Tag Archives: travel

In the Shadow of a Dark Star: Godwinks and the Search for a Golden Thread by Brent R. Mekosh Review

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

Author Brent R. Mekosh shares a wonderful collection of essays and vignettes to explore the various cultures and experiences he had in his travels in his book “In the Shadow of a Dark Star: Godwinks and the Search for a Golden Thread”.


The Synopsis

If you were to pick one that matters the most, is it the journey or the destination?

What happens when you think you can outsmart your soul? After a decade of amassing success on the cutthroat floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a disillusioned trader sets off on a global journey for answers that can’t be found intellectually. This story is a collection of 50 vignettes that share the most vulnerable and redemptive experiences of his travels, and what it means to find a home.

In this book, you will learn:

  • Not all who wander are lost, but sometimes you need to get lost to find the answers you seek.
  • The ways to know thyself and its overall impact in finding genuine happiness.
  • There are times you must look into the shadows to find the beauty in life.
  • Deeply profound human experiences are universal and transcend race, politics and other distractions.
  • Life often gives you exactly what you want if you ask for it.

This is for anyone who is a traveler at heart and those who are interested in exploring the wonders of the world, learning different cultures, and pondering upon human experiences. Buckle up and get ready for a book that will take you all around the world! To find out more, grab a copy now!

Bookbaby.com helps independent authors bring their creative vision to the marketplace. Sell eBooks online in the biggest retail stores.

The Review

This was a compelling and powerful read. The author does an incredible job of bringing honesty and depth to the essays in which the narrative of his travel adventures came to fruition. The emotional depth of the novel really stuck out to me, as the book honed in on the author’s emotional experiences and showcased the fullness of what travel is really like. For so many, all we see and hear is the glamour and allure of traveling to other countries and seeing the world, but to witness the author’s first-hand accounts showcases the wellspring of emotions that arise as these cultures are explored, from the sense of curiosity that comes from exploring these nations to the fear and loneliness that comes from the unknown. 

The heart of this book rested on both the author’s honest style of writing and the powerful themes and issues the author touched upon throughout the book. The author’s travels often highlighted powerful and vivid images of the hardships and struggle the people of these nations faced on a daily basis, and became the tapestry from which the author’s own personal struggles and growth stemmed. The book touched upon themes of racial divide and the impact racism has on countries years after its supposed elimination, while other chapters honed in on the delicacy of life and death itself as he witnessed the mass cremation ceremonies of India. Yet it was the author’s use of personal interactions with locals in these nations that really made the story feel alive on the page.

The Verdict

Compelling, thought-provoking, and engaging, author Brent R. Mekosh’s “In the Shadow of a Dark Star” is a must-read nonfiction book on travel and personal development that will resonate and inspire many readers. The powerful imagery in the author’s writing style and the emotional heart of this travel adventure book serves to showcase the gritty work that goes into discovering yourself through the travels we share, and that through adversity and hardship can paradise truly be found. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Brent Mekosh is a former member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In 2006, Brent left New York and backpacked for a year across Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, and Southeast Asia. Today, Brent is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional and Certified Investment Management Analyst®. He lives in Phoenix with his wife Paige and their children Nicholas and Arden. Brent also enjoys trail running, camping, playing the guitar (badly), and reading lots of history.


Interview with Author Mark James Murphy 

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

I have enjoyed writing from a very young age, I won a fictional short story contest when I was very young and had a press release at the time in a local newspaper, I have also had some of my poetry published in anthologies. My first love is art however, I graduated from university with a Degree in Fine Art, and even while still studying I was running lino cutting workshops from my studio for people of all ages. I have produced a large body of artwork to date, in particular lino cutting, which I really enjoy. 


2) What inspired you to write your book?

 I always aspired to see more of the world and began solo travelling in 2015 with a trip to Athens, Greece. Since then I have travelled in Europe, North Africa, spent two months in India, explored much of south-east Asia and lived in Vietnam for over 4 years, teaching English as a foreign language. This love for travel has really helped me rediscover my passion for writing and inspired my new book.

I also recently started doing a travel blog, packed full of travel itineraries, guides and useful tips. It’s an extension of my book. This is the link:

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

I really hope that by reading my new book, readers will be encouraged to confront any fears or hang ups they may have, that may be preventing them from travelling and realizing their dreams. Being from a very working class background myself, I always thought maybe I would never get to break out into the big, wide world and go to all of these amazing places. But I was brave enough to throw caution to the wind and take my chances working in a foreign country and it was the best decision of my life so far. I want to inspire readers to follow their heart and live life to the fullest, not accepting less. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

 I was drawn into the genre of travel, simply because its the area where I feel I have a lot of experience and expertise to offer and share. I am a very creative person and writing is a great outlet for this, so I like to think not only is my book an informative non-fiction travel guide, it is also a rich, narrative. It’s pretty poetic at times when I am describing my own memoirs. 

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

Facebook has been particularly useful in growing readership and driving traffic to my website. I have a Facebook Page which shares the same name as my book ‘Travel For As Long As You Wish’, here I share original photos, reels and blog posts I’ve wrote, all inspired by my travels around the world.

This is the link to my travel facebook page:


This is the link to my art facebook page:


Bookbaby.com helps independent authors bring their creative vision to the marketplace. Sell eBooks online in the biggest retail stores.

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

My advice to new or aspiring authors would be to really be prepared to put in the work on marketing your books, remember your job has just begun once your book is out there. It’s a highly competitive market but don’t forget why you started writing in the first place, because it’s what you love and it’s important to let this passion be your main driving force. Let the passion and shine through and do it with a flourish. 

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

In regard to the future, I am hoping to eventually release a paperback and audiobook version of my current book and hopefully increase the popularity of both my book and my travel blog. I feel my content is very useful to anyone wishing to travel more. I will also be returning to teaching English in Vietnam later this year, as well as continuing my practice as an artist! So lots to keep busy with.

You can visit my website here: https://markjamesmurphybooks.com/

My ebook ‘Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint For Budget Travel, Backpacking And Escaping The Rat Race’ is available here:


About the Author

Mark James Murphy is an artist, teacher, adventurer, and writer. He was born in Sunderland, North-East England in the early 1980s. He has solo traveled extensively throughout the world and in 2017 decided to leave behind his job and apartment in the UK to teach English in Vietnam, South East Asia, for almost five years, describing it as the best moment of his life so far. There he also continued developing his practice as an artist and printmaker, documenting his travels through the medium of linocut. In 2019 he fulfilled a childhood dream when he backpacked for two months throughout the whole of India, ending up in a remote village in the Himalayan foothills. He has played football with local kids in the Sahara desert, lived with Hmong people high in the mountains of North Vietnam, and worked as a farmhand in Southern Spain. Mark is currently based just outside of London.

Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint For Budget Travel, Backpacking and Escaping the Rat Race by Mark James Murphy Review

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

Author Mark James Murphy takes readers on a journey to find the means of leaving the rat race behind and living a life of travel and adventure in his book “Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint for Budget Travel, Backpacking, and Escaping the Rat Race.”


The Synopsis

Learn how to escape the 9 to 5 and live your dream life, without delaying any longer!

What if you could say goodbye to the daily grind and fill every day with adventure and experiences, packed with true value and meaning right now?

From humble North-East roots, in the industrial city of Sunderland, U.K to becoming an artist, adventurer and teacher, Mark James Murphy did exactly that and wants to show how it’s possible for everyone.

This book gives you the ultimate tools and knowledge to get unstuck from the rut of the rat race once and for all and travel for as long as you wish. Whether you are young and inexperienced in travel or a seasoned globetrotter or you have retired and have more time on your hands to explore the world, this book will give you the very latest travel advice and explore the following topics:

How to prepare for your trip, what and how to pack

The latest digital devices for traveling and useful apps

Insightful personal experiences from my own adventures

Reasons why we want to travel and what meaningful travel is

Why you can travel with very little money

How to find your own value and generate finances from this as you travel

Avoid scams while in a new country

Great tips and discount information for senior travelers

Plus: Unique travel destinations for 2023 and beyond, some of which you may never of heard of before!

Escape your day job and travel the world now. Don’t wait until tomorrow, make this book a vital part of your collection and live your dreams today.

The Review

This was a truly well-researched and valuable guide to travel for newcomers and experts alike. The author’s honesty and hopeful tone in the book helped to elevate the information the author provided, and the imagery of the author’s own personal experiences and memories help to illustrate these lessons and themes the author imparts to the reader.

As someone who has always dreamed of traveling the world, the concept behind this book was definitely appealing. The thing that stuck out to me was the author’s emphasis that this was not a book you would read once and walk away from, but instead, return to over and over again as the need to fine-tune one’s road trip goals comes up in life. The exploration of the journey and self-exploration as being part of the travel experience was inspiring, and the way the author challenges the reader to confront our fears and shed the doubts that always prevent our goal of traveling and experiencing new cultures was both bold and inviting.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, engaging, and insightful, author Mark James Murphy’s “Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint for Budget Travel, Backpacking, and Escaping the Rat Race” is a must-read nonfiction travel guide that you won’t be able to put down. The educational purpose of the book balances out the relatability and emotional connection readers make to the author and his experiences in travel, and the thought-provoking look into travel itself will keep readers invested in the author’s story as time goes on. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Mark James Murphy is an artist, teacher, adventurer, and writer. He was born in Sunderland, North-East England in the early 1980s. He has solo traveled extensively throughout the world and in 2017 decided to leave behind his job and apartment in the UK to teach English in Vietnam, South East Asia, for almost five years, describing it as the best moment of his life so far. There he also continued developing his practice as an artist and printmaker, documenting his travels through the medium of linocut. In 2019 he fulfilled a childhood dream when he backpacked for two months throughout the whole of India, ending up in a remote village in the Himalayan foothills. He has played football with local kids in the Sahara desert, lived with Hmong people high in the mountains of North Vietnam, and worked as a farmhand in Southern Spain. Mark is currently based just outside of London.

Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler by Eduardo Rios Lasso Review and Interview | Blog Tour

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

A shy and hesitant young man takes a giant leap forward to travel the world in search of himself and must contend with family, friends, and seeing someone in a new light as they struggle with their own issues in author Eduardo Rios Lasso’s “Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler”. 


The Synopsis 

Fresh out of college, 26-year-old Santiago has always longed to see the world, but his anxiety gets in the way. How can he possibly travel abroad if he feels sometimes heart-pounding pressure by simply riding a bus? But one day, after years of saving, Santiago courageously buys a ticket around the world. His parents think he’s crazy, but he takes a leap of faith and sets out alone. However, the world he had imagined was far from reality.

Meanwhile, Santiago finds out his best friend Laura, who could not join him on the trip, battles a recently diagnosed autoimmune disease. Will he regret his decision to leave her behind? Will their friendship survive or blossom into something more? On his journeys from New York to Lisbon, Paris to Sarajevo, and Istanbul to Bali, Santiago must overcome his shyness and open up his heart despite facing challenges, such as scams, and confronting complex issues like human trafficking. Join Santiago on a journey of self-discovery and adventure like no other.

The Review

This was such a heartwarming, cautionary, yet character-driven read. The way the author was able to capture the beauty and wonder of travel while also showcasing the dangers and struggles that come with it was so authentic and engaging to read. The themes of travel, anxiety and the journey that friendship often takes were so beautifully explored through Santiago as a protagonist, as well as Laura, and I felt myself feel connected to both characters and their struggles both apart and together. 

What stood out in this narrative was definitely the settings that the narrative took. The wide range of locations that Santiago went to not only expanded the personal growth that he underwent throughout the narrative but was brought to life in such vivid detail through imagery and tone that the different cities and places became characters all on their own. Yet it was how these locations taught Santiago about the world around him that made this story feel so relevant and important, especially when delving into the harsher aspects of international travel such as trafficking. 

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, exhilarating, and emotionally investing, author Eduardo Rios Lasso’s “Santiago: Chronicles of a Young Traveler” is a must-read coming of age and travel fiction narrative. The imagery and emotional depth of the experiences that drive Eduardo, as well as his growing relationship with Laura and all that she struggles with, felt both relatable and inspiring to read about. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

 Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Eduardo Rios Lasso emerged as a writer during his career as a medical doctor. Born and raised in Panama City, Panama, his journey has taken him around the globe to dozens of countries. Along the way, he found a passion for travel writing that seeks out positive life experiences while also sharing the common interests and challenges that bring different cultures together. Eduardo currently resides in Germany, where he is completing his training in Internal Medicine. SANTIAGO – Chronicles of a Young Traveler is his first book.

Website: http://www.zibarna.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/e.rioslasso

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3NTV3pk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61134991-santiago-chronicles-of-a-young-traveler


Interview with Author Eduardo Rios Lasso

Processed with VSCO with v3 preset

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

  • Since this book is my first, I educate myself first on how to write a book. Every book that came to my hands about “how to write a book” was devoured by me. I also attended writers’ conferences to learn more about the different literature and writing genres. I touched on topics like prostitution and human trafficking, which was very hard to show in the book the way I wanted. I made my best effort for it. I interviewed people who work in NGOs with trafficked victims and with people who work as sex workers. Read and inform myself as much as possible about every topic I will discuss in the book.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest was probably Laura. Since I wanted (I hope I made it) to show her as a strong woman who could move forward despite moments of sorrow, I hope it can lead young girl readers to stay strong.

The easiest was Santiago. When I came up with the idea, I knew exactly how I wanted him to be.

In your book you make a reference to….how did you come up with this idea? What made you write a book about…?

  • I have always enjoyed writing. I could always communicate better through writing than speaking from a very young age. After being scammed while traveling a while ago, I decided that I would make a blog about traveling. My father has written books too, but law-specific things, so the idea of writing a book was something not strange to me. But the idea of writing this book came up one day when I realized I had just written too much for a blog. I originally planned. Back then was more of a non-fiction book. But then I started to learn how to write a book and how the publishing industry works. I was fascinated with all I could do writing a fiction book but inspired by real-life stories.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

  • From my own travel. The more I travel, the more stories and ideas come to me.

There are many books out there about….What makes yours different?

  • My book combines traveling with social issues affecting our cities and where a traveler can potentially make a big difference. And it is also directed to a younger audience.

What advice would you give budding writers?

  • If you don’t know how to write a book and you want. Start writing your idea as if you were talking with yourself; explain and try to convince yourself of what you write. On the way, your creativity will be unleashed. And read, read books; if you know what type of book you want to write, make sure you find excellent examples. And last, get involved in writing groups and get to know fellow writers who support each other. Prepare yourself for it.

Your book is set in (name place). Have you ever been there?

  • My book takes place in 14 different countries! And yes, I have been in every city mentioned in the book.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

  • I could see myself as Adyn, the character that plays in chapters 7 through 9.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

  • Yes, I am a medical doctor; I work in internal medicine and emergency medicine in Germany, where I’ve lived for the last seven years. It happens that I love both traveling and writing combined. I want to establish myself now as a writer.

How long have you been writing?

  • Continuously since 2016.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

  • Oh yes, I did!. Sometimes just wrote everything that came to my mind, even things that made no sense. Sometimes it did not work, and I had to stop and continue writing after 2-3 days, usually on a day that was not so stressful at work. It always works differently for every people; in my case, the less stress I had, the better I wrote.

What is your next project?

  • I am already working on the second part of Santiago. I am building the story arc of a family saga – more of a local story in Panama, fiction, but as always inspired by real-life stories. But probably the most significant project is to travel west and south of Africa and write a story about my connection as Latinamerican to Africa. That would be my first non-fiction book.

What genre do you write and why?

  • Fiction mostly! Because it allows me to do more, say more, and express more. I also love coming-of-age books because they can teach, inspire, or give a lesson. I am convinced that the generation of the 80s and 90s is our future. They are the ones who can make changes in our society.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

  • The last great book I read was Pachinko von Min Jin Lee. I loved it!

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

  • That my writing to reach reader’s hearts!

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

We both love traveling and have a strong desire to see the world but also to do good!

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

Oh, excellent question! I have to think about Santiago, but Zendaya could do Laura! Hahaha, she is so talented!

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

  • Oh, I love this question, I would put high hopes by Panic at the Disco, Underdog by Alicia Keys, Love someone by Lukas Graham, Rude by Magic, Imagination by Shawn Mendes.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

  • The most significant rewards were:
  • The learning.
  • Knowing that I could do it.
  • All the people I got to meet and be in touch with during all these years.

The challenges? Probably was the time since I had some demanding schedules at work and sometimes a little free time where I also had to study. With a lot of work, it somehow worked.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

  • Tough, very tough, and lonely sometimes.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

  • To sit and write and believe you can do it, everybody has the potential to do it. It would help if you also have patience.

Which authors inspired you to write?

  • No one in particularly I must say. But I have been reading a lot lately and like a lot Matt Haig, Min Jin Lee and Ocean Vuong.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

  • The scene when Santiago sold his old car to get more funds for his travel.

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

  • Usually, there is only water, coffee, and nuts on my table.

Where do you write?

I can write in any room as long as I am in complete silence. I can write in groups and have done it. But the best of me comes when I am alone with myself.

Do you write every day?

  • No, sometimes I need days in between for an idea to mature.

What is your writing schedule?

Whenever my work schedule allows me. Usually in the evening and on the weekends. I write a lot when I am on vacation; late at night is my best time to be the most creative.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

  • I just try to be relaxed and make sure I will have no distractions while writing.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

I write primarily on my laptop, but sometimes an idea comes to me on the street after seeing something as if it was a revelation. Then I need to write that on my mobile quickly before I forget or write it down if I have a notebook.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

  • I have been thinking lately of going back to Bali

Favorite travel spot?

It constantly changes; right now, there is a tied between Lisbon and Paris.

Favorite dessert?

  • Crème brulée

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

  • My book SANTIAGO, because it represents to me many things together. A medical textbook, and the little prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest? 

  • So many have been funniest.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

  • I hiked a mountain in Switzerland and hung literally from a cable over 1000 m high; the slightest mistake, and I was gone! Courageous, but now that I think, kind of scary too, since it was my first time hiking such mountains.

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I enjoy going to the gym. I started recently with Crossfit, and I love it.

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

  • That my books are fun, but they also left them with a message that they could put into action at some point in their lives. Be more empathetic to other cultures, especially the ones different than them.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

  • Patience! That I need more patience!

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

  • The Korean version of Money heist

What is your favorite thing to do in (current season)?

  • Go for biking and swimming.

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

  • At the moment High hopes from Panic at the Disco! Just my mood now.

What is something that made you laugh recently?

  • A Patient at work.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

  • Coffee and Muesli.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

  • I tend not to keep clothes for a long time; I give them away after some time. But I still have a white shirt I bought ten years ago!

Tell us about your longest friendship.

My older sister! She has been there like a guardian since day one! Helping me through all my challenges, dreams, wishes, and all!

What is the strangest way you’ve become friends with someone?

  • On a plane!

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

  • Think I really did not have , boring I know!.

Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike by Julie Gianelloni Connor Review

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

Author Julie Gianelloni Connor takes readers along her personal journey along an ancient pilgrimage and the road to discovery it brought her in the book “Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike”.


The Synopsis

“Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike” is the first book by author Julie Gianelloni Connor. The book focus on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail that began around 820 AD. A resurrection of interest in the Camino since the 1970s has meant that more than 300,000 individuals are nowadays undertaking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela each year. The author made the pilgrimage in 2016 via the French route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a journey of some 500 miles. Her book incorporates a blog and travel journal she kept during that pilgrimage. The book is also a memoir, with Ms. Connor explaining how and why she decided to make the pilgrimage.

Savoring the Camino is also a practical guide to the Camino for those interested in it. While the prevailing culture of the Camino is to walk the route, Ms. Connor believes that walking is not the only way to undertake the Camino. Taking buses, taxis, or even driving are also valid ways to experience the Camino, in her opinion. She advocates for pilgrims to slow down and savor the pilgrimage by stopping in churches, cathedrals, museums, and interesting towns and cities along the route. Not everyone experiences spiritual or personal growth through the act of walking; Ms. Connor urges pilgrims to take the trip in the manner that will most connect them with their spiritual, religious, and transcendent well springs.

After completing the pilgrimage, the author journeyed on to Madrid and Toledo, and there are chapters in the book covering those visits. Ms. Connor also recounts activities following the journey related to the Camino, such as writing an open letter to relevant governmental authorities in Spain and hosting a thank-you dinner in Houston for those who helped her plan and organize her pilgrimage.

The book also includes a useful chapter on resources as well as an index.

The Review

The heart and honesty with which the author writes was an immediate stand out to me as a reader. The reader quickly discovers that the author’s motivations for the journey this book is centered around are both painful and heartbreaking, and yet the author’s strength and courage to overcome the defining moments of her life were inspiring as she undertook this pilgrimage. The book as a whole felt like a great mixture of a history lecture meets a travel guide meets an honest and open conversation with the author herself.

The balance the author struck between the Travel, Memoir, and historical genres of nonfiction books was amazing to behold. The author’s ability to bring the emotional component of her own journey in one sentence and then effortlessly shift into the history of Camino de Santiago and the significance of the trail is spot on and does an incredible job of tapping into the imagery that illuminates this author’s writing style. 

The Verdict

Engaging, thoughtful, and inspiring, author Julie Gianelloni Connor’s “Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike” is a must-read nonfiction book. The history and culture that the author brings to the journey and the emotional impact of the author’s personal journey perfectly mirror one another and keep readers invested in the author’s story perfectly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Julie Gianelloni Connor’s book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike, won a silver medal in the 2020 national eLit competition, was a finalist in the annual Self-Publishing Review competition, earned a gold star for its cover, and topped its category in the annual awards given by the Texas Authors Institute of History. Her book also garnered No. 1 status on Amazon in two categories: new books on hiking and walking and new books on Spain and Portugal. It is both a memoir and a guide to traveling the Camino through Spain. Julie’s author website is JulieConnorAuthor.com. Julie also writes a blog (CaminoForBoomers.com) focusing on the Camino de Santiago; the blog complements her book. 

She is the owner and editor of Bayou City Press in Houston, Texas, which specializes in travel writing, Houston, and international affairs. The Bayou City Press website (BayouCityPress.com)carries columns on travel and on Houston. 

Julie founded Bayou City Press after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S. Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice),Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a variety of areas, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to international women’s issues. 

Julie received a B.A. from Rice University (English and History), an M.A. from the University of Houston(Creative Writing), and an M.S. from the National War College (National Security Strategy). She also studied journalism at LSU. 

Before joining the Foreign Service, Julie worked overseas in Portugal, Spain, and England, teaching English as a second language. 

She has one son, James, and two cats, Halloween and Mimi.

Red Earth Diaries by Jason Rebello Review

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

Two newlyweds from another country throw caution to the wind and travel the country they plan to call home in author Jason Rebello’s “Red Earth Diaries”. 


The Synopsis 

A one-way ticket to Australia…two months of travel…and a shoestring budget.

In Red Earth Diaries we meet Jason and Ambika, a newlywed couple who migrated to Australia with the hope of a fresh start. However, unlike most migrants, they made a bold decision to postpone their settlement plans, throw caution to the wind and backpack in Australia on a shoestring budget. Their intention was to learn about the country and its people first-hand … a land they would someday call home. Swimming with sharks, cuddling cute koalas, chartering private helicopters, venturing deep into ancient rainforests, and getting to know plenty of locals – the couple had incredible experiences in this stunning country.

Their travel story is interwoven with snippets of history and provides the reader with a glimpse of Australia as viewed through the eyes of newly arrived migrants. Join Jason and Ambika on their spectacular journey of discovery. Red Earth Diaries is founded on four primary pillars: a migrant’s journal, a travelogue, a delve into Australian history, and an inspirational tale.

The central message of the book is for everyone to chase their dreams – however distant and impossible they may seem. Moving to Australia has been one seemingly impossible goal the author had set decades ago, and he likewise urges the reader to shed all reservations and to dream the wildest dreams possible. The Preface of Red Earth Diaries is called Dreamtime, and in it, the author describes the evolution of his journey to this strange and peculiar wonderland.

As a travelogue, the book harkens to all travellers as well as migrants who are already in Australia or who are thinking of making the move to this beautiful country. The book also contains stories of local Australians the couple met along the way. In it you will meet, amongst others – Helen, a 10-Pound-pom; Rowland Mosbergen, a sprightly man in his eighties who survived the horrors of WWII in a remote jungle in Bahau; Rafael and Nadia and their three kids based in Research, Victoria; Ranjit, a practising surgeon and his wife who are based in Kew, Melbourne. The travelogue aims to deliver an essential message to all migrants in Australia – to not take this country for granted and to try to understand and embrace its culture first.

Some Key Personalities mentioned: Paul Hogan, Ned Kelly, Steve Irwin, Captain Cook, Burley Griffin, Gregory Blaxland, Jorn Utzon, Eddie Mabo

Some key historical events described: The Endeavour striking the reef, finding a passage through the Blue Mountains, the discovery of gold, the naming of Sunshine Coast, the birth of Canberra as the nation’s capital, the iconic rail journeys in Australia, WWI and WWII, Early colonization, construction of Hume Highway, Blackbirding, construction of Opera House.

Charity Donation: Five per cent of all profits from the sale of this book in the first year of publication will be donated to the Red Cross towards the 2019–20 bushfire crisis management (www.redcross.org.au) and a further five per cent will be also be given to aged care in India through Help Age India (www.helpageindia.org).

The Review 

A wonderful blend of travel, memoir, and history, author Jason Rebello has done an incredible job bringing this book to life. The non-fiction story gives readers a unique perspective on not just general travel but immigrating to an entirely new country, as the newlywed couple immerses themselves in the culture and history of Australia while experiencing the nation firsthand. 

The author does a great job of sharing the experiences of their adventures and their relationship and the history and culture they were experiencing. The way in which the author brought that spirit of travel and adventure so many seek was felt throughout every chapter, while the attention to detail on Australia itself was fantastic to see unfold. From the nation’s history and pop culture to the nation’s strict quarantine procedures and so much more, the author poured so much culture and heart into this story, creating a truly interactive and mesmerizing non-fiction read. 

The Verdict

A gripping, heartfelt, and breathtaking travel and memoir-style book, author Jason Rebello’s “Red Earth Diaries” is a must-read. The wonderful blend of history and culture does a great job of mirroring the emotions and adventure that the couple themselves experienced along the way and creates an intimate and thoughtful narrative that many readers can identify with and that many of us can only hope for. A great and fantastic read, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing story on July 8th, 2021. 

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Jason Rebello was born in Mumbai, India and went to sea at the early age of seventeen.He spent many years sailing across the world on modern ocean liners, eventually rising to the rank of a ship’s Captain. His sea career was interspaced with a healthy dose of backpacking and intrepid travels and as a result, he was firmly hooked on a life of adventure and uncommon living.His travel blog, The Evolving Backpacker, was born out of his passion for travel. He has also written several self-help books under the ‘Migrant Ninja’ series.Jason along with his wife and two children is now settled in Australia.



Saving Jahan by Hans Fellmann Review

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

A hard partying teacher finds himself searching for a way to save himself from himself, by putting himself on the line to help save a young female teacher stuck in a country who values women simply as servants in author Hans Fellmann’s “Saving Jahan”. 


The Synopsis

Saving Jahan is a 143,000-word autobiographical novel based on my Peace Corps service in the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan. The novel starts at the end of 2006, which was a time of great importance, as the country’s totalitarian dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, passed away due to mysterious circumstances, leaving a power vacuum. It is in this environment that my character, Johann Felmanstien, is sent to teach English for two years in a dusty town in the middle of the Turkmen desert. At the school he is assigned to, Johann meets a female teacher called Jahan, who, despite having an oddly similar name, could not be more different. Unlike Johann, who is a loud, hard-drinking partier, Jahan is a quiet, unassuming homebody, who has dedicated her life to providing for her three siblings and sick mother. Over time, she opens up about her dreams to live abroad and the struggle she faces in a country that sees women as little more than servants. Johann takes a passive stance at first. But as his work suffers because of his shenanigans and alcohol abuse, he realizes that helping Jahan escape Turkmenistan might be the only way to save himself.

The Review

From the first pages of this novel, the author captures the readers attention and foreshadows the growing complexity of the plot in lines like, “Don’t go out there trying to save the world,” she said. “Just find one real reason to stay. The rest will fall into place.” The author showcases an understanding of the complex nature of other nations around the world and the in over your head feeling most people have when searching for “that next great adventure”. 

The author also does an amazing job of not only highlighting the cultural differences between the nations of this book but the similarities between the United States and Muslim-based countries, using the cast of characters to highlight how much we are all the same at our core. The character arc for Johann was a great experience to see play out, as the protagonist clashed with Peace Corps officials, fought to help a young woman realize her dreams and made new friends and even a host family that gave him a well rounded journey.

The Verdict

A well written, engaging and lengthy read, this fictionalized autobiography/travel memoir was a great story filled with memorable characters that felt real and relatable all at once. A story of growth, finding oneself and helping others along their own journeys of self-discovery, this is a great novel for anyone who enjoys protagonists emerging into new cultures and experiencing a new adventure. Be sure to grab your copy soon! 

Rating: 10/10

Interview with Author Chandra Lahiri

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

Purely by accident! I have always enjoyed writing the odd freelance article for a newspaper or magazine, but never even thought about writing a book – until now! I have spent over 45 years working for a variety of companies, from transnational giants like Unilever and Nivea, to small family-owned ones like the luxury perfumer Amouage. For a third of that time, I led those companies and, eventually, specialized in turning around sick companies. I have run businesses in over 40 countries around the world, dealing in a wide variety of products. However, all my life, I have had an inexplicable passion for the Native Americans, and read, researched and watched a mountain of material. Perhaps, the Great Mystery was gently preparing me, all my life, for this odyssey and the vicarious experience of re-living parts of their history, participating in their heritage. As is my habit, I made extensive notes in my diary during the trip – not least because I wrote a daily column from the road, for the leading English newspaper in the Sultanate of Oman. On my return home, I realized I had so much material that I simply had to try and turn it into a full-length book. And, I desperately wanted more people to know the real story of these remarkable people.


2) What inspired you to write your book?

The people I met, and their story. People like Carney Saupitty, Lisa Snell, Vernell White Thunder, Peter Catches, Mark St.Pierre and so many others. Theirs is a story of quiet heroism, of fighting impossible odds to regain their identity and proud heritage, of an elemental daily struggle. I realized they, perhaps more than anyone else, deserve a voice for the unborn generations. They must never be allowed to be forgotten or marginalized, but brought into the American mainstream instead.

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

The thing that strikes me most powerfully is the sheer apathy (at best; frequently it is outright discrimination) of America, and the world, to them. The downright untruths of Hollywood created a fantasy savage, not even a noble one, while the media stereotypes present them as hopeless, violent, suicidal substance-abusers on miserable Reservations, subsisting on Government money. I hope my book will contribute something to showing people just how shamefully untrue and unjust this portrayal this is of a truly noble people winning small triumphs on their way to recovering their civilization from genocide. History cannot be true if written only by the victors.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Strangely, it was not a conscious choice! Looking back now, it seems some sort of cosmic Force seems to have guided my life to this experience and the decision to write about it. The whole effort is as mystifying and intriguing to me as was my completely unexplainable experience on their very sacred Bear Butte. To me, it seems to be more important than anything else to disseminate a knowledge and awareness of the Native Americans, so they are never consigned to the footnotes of history.

5) For those who aren’t as well acquainted with the history of the Native American people and their history, why do you think it’s so important to understand the history of the Native American people and what they endured during the formation of the United States? What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have from a historical standpoint from that time period and the history of the Native American tribes overall?

If even a part of humanity is destroyed, all of humanity is damaged. The creation of the United States was, without doubt, one of the greatest achievements in human history, creating the most powerful military and economic entity in just a couple of centuries, something never achieved before. While admiring the people, and effort, that made it possible, it is equally vital not to lose sight of the disastrous cost of that effort. And, above all, the fact that the genocide was, in reality, completely unnecessary.
People usually think “the West had to be won” because the “savage Indians” stood in the way of “civilization”. The truth is exactly the opposite. The Pilgrims survived only through the generosity and welcome shown them by the Wampanoag. In return, the settlers enslaved these friendly people, killed their chief, and sold his wife and children as slaves for thirty pieces of silver. In later years, the children of Native nations were forcibly removed to distant Christian schools to be “civilized” – under such terrible, abusive conditions that well over half of them actually committed suicide.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that the West was “won” through the strength of American arms. In reality, the US Army lost most battles and frequently spun massacres of defenseless civilians into stories of victorious battles. Custer is the most famous such fantasy hero. In reality, about an equal number died on both sides, despite the overwhelming superiority of firepower and manpower with the Army. What actually defeated the Native Nations was the terrible scorched earth policy of General Sherman which almost entirely wiped out the buffalo, their only source of food, shelter, weapons, occupation, toys and everything else. Starvation, not bullets, brought them to their knees.

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

Its early days yet, but so far I think Facebook and Instagram have been useful in getting the word out. I have also been fortunate to benefit from the massive distributive reach of Ingram. My social media links are:

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

This is one of the steepest mountains you will ever climb, with huge amounts of pain – but it is worth it! Don’t lose heart and bash on. If you have something worth telling, there are people out there who are keen to hear it – it’s just a hard road reaching them! The only thing to do is enjoy the ride!


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

Whew! After working on this book for well over a year, I am now going to pause for breath and see how it works out. I would, ideally, like to do another book on the same subject, as there is such a wealth of history and heritage to write about, and so many incredible misconceptions to try and uproot. Fingers crossed!

About the Author

Chandra Lahiri is an “Indian from India” who lives in the Sultanate of Oman. After many years as a global CEO, he now focuses on his lifelong passion for Native American heritage. His wife is a Special Needs Educator in Oman, and his two sons live in the USA. He loves hearing from like-minded readers, at www.dawnvoyager.com