopard

I was born and brought up in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claimed asylum alongside my parents in the UK in 1999. I finished all my higher education in the UK. I am married and live with my wife and three children in a quiet town in England. 

How did I get into writing? I love writing, especially about my country Afghanistan. Therefore, I did my PhD on Afghanistan and subsequently published some two dozen articles and a book (more below) on my native land. 

The idea for writing The Lone Leopard, however, was actually conceived in 1992 when the ‘pro-Communist’ Najibullah regime collapsed and the mujahideen took over Kabul. Turning Shia against Sunni and vice versa, setting Afghanistan’s main ethnic groups of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek against each other, and accusing each other of uniting with the remnants of pro-Communist members and thus not being Islamic enough, the 15 or so mujahideen groups fought each other in the streets of Kabul, killing tens of thousands of innocent Kabulis, displacing hundreds of thousands, and turning half of Kabul into mudbrick rubble with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.

Taking refuge in the basements of our blocks while the gunfire, shelling and fighting continued, I decided (if I made it alive) to write about what we ordinary Afghans went through. Unlike thousands of Kabulis, I was fortunate enough to live, and 18 years later, in 2010, I started writing about the experience: after 12 years of writing/rewriting (and extensive research, including consulting nearly a thousand sources), The Lone Leopard is the result.


2) What inspired you to write your book?

I’ve partly answered this question above. I’d also like to add that my only inspiration is my people and country. I wanted to tell the contemporary Afghan and Afghanistan story from an Afghan perspective. Ahmad, the protagonist of my novel, therefore, gives a first-hand account of what I (and most Afghans) have experienced over the past four decades in Afghanistan (and in exile). My previous book, America in Afghanistan, published in 2019 by IB Tauris/Bloomsbury, was praised by reviewers for its Afghan perspectives, and is found at, among other institutions, Oxford and Harvard.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The reader will get to know a great deal about the principles of Afghan culture, particularly independence, courage, loyalty, justice, revenge, righteousness, pride, honour, chastity, hospitality, love, forgiveness, faith (Islam) and respect of elders (parents in particular), among others, and some of these themes, in addition to jealousy, prejudice, betrayal, guilt and atonement, the book explores.

The Lone Leopard is a historical war drama. Once the reader reads it, I hope they will see how things have been in Afghanistan; they will understand the history and politics of the past four decades in Afghanistan; and they will see the real Afghan and Afghanistan. 

The Lone Leopard is a work of contemporary literary fiction, too, as it is solely based on human relations. The focus of the novel is primarily on the lives of Ahmad (15, a conservatively traditional Pashtun, dutiful child, gifted student, thoughtful but faint-hearted) and Frishta (16, progressive, Tajik, women’s rights activist, compassionate, outspoken and brave): will the faint-hearted Ahmad learn from Frishta to fight his cowardly side and stand up for himself and for what is right, even if his stance opposes traditions/his controlling mother; will the fearless Frishta journey from a middle-class girl to ‘the president of Afghanistan’; will Ahmad and Frishta with conflicting personalities/backgrounds fall in love; will the middle-class Wazir (15, Ahmad’s best friend/classmate: Pashtun, fearless, the school gangster, pro-mujahideen) ever fulfil his dreams of killing a Communist and joining jihad; and will the loveable Baktash (15, Ahmad’s best friend/classmate: Tajik/Hazara, timid but lovable, pro-Communism) live a normal life without getting bullied for being different. So, the reader will get drawn into a time (the 1980s-2010s) when historical events – several invasions of Afghanistan over the past four decades in particular – give rise to nationalistic and religious conflicts and impact the lives of the four characters and their families. 

 Moreover, The Lone Leopard is a mother-son relationship story, as familial aspects constitute a significant part of the narrative, especially (the importance of) parental respect, which you have highlighted (and liked) in your review. 

Incidentally, in addition to the Western reader, when writing the novel, I had the future Afghan generations in mind, especially for them to see what mistakes their ancestors committed and how they should avoid repeating them. One of them is how discrimination, alienation and division can destroy a country; and how unity, inclusion and empowerment of people – regardless of their sex, tribe, ethnic origin, religion, etc. – can help build a better country and, by extension, a better world.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

The Lone Leopard can fit into several genres: literary fiction, women’s fiction, young adult fiction, coming-of-age, family drama, war drama, and romance. For me, however, it will always remain historical fiction drama, the story of contemporary Afghanistan. I chose the historical genre because I have a PhD in IR/history, have taught the history of Afghanistan and have lived through the historical periods The Lone Leopard covers. As a creative writing teacher may say, ‘write what you know’. 


5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I am not very good at social media and only use Twitter. I also have a LinkedIn account, but I have not made much use of it. 

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Read more, research a lot, and get a good command of creative writing techniques before starting your book. And keep it consistent: make sure you write/research/read every day, even if it is for half an hour. Oh, one more thing: start today; don’t wait for tomorrow. 

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

My next book will focus on why the Doha Peace Agreement between the Taliban and America failed and the possible consequences of the failure for Afghanistan, the region and the international community.


About the Author

SHARIFULLAH DORANI was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claimed asylum in the UK in 1999. He has undergraduate and master’s degrees in Law from The University of Northampton and UCL, respectively. He completed his PhD on the US War in Afghanistan at Durham University and authored the acclaimed America in Afghanistan. Sharifullah frequently returns to Afghanistan to carry out research. He is currently South Asia and the Middle Eastern Editor at The Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN International) and has written nearly two dozen articles on Afghanistan (and the broader region), international relations and law. He lives with his family in Bedford, England.

Moss by Joe Pace Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

After his father passes away, a struggling writer who spent his life in his successful father’s shadow finds his late dad’s unpublished work, and must struggle with whether to use it to launch his own career while learning more about his father’s past in author Joe Pace’s “Moss”.


The Synopsis 

Isaiah Moss was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His illegitimate son Oscar Kendall wasn’t. Living in Isaiah’s inescapable shadow, Oscar has become an inveterate quitter who hides his own literary work from the world rather than suffer the pain of failure or rejection.

But when Isaiah suddenly dies, Oscar inherits the old man’s lakefront writing cabin in New Hampshire. There he finds his father’s typewriter, a full liquor cabinet, and an unpublished manuscript of such genius that it could launch Oscar’s career if he claims it as his own.

But as Oscar wrestles with his own twisted inspirations, he meets the women in Isaiah’s life and begins to learn the depths of his father’s secrets…and the costs that come with unresolved trauma and romantic delusion.

The Review

This was a truly profound and moving read. The author did an incredible job of crafting a character-driven narrative that excelled in the most personal and intimate of ways. The emotional pull of the narrative and the honesty in which the author crafted these characters was both relatable and yet mesmerizing to behold, especially with main characters Oscar and May, who each hold a past of hardships and struggles in their own right.

There were quite a lot of truly memorable themes in this story, but two of the ones that stood out the most were the complexity of loss and the legacy of war. These themes were profound as they reflected Oscar and May’s individual journeys perfectly. The heartbreaking reality of Oscar’s non-existent relationship with his late father and the path he must walk to find empathy and understanding for others who are suffering is felt strongly, while May’s experiences with the war and how it has impacted her not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well are greatly explored and keep an honest dialogue going within the reader throughout the narrative.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, poetic, and engaging, author Joe Pace’s “Moss” is a must-read novel. The intense and layered struggles that we as humans face and the way in which we relate to one another are thoroughly explored in this narrative, and the heart of the narrative focuses on connections and how we engage with one another despite past experiences or traumas made this such a moving read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Joe Pace is a writer of literary and science fiction. He studied political science and history at the University of New Hampshire, and his writing reflects his ongoing academic and practical interest in both.

Joe has also served in elective office, taught American history, and worked in business banking. His assorted interests include comic books, pickup basketball, Greek mythology, and the occasional marathon. He was elected student body president as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire and then served nine years on the Select Board in Exeter. After coming up short in a bid for New Hampshire’s Executive Council, he returned to municipal governance as a Selectman in his new hometown of Kensington. 

As a storyteller, he seeks to weave memorable characters and places with unforgettable stories that speak to the human condition. His literary inspirations include John Irving, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Patrick O’Brian. He’s also an unapologetic Star Trek, Marvel, and West Wing guy. 

Joe was born and raised in seacoast New Hampshire and still calls it home with his wife, Sarah, their sons Bobby and Xavier, and their dopey dogs Sam and Joy.


Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young man struggling with his father’s death years earlier and his crumbling family life finds himself facing strange occurrences in author Jonathan Koven’s “Below Torrential Hill”, a unique and emotional literary fiction read with a hint of magical realism.


The Synopsis

It’s Christmas, and strange occurrences are plaguing the small town of Torrential Hill: a supernatural comet, undead insects, exploding streetlights, and a presence luring people into the woods. But when the mother of Tristen—a wistful, fatherless sixteen-year-old boy—hears voices from the kitchen sink, all he can think of is running away.

The Review

This was such a moving and powerful coming-of-age story! The author did such an incredible job of crafting relatable and emotional characters for readers to become invested in while layering their narratives to get a much better understanding of everyone’s motivations and struggles, especially protagonist Tristen. The balance of the author’s genres between magical realism and literary fiction felt absolutely seamless and natural, allowing the reader to become invested in the character’s arcs while still exploring the world the author had created.

What really stood out to me was the incredible way the author matched the atmosphere and setting to the protagonist’s journey, almost as if the character’s surroundings became a reflection of their own inner turmoil and the ups and downs they went through. I also was really impressed with the fine line the narrative played with magical realism, as it allowed enough room for the reader to kind of draw their own conclusions from this aspect of the story, and kind of put a whole-new modern-day, coming-of-age twist on the classic Christmas Carol narrative. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, thought-provoking, and mesmerizing, author Jonathan Koven’s “Below Torrential Hill” is a must-read short story/literary fiction read with a hint of magical realism. The connection readers feel to the main character is immediate, and the exploration of themes like our innate need for love, family, and dealing with loss all come together in a very heartening way. With a writing style that leans towards imagery and artistry, readers will be hard-pressed not to grab their own copy of this amazing read, so be sure to do so today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and freelance editor (and formerly head fiction editor of Toho Journal). He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Read Jonathan’s debut chapbook Palm Lines, available from Toho Publishing, and his award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill, available from Electric Eclectic.


The Strawberry Road: The Collective Journaling of an Ancient Wanderer by Ritch Gaiti Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

One author takes a poetic journey through a prose filled literary fiction studying the road to life’s adventures in author Ritch Gaiti’s “The Strawberry Road: The Collective Journaling of an Ancient Wanderer”. 


The Synopsis

I reached skyward to touch the universe . . . it wasn’t far at all.

The Strawberry Road is a unique, provocative and meditative journey — to appreciate beauty and structure of life from the perspective of innocence. It is a spiritual adventure through discovery of the world as we know it but as we rarely see it — an escape into the primal reality of life, time and nature. The Strawberry Road is a rare exploration and insight on a visual journey that we all should take, told through beautiful tranquility of prose and verse — delivering as much in words as it does in concept.

It was a Sunday morning, the moment of my birth that I stepped onto the Strawberry Road . . . From the very onset, the Strawberry Road appeared vast and never ending, suggesting an adventure that would last forever if I so chose. I had anticipated the undertaking for some time but hadn’t felt the need to plan the course or the destination, as those would be decisions that I would make along the way. The thought of discovery was exhilarating, but frightening — yet full of hope and opportunity.

The Strawberry Road, an unplanned journey of discovery of life and time through the naked eye of innocence and reflection.

The past was curiously a testament to order and symmetry while the future remained forever in undefined chaos. Yet, in the calm between the two worlds lay the present — just a marker on a never-ending line. The past has always just ended, while the future was forever a moment away. Yet I experienced neither but cherished what was solely within my grasp, a sliver of now.

And now was always now,

Separating what was,

From what was about to happen

And it will be, until it does.

The Strawberry Road, a depiction of the beauty of change and the time in between:

In a moment of pure stability

Tween what was and what will be

Frozen crystals veiled the land

Neath a blanket of serenity

And each branch of each tree

Was framed in purity

As perplexity turned to harmony,

And obscurity to clarity

A blanket of virtue

A blanket of white

In a moment of pure stasis

Tween what was and what will be

Looking back, it seemed so obvious. The Strawberry Road, once mysterious, puzzling, stressful, joyful and confusing, was now so clear. But such was the nature of the road — it provided the opportunities and the obstacles. The knowledge and the decisions were all mine.

* * *

The Review

“I reached my hand skyward to touch the universe…”

This line speaks volumes of the artistic nature the author takes with his poetic narrative. A mixture of lyrical prose and poetry, the author delves into the metaphysical aspect of life and the journey we all must undertake at one point or another in our lives. 

The author paints a vivid image in the reader’s minds as they travel along the “Strawberry Road”. This hammers home as true given the author’s natural gifts and experience with art in general. The combination of this imagery with the poetic nature of the narrative and the thought-provoking nature of the story overall make this an emotional read to be sure. 

The Verdict

A must-read literary masterpiece, author Ritchie Gaiti has created a wonderful tapestry of images and emotions throughout this work of art. A beautiful display of literary fiction and prose that captures the heart of the open road journey both physically and metaphysically, “The Strawberry Road” is a book that is not to be missed, so be sure to grab your copies today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Ritch focuses on telling compelling stories depicting the real world through unique perspectives. He writes in a variety of voices and genres from humor to drama, both non-fiction and fiction. He is an author, artist, and an alumnus of Wall Street and has written novels, screenplays and many magazine articles and has been featured on national radio and TV, including an appearance on the Today Show.

Ritch loves to channel his unique characters – whether they be a comical washed up copywriter, a gambler from Brooklyn, a Native American lawyer, and everyday guy who has an entertaining battle with cancer, or, in The Strawberry Road, an undefined protagonist who observes and absorbs the natural world that is often missed. Ritch doesn’t write about his characters — he is the character and shares his emotions, confusion, drive and obstructions.

Ritch is also a recognized artist focusing on depicting the ethereal west in another time, another place. He exhibits across the U.S. in several galleries and museums. His artwork can be viewed on http://www.gaiti.com. Books are available through major outlets as eBooks and paperback (through Amazon).

Ritch Gaiti’s published books:

-The Strawberry Road: a spiritual adventure through discovery of the world as we know it but as we rarely see it. “I reached skyward to touch the universe . . . it wasn’t far at all.”

-F*ck you Cancer … and the Cell you rode in on: Humorously toxic

-The Jewolic . . .Conundrums of a Half-Jew: a humorous romp through religious ambivalence.

-The Big Empty: A gritty lawyer uncovers an ancient conspiracy and the betrayal of a man and a nation in a socially significant mystery/thriller.

-Dutching the Book: A NYC fireman schemes a way to beat the track in an American classic of four lifelong friends, betrayal, gambling, romance and the best horseplayer to ever play the game.

-Tweet: humorous fiction about one average guy who changes the world because he didn’t know that he couldn’t. Recently, Tweet, has been optioned for a feature film.

-Points: Women have them, Men need them: a humorous non-fiction relationship book (under the pseudonym I. Glebe).

Ritch Gaiti Ritch.Gaiti@verizon.net




In the Sun by Mixie Plum Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.


A woman struggling with difficult news contemplates her future while looking at her past in author Mixie Plum’s novel, “In the Sun”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

A novella inspired from a life lived; almost lost, & lived again

The Review

This short novella is a beautifully written story expressing the hidden pain both physically and mentally many people suffer from, and the various ways that people cope or don’t cope with it. Whether it’s through a painful and heartbreaking decision or a wild and hilarious sense of humor that gets a person through each day, the story showcases the highs and lows of living with depression and through difficult circumstances in life. 

The author’s passion and emotional connection to the story are felt in every page. Written in a voice that speaks of honesty, humor and charm while delving into some of humanity’s darkest and most painful subjects and themes, the novella takes great strides to not only highlight the importance of mental health and being proactive about caring about the people in our lives who suffer from it, but about showcasing the very real circumstances in life that force our futures to be taken out of our own hands, no matter how desperately we try to retain control. As someone who suffers from depression myself and has advocated for mental health overall, I felt a deep connection to both the author’s own personal struggles and the story itself, and felt as invested as other readers will once they read this story.

The Verdict

Witty, charming and heartbreaking all at once, this is a must read novel that readers will not soon forget. It’s the kind of novel that leaves an impression long after it’s been read, and yet it’s something that everyone who can read it should read it. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of “In the Sun” by Mixie Plum today.

Rating: 8/10


Memoir From Hell by Stephen Ross Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

TRIGGER WARNING: This novel contains story elements involving physical and mental abuse (including those involving children), as well as themes of domestic abuse. If these things are too upsetting or triggering for readers, reader discretion is advised.

A young man begins the painful journey of recovery by sharing the gristly details of a hellish childhood that changed him forever in author Stephen Ross’ novel “Memoir From Hell”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

A child’s life should be idyllic: filled with friends, abundant joy, and carefree days of endless possibility. But that was not to be for Jake Malloy and his little sister, Dory. Their lives traversed paths upon which no child should tread.As a young adult trying to overcome the past, Jake chronicles the events that destroyed the possibilities and turned life for the Malloys into a living hell. Will Jake and Dory ever be able to lead normal lives? Only time will tell.A fictional memoir not for the faint of heart.

The Review

This is a painful yet important and well written novel. A top read contender for best literary fiction/drama/thriller, author Stephen Ross has expertly brought the heartbreaking reality of domestic abuse and childhood trauma to life. Studying the effects of abuse on the mind a young person who grew up in a truly harmful environment, the author creates realistic and relatable characters that bring the raw emotions of that situation to the forefront, instantly connecting with readers.

The themes and story elements of the story are both powerful and hard to read at times. Yet in this very quick read, the message that comes through has never been more important than it is today, as violence (especially violence against children and domestic violence), seems to be getting worse and more rampant, and the need for the laws to change have never been more apparent. 

The Verdict

This is an emotionally charged novel that needs to be read. Haunting and painfully relevant, this novel is a horror story that challenges the concept of monsters, as it proves that the true monsters are often hiding in plain sight, and could be hiding inside the people we should be able to trust the most. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of “Memoir From Hell” by Stephen Ross today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Stephen Ross was born in LeMars, Iowa, in 1948. He lived in Fremont, Nebraska, from the age of five until he left home to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. After college, Stephen taught business courses at Nebraska Technical College for two years prior to moving to Los Angeles, California, to pursue an acting career.

During his eight years in Los Angeles, he not only acted, but gained extensive experience as a waiter. He moved to San Diego, California, in 1981 to attend law school at the University of San Diego, and practiced law there until retiring in 2017.

Website: www.stephenrossauthor.com

Facebook: StephenRossWriter

Twitter: StephenRoss48

The Burden of Trust: The Price No One Expected To Pay by Tabitha Young Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two unlikely people find themselves connecting in unexpected ways and going on a journey of discovery in author Tabitha Young’s “The Burden of Trust: The Price No One Expected to Pay”. Here is the synopsis. 

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The Synopsis

Sometimes, the heart exacts more than we want to pay 

Faced with a decision that would change her life forever, Katherine “Kate” Woods took the route that seemed best with the circumstances. Only time would tell whether or not she had made the right choice. Her own family required more than a bit of finesse. From being an on-demand aunt for her niece when her sister checked out on them to dealing with her mother’s peculiarities, she just needed some solitude to get her life back on track. 

Chris Cody—sexy, arrogant, and in need of a serious attitude adjustment—enters Kate’s life in nothing less than the dramatic way known as second nature to the very handsome movie star. Armed with his own issues and in need of a good friend, Chris lands on Kate’s doorstep with a proposal to shock them both. 

From New York to Florida to California, the two find themselves in a situation that is not “ripped from the headlines” but makes the headlines in all the ways that Kate does not want. The bonds of love and friendship are truly tested in this moving tale about relationships, families, and life’s surprises.

The Review

A whirlwind story of loss, friendship and the hope for a better tomorrow, this story takes readers in unexpected directions. Readers will be shocked to discover the story is far more complex, deep and emotional than they could have imagined, and creates a truly unique dynamic between Kate and Chris that instantly creates a visual in the readers mind. 

The story itself is strong and evenly paced, making this a fairly quick read overall. Yet it’s the character development of both protagonists and the intricacies of their unique relationship that really make this novel shine bright. Touching on the pulse of some of today’s most emotionally charged social issues, this novel does an excellent job of creating suspense, intrigue and heartfelt emotion that draws the readers in further and further into the narrative.

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The Verdict

This is a fantastic women’s fiction novel that readers will thoroughly enjoy. Creative, passionate and humorous all wrapped into an emotionally charged package, this is the novel readers of the genre will not want to miss. A must read women’s fiction novel for 2019, be sure to grab your copy of Tabitha Young’s “The Burden of Trust” today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Tabitha grew up in Virginia, outside of Washington D.C., but moved to Orlando to attend UCF (Go Knights!) where she received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. It was five years ago when she met her husband, who is a graduate from Deland High; two years ago, they moved back to Deland. During this time, she has fallen in love with the town and community. 

Currently, she is an active alumna of Kappa Alpha Theta and serves on the Advisory Board as the Facility Management Advisor for the Epsilon Theta Chapter at Stetson University. During her free time, she loves being with her family (although they are usually working on their small family farm), traveling, and of course, watching college football.