Sunday, February 28, 2016

Remain Free

Narula, G. (2015). Remain Free.Centaurii Publishing.

Adult, Older YA / Memoir / Death Row

I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars

In Remain Free, author Gautam Narula chronicles his unlikely friendship with death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis, who was convicted in 1991 of murdering a police officer three years earlier. When Narula was just fifteen, he learned of Davis’s case and the doubt surrounding his guilt. Moved by what he heard and read, Narula wrote a letter to Davis, which began a relationship that would span three years and included written correspondence, phone calls, and even death row visits between the two.  As inmate and teen get to know each other, Narula becomes passionate about saving Davis’s life and Davis becomes a source of advice and encouragement as Narula navigates life as a teenager. In “Remain Free,” Narula has compiled and shares letters, transcripts of phone calls, converaations, and memories of visits the two shared while also providing a record of his own actions to free Troy Davis from what he feels is a wrongful death sentence. Remain Free is not just a recounting of the politics, harsh realities, and humanity of Troy Davis, it is the personal story of a young man’s disillusionment with the legal system and society in general, and how he is driven to change the world.

Regardless of a reader’s opinion on the death penalty, Remain Free is thought provoking and in bringing-out Troy Davis’s personality, Narula humanizes the people on death row.  The book is as much about Gautam Narula as it is about Davis and definitely provides a perspective on the case that can’t be found anywhere else. As a platform for casting doubt on Troy Davis’s guilt, the most convincing element is Narula’s belief in Davis’s innocence.  He provides Davis’s first hand account of the night of the murder as well as the recantations of witnesses, the most startling being that of witness Antoine Williams:

“They asked me to describe the shooter and what he looked like and what he was wearing.  I kept telling them that I didn’t know. It was dark, my windows were tinted, and I was scared.  After the officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it because I cannot read.”

Who knows if Troy Davis was really an innocent man? There are always two sides, but Narula includes some compelling details for readers to think about, casting doubt on Davis’s guilt and whether or not he got a fair trial. 

As the portrait of a teenager, Gautam Narula is not your average young adult and is contemplating things that many thirty-year-olds haven’t managed. In being exposed to the ugliness of prison life and life’s injustices and feeling the weight of Davis’s world, Narula becomes disillusioned and rejects the expectations and norms of a typical highschooler’s life.  Instead of concentrating on going to prom or preparing a good college resume, he pours his energy into things that matter like Amnesty International and campaigning to free Troy Davis.  There are the rare occasions when Narula shows his age, but for the most part he shows intellect and maturity well beyond his years and even notes at one point, “Maybe my anxiety about the future was robbing me of the present.”

Gautam Narula is clearly an exceptionally good writer; however, the book needs editing to clear up issues including typos, pronoun and punctuation errors, and repetitive content which made it seem like he wasn’t giving the readers credit for remembering what he has already told them. Additionally, the story doesn’t always move chronologically, which is sometimes confusing, and some of the stories go into so much detail that they are distracting and tedious.

Overall, the book is intriguing.  The Troy Davis portrayed by Gautam Narula was thoughtful, intelligent, and deeply spiritual. When asked why God allows bad things to happen, Davis told Narula, “God gave us free will, and that if He always cleaned up our messes, we would never grow. He allows us to live with the consequences of our mistakes so we can learn from them.” Whether Davis was authentic or not, there is no denying that Troy Davis made a positive impact on the life of one teenager, which resulted in one teenager wanting to make a positive impact on the world -- including designating all publisher and author profits from Remain Free going to The Innocence Project

This book was reviewed for Reader Views and is re-posted here by their permission. A print copy was provided to me in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Gautam Narula is a writer and software developer. In 2006, at the age of 13, Gautam wrote "The Novice Chess Player's Manual" and its successor, "Chess for the Novice Player," in 2010.

In 2008, Gautam became involved in the case of world famous death row inmate Troy Davis, and was actively involved until Davis's execution on September 21, 2011. "Remain Free," a memoir on his friendship with Davis, raised over $11,000 in pre-orders in one month, and was released on September 21, 2015. Learn more about the book at

In addition to writing books, Gautam also writes software, plays competitive chess, and occasionally writes about other things at

Friday, February 26, 2016

Between Hurt and Healing ~ ~ ~ Book Tour Promo*, Author Interview, & Giveaway!

Jackie Melvin

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Date of Publication: February 2, 2016
# of pages: 424
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Introverted Denise Staukhill just wanted a quiet life.  She never dreamed she would find a man like Darren Olsen to share it with.  An unexpected tragedy ends their fairy-tale romance, and Denise once again finds herself alone and devastated.

Years later, the handsome head football coach from the local high school and Darren’s best friend, Eric Ortellio, tries desperately to help her find peace.  As their relationship starts to grow, the manipulative Coach Nick Nelson, trying to protect his secretive past, steps in to ruin both of them.

Will Denise and Eric’s friendship sustain the lies and manipulation that the evil Nelson has weaved?  Can Denise find the strength to let go of Darren and hold on to Eric, or will her faithfulness to Darren keep Eric out of her life forever?

Visit the author's WEBSITE for best pricing
or purchase from:

    Amazon          Tate Publishing

 Denise talking to her twelve-year-old daughter Cissy, about her own mother: “She loved color in her drawings, bright colors: greens, reds, blues, yellows. All her pictures were happy. She told me when I was your age to take whatever makes you sad and color it in. I guess she just meant that colors are happy and sad is black and white.” 

Cissy’s response:  “Maybe that’s what Grandma meant when she said, “color it in.” Celebrations are colorful like birthday balloons and wedding cakes. Funerals are black, and hospitals are white. Funerals are always sad and hospitals can be sad sometimes too. So if you find what makes you sad and color it in, you can be happy."

 How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
This particular book focuses on adjusting to the death of a loved one.  How do you get up everyday, breathe in and breathe out when your very heart has been ripped from your soul?  Everyone grieves differently, but in the end God is the author of life and death and it is our job not to question (even though we still do) but to trust in Him and His strength in our weakness and allow our faith to guide us daily.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I hope it is real, relatable, and meaningful.  

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
When I started I realized that I enjoy the whole writing process, from creating a plot to creating characters and even the research.

What did you find most useful/least useful in learning to write? 
I learned the most in college when my news writing professor took a piece I had written and tore it apart at the seems.  I was shocked and upset.  I had been very proud of what I had written and only assumed she would have nothing but praise for my work.  When I finally calmed down and followed all of her advice and made all the changes, it was a much better piece.  I learned that not only is less more sometimes, but that I always have more to learn.  And the fact that she was not only a professor but also a professional journalist made it easy for me to take her advice.  

What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I truly want to live a life of service.  I want to start up a non-profit and work for the community. There are so many needs out there. 

Jackie Melvin is a hopeless introvert: hasn’t seen the inside of a movie theater in a decade.  She is despairingly sappy: will cry at commercials, songs and memories.  She is a disheartened housekeeper: good before the kids, great with the kids, now the laundry room doubles as the master closet.  An unexceptional athlete, the weather matters!  A wanna be nutritionist, if only chocolate had nutritional value.   A mediocre musician: been playing the same songs for thirty years.  A happy wife, she married up.  A reluctant empty- nester, miss those kids so much.  And she is a writer: the author of a series of children's books, and Between Hurt and Healing is her first novel. 

She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas with her husband, her dog, and her cat, and spends as much time as possible visiting those kids.

GIVEAWAY! One winner gets signed copies 
of Between Hurt and Healing and 
all of Jackie's Bartholomew Bear Series

February 22-MARCH 3, 2016
Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

2/22   Missus Gonzo  – Review
2/23   All for the Love of the Word – Author Interview
2/24   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
2/25   The Page Unbound  -- Review
2/26   Hall Ways Blog – Author Interview
2/27   Books and Broomsticks – Guest Post           
2/29   My Book Fix Blog – Promo
3/1     A Novel Reality  -- Author Interview
3/2     The Librarian Talks  -- Promo

blog tour services provided by

NOTE FROM KRISTINE at HALL WAYS: The content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours.  If you're a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks of Texas Book Blog Tours, contact Kristine via the Contact Form found at the bottom of the Hall Ways blog..