New book release: ‘Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage’ by Kanchan Bhaskar

‘Leaving; How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage’ is the uplifting story of hope and resilience. It will be released April 11, 2023. Photo: Amazon

Kanchan Bhaskar was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Delhi University and a postgraduate certificate in personnel management and industrial relations. She moved to the US in 2000. She works in the corporate world, mentoring, counselling, and coaching employees at all levels in the industry. She is also now a certified advocate for domestic violence victims in the state of Illinois and is a volunteer speaker, mentor, and coach for victims and survivors. Her new book “Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage” is an inspiring memoir of a woman who reclaims her power and finds the strength to leave an abusive relationship. It will be released April 11, 2023 and is available for pre-order. (Kanchan Bhaskar, 2023)

“Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage” – Raised by two loving parents in New Delhi, India, Kanchan Bhaskar has always been taught that marriage means companionship, tenderness, and mutual respect—so when she enters into an arranged marriage, this is the kind of partnership she anticipates with her new, seemingly wonderful, husband. But after they marry, she quickly discovers that his warmth is deceptive—that the man beneath the bright, charming façade is actually a narcissistic, alcoholic, and violent man. Trapped in a nightmare, Kanchan pleads with her husband to seek help for his issues, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Indian law is not on her side, and as the years pass, she finds herself with three children to protect—three children she fears she will lose custody of if she leaves. Almost overnight, she finds herself transformed into a tigress who will do whatever it takes to protect her cubs, and she becomes determined to free them from their toxic father. But it’s not until many years later, when the family of five moves from India to the United States, that Kanchan is presented with a real opportunity to leave him—and she takes it. It is the empowering story of how—buoyed by her deep faith in a higher power and single-minded in her determination to protect her children best—she fought relentlessly to build a ramp toward freedom from her abuser.

The following is an excerpt from “Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage” by Kanchan Bhaskar.

I grew up in New Delhi, India, and my dreams were built on the romance and jubilation in which I was brought up. I imagined my married life to be as blissful and tender as that of my parents, who truly cherished and treasured each other and nurtured their four offspring with love and warmth. They lived more as partners than as a traditional Indian husband and wife.

Having been raised in this progressive environment, I acquired a unique perception of life—a woman was an equal partner in a marriage, one to be honored and valued. Marriage meant love, companionship, and caring. I couldn’t fathom it being any other way. Violence of any kind in marriage was unthinkable. A woman was to be respected—period.

My future husband would not share these perceptions. I found myself in an arranged marriage to a bright and deceptively charming man, who revealed his true nature only after our wedding. The first time he hit me, my world spun upside down. When it righted, I had gotten myself stuck in a tumultuous, abusive relationship with a narcissistic alcoholic, in whose captivity I was trapped for more than twenty years.

The desperate mother of three innocent children who were casualties of these circumstances, I had to get away, but my escape had to be carefully planned with no room for error. If I divorced, I’d lose one or all of my children to the man I needed to escape from, which was not an option.

There had to be a way out.

I searched until I found it.

This story narrates how I built a ramp to climb out of the abyss, little by little, using a myriad of tools to bring me closer to freedom. Although I was alone in my fight for survival, I had deep faith in the higher power which presented me with collaborators in the form of angels and mentors to light my way.

My work was slow but steady. The ramp collapsed a few times and had to be rebuilt stronger. I shaped myself into a resilient woman, a tigress who could fend for her cubs. It wasn’t easy, and each day was a struggle, yet I remained determined in my single mission to protect my children and provide them with the best, as I had been provided with. This focus gave me the courage and spirit to keep forging ahead relentlessly.

Belief in self and belief in the Universe became my weapons of ultimate escape, the foundation for my liberation and re-earned dignity.

The story doesn’t stop with gaining my freedom but describes my continuing journey on the path of spirituality. In this book, I share my dawning realizations and the period of self-resurgence, which resulted in a triumphant, purpose-driven life.

Belief in spirituality provided the foundation and a new beginning on the path toward the emancipation of mind and soul.

Today a free woman, I’m happily settled in Chicago, living life on my own terms. I walk with my head high and chin up. The first flowers of spring in their divine colors make me smile. I can laugh again at a joke, find stillness in trees, and plan without fear, making up for the lost time.

I’m reminded of my favorite lines, my motto, from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Reprinted from “Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage” with the permission of She Writes Press. Copyright © 2023 by Kanchan Bhaskar



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‘Leaving: How I Set Myself Free from an Abusive Marriage’ release date


Book review: ‘The Union’ by Leah Vernon

‘The Union’ by Leah Vernon is a coming of age novel set in a dystopian future. Photo: Amazon

Leah Vernon is an author, body-positive activist, and the first international plus-size Hijabi model. During her double master’s program, she started a blog about being a fat Black Muslim in Detroit experiencing everything from eating disorders to anti-Blackness. She has been featured in ads from Target to Old Navy and even made it to the New York Times and HuffPost. She currently resides in New York City. Her new book “The Union” is a daring dystopian novel that explores the power of friendship in a future society built on violence and division. (Amazon, 2023)

“The Union” – A thousand years in the future, a black elite class reigns. The lower classes, made up of whites, toil in the fields or scrape by in blighted cities, serving their rulers in a cruel, divided world. The story begins with Saige Wilde, a mixed-race enslaved girl whose only goal is escaping beyond the borders of their brutal nation. Among the Lower Residents, there are three classes: Domestic, Chattel, and Impure. Because she is mixed, she is simply labeled as Impure. In this dystopian world, color determines everything: “the paler you were, the worse you got it.” Among the Elites is eighteen-year-old Avi Jore, born to a powerful father and destined to rule. As she comes of age, Avi cannot help but notice the injustices in her world―the treatment of enslaved workers and the oppression of the lower classes. Her disillusionment grows when she meets Saige, who saves her from an assassination attempt, and their paths become intertwined in ways they never imagined. As Saige plots her path to freedom, Avi tries to enact change from the inside but it is a complicated endeavor, filled with danger and malice. Together, their efforts could spark a revolution and underscore the staggering power of friendship.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” this is the quote from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” that comes to mind while reading “The Union.” Regardless of who is in charge, there is a risk of them eventually going power hungry and those who are not end up under their heels. Such is the case in this totally engaging speculative novel that dares to imagine a world where whites are not the ruling class. Add in elements of a coming of age novel and friendships that are tested by life’s complications and you have a thought provoking story. Judging by the ending, this is likely to be a series and it would be interesting to read where the author takes these characters. They are well developed, relatable, and strong willed. The narration is in the first person point of view and switches back and forth between Avi and Saige, giving readers a glimpse into their thought processes. With descriptive language that is simple and down to earth, the story flows through the pages, making it a fast read. “The Union” is a coming of age fiction set in a dystopian future similar to the Hunger Games. It may appeal to fans of the genre who appreciate strong characters in tales of revolution and class struggles all mixed in with politics.

“The environment was nothing that I’d ever experienced. It was as if an acidic mist lingered over the entire block, turning everything into the same dull color. The buildings were tall, connected, and intimidating, like they had trapped any soul that had tried to escape. It was like being in a parallel universe, eons away from home.”

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book of the week: ‘Stop & Smell the Roses’ by Jolene Stephens

‘Stop & Smell the Roses’ is the new self help book by Jolene Stephens. Photo: Jolene Stephens, used with permission.

For anyone looking for a self help book dealing with mindfulness and ideas and recommendations about how to slow down and take time to enjoy life, here is a good one. From just simply taking time to appreciate your surroundings to actually listening during conversations with others, Jolene Stephens’ “Stop & Smell the Roses” is a reminder to take time to enjoy the good things in life. It might just change your outlook in life.

Jolene Stephens has always been interested in self-help information and the desire to write about it. Life has provided her with many growing experiences and learning opportunities. She and her family have been through nearly every scenario a family can experience. They did not do everything right, not even close, but over the years their constant conflicts have been replaced with love and respect for one another’s beliefs and the path each person is on. Her personal experiences have given her a treasure trove of sound, practical ideas on how to handle almost any situation. More importantly, she has come through many trials with a strong, positive attitude and a sincere desire to help others. Jolene is a retired graphic designer and is currently a certified Emotion Code/Body Code Practitioner. Her new book “Stop & Smell the Roses: Let the Past Go, Stop Worrying About the Future, and Be Mindfully Present in Your Life!” is a quick and easy read about how to stay focused and be present in your life. (Jolene Stephens, 2023)

“Stop & Smell the Roses”–  Throughout the book, Jolene Stephens shares some of her own experiences to show the power of changing just one thing, as she highlights the aspects of our lives that provide opportunities for growth. She lists twenty-two simple ideas, any of which will help you be present in your own life. The journey is where life happens and what happens there is more important than the destination. We will all get to our destination, but what we do along the way is what counts.

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New horror movie release: The Long Dark Trail

The Long Dark Trail is available now. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

In today’s movie news, a new horror film premiered this week: The Long Dark Trail. It is available to rent or buy through Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and more.

An official selection for numerous prestige film festivals around the globe, including Weekend of Fear and The Festival De Cannes Blood Windoal Selection, The Long Dark Trail premiered this week on Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray from Cleopatra Entertainment. Starring Trina Campbell and Brady O’Donnell, it released in the UK, US, and Canada. (The Long Dark Trail, 2023)

The Long Dark Trail – Stand By Me meets Midsommar in an unnerving new folk horror tale from writer-directors Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis. After two impoverished teenage brothers manage to escape their abusive father, they embark on a treacherous and haunted journey in the hope of finding their estranged mother who has joined a sadistic cult, deep in the woods of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

New album release: Perfectly Imperfect: The Acoustic Sessions – Signal Omega

Perfectly Imperfect: The Acoustic Sessions is the new album by Signal Omega. Photo: Signal Omega, used with permission.

Signal Omega is an up and coming artist from New Port Richey, FL. For Signal, music is more than just a sonic combination of sound, it is a way to express the deepest stories through creativity and emotional individuality. Unlike many contemporary artists, Signal Omega takes immense pride and reassurance in his own style and musical expression, embracing his uniqueness and impressive qualities. Signal Omega is currently focused on expanding his music and brand this year with an acoustic rendition of his current and newer songs. His latest release is Perfectly Imperfect: The Acoustic Sessions. (Signal Omega, 2023)

Perfectly Imperfect: The Acoustic Sessions is now available for streaming.

Follow the artist: Facebook  Instagram  YouTube 

Steadily growing his listeners and fans with each and every release, things look to be even bigger and better in 2023 for this exciting and talented artist. In addition, Signal looks to start playing live shows and showcasing his live performance skills to a new set of audiences.

“This album is a recreation of my full production tracks I’ve released over the years. I like to be diverse in my writing style and felt an acoustic version of each would bring them all to a common sonic level.” – Signal Omega

A varied and versatile artist, Signal utilizes a number of genres including rap, metal, and alternative. His motivation is to create an abundance of genre offerings in his musical works. Impressively, the artist has a natural ability to take the listener on an emotional rollercoaster. From upbeat house infused drops to more reflective and intimate numbers, his vast and ever expanding catalogue of music offers listeners an array of styles and tones that is rare to see in todays musical landscape.

Signal Omega. Photo: Signal Omega, used with permission.

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Book review: ‘Harvesting Evil’ by CJ Wheeler

A serial killer is on the loose in CJ Wheeler’s crime thriller ‘Harvesting Evil.’ Courtesy photo, used with permission.

CJ Wheeler is a new author of crime thrillers for adults, starting with her first release “Harvesting Evil.” She was born in West Michigan and has lived most of her life along the Lake Michigan shoreline. She lives with her wife, her gorgeous English Crème retriever Hemingway, and her three naughty kitties, Indianajoan, Rizzoli, and Taylor. When not writing you will probably find her reading. She is an avid fan of JD Robb, Tess Gerritsen, Alex Kava, and Val McDermid. In her debut novel “Harvesting Evil,” the idyllic shores of Lake Michigan, in the quiet resort town of Port Orion, Michigan, have become prime hunting ground for a serial killer. (CJ Wheeler, 2023)

“Harvesting Evil: Murder on the Lakeshore” – One by one, young, beautiful women’s corpses continue to surface, while the timeline between each victim is shrinking. The story begins with a Prologue set in 1990 as a seven year old boy is about to have the worst birthday ever. Next, in the present, Sheriff Parker Anderson gets a phone call in the middle of the night about another young woman found dead. She must now pull her inexperienced team together to find the madman terrorizing her community. With the Port Orion Sheriff’s department’s resources stretched to the limit and with pressure mounting, Parker reaches out to the FBI for assistance. Enter Special Agent Oliver Locke, who has seen more than his fair share of serial homicide cases, though even he has not encountered a psychopath with this level of violence. Working a serial case against a cunning criminal mind who leaves no evidence will test his expertise and determination. As the window of opportunity to prevent another victim closes, Sheriff Anderson and Agent Locke will need to set aside their personal differences to catch this maniac.

Since the days of Jack the Ripper, stories about serial killers have fascinated readers. While the motivations behind this killer’s rampage may not be an original concept, “Harvesting Evil” is a strong debut crime novel by CJ Wheeler. Narrated in the third person point of view, it switches back and forth between the police and the serial killer, giving the reader a glimpse into the killer’s unstable and cold psyche and the police’s investigation, which includes giving a profile of the ‘unsub.’ The author’s detailed description of morgues and autopsies is impressive but it might put off more sensitive readers. Due to extensive character development and descriptions: “Mike’s 6’ 2” lanky frame rose from the chair, black straight hair hanging over one of his deep blue eyes,” they come alive within the pages and become relatable. The language is down to earth and easy to understand, in spite of the medical jargon, so it is technically an easy read. With its superb attention to detail, applications of criminal psychology, and just enough romance to make it well rounded, “Harvesting Evil” makes for a fascinating and suspenseful crime thriller. It should appeal to fans of Kathy Reichs and James Patterson as well as crime shows like Criminal Minds and CSI. Hopefully this will become a series with more crime solving adventures by Sheriff Parker Anderson, a strong female lead, and Special Agent Oliver Locke.

“He hoped the Sheriff would be pleased with the gift he had left her. It had taken cunning and exquisite timing to set it up exactly as he wanted. He knew this would show her he could do what he wanted, whenever he wanted. At the very least, he would impress her. At most he hoped it would frighten her to her core.”

* The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Book highlight: ‘No More Relation$#!t’ by Jonathan Carnley

‘No More Relation$#!t’ is a dating and relationship guide by Jonathan Carnley. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

Jonathan Carnley is an author whose difficult childhood included bullying at school and an abusive home life. Even though he survived and thrived, some of his adult relationships were not any better. Admittedly, he has made his share of mistakes and has done his best to make amends and one of his goals is never repeating those mistakes. He has been where many of us have been and can fully relate. In his book “No More Relation$#!t: A Woman’s Guide to Avoiding the Pieces of $#!t While Dating” he shares insight into the male psyche to help women navigate the challenging world of dating. (Jonathan Carnley, 2023)

“No More Relation$#!t” – This is a guide that helps women avoid men who are not worth their time or do not have their best interest in mind. It goes into detail about the various types of men, their motives, and all the signs to look for. It is not about what mistakes you make, have made, or will make. It is about what things to look for or recognize. It is a serious look at the dating world for women with a little comedy thrown in to keep you entertained and laughing at times. Here are a couple of quotes to pique your interest.

“Remember, red flags are for traveling carnivals, and if you ignore them, you will be trapped into paying for something that was supposed to be ‘free,’ be stuck watching a crappy show, wind up with a clown who is performing for others, be left with kids you didn’t bring, and be left behind when they leave town.”

“While many things look like a green flag, I will be honest and tell you right now that there is no such thing. Well…I mean if an angel came down from heaven and gives you a note directly from God you might consider that a green flag….Or…It could be an alien that is trying to get you to mate with their species to take over the world. I’m just saying that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while riding a unicorn on the way to cash in your winning lottery ticket.”

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The Dollar Sale returns to Twin Liquors this week

Twin Liquors’ annual The Dollar Sale returns on Thursday February 23 – February 25, 2023. Photo: Julia Keim, used with permission.

Texas’ favorite sale, The Dollar Sale, is returning this month to Twin Liquors. Featuring savings on all wine and spirits across the store, Twin Liquors drops the price to the absolute lowest, then adds $1. Shoppers can look forward to unbeatable prices on collectible wines, rare whiskies and other popular spirits like Lalo Tequila for $39.99 on sale, versus $49.99 as the regular price, and Jameson Caskmates $24.39 on sale, versus $29.99 as the regular price. (Twin Liquors, 2023)

The Dollar Sale, which began over ten years ago, was created as a way to say thank you to all Twin Liquors customers and the team is excited to bring back the sale to the community. To celebrate the kick-off of the annual three-day sale, all Marketplace locations will be offering free breakfast tacos and Deep Eddy Bloody Marys on February 23 beginning at 10a.m. until supplies last. The Dollar Sale will take place at all 100+ Twin Liquors locations, and will include Sigel’s locations across Dallas.

The Dollar Sale will take place at all 100+ Twin Liquors locations plus the Sigel’s locations in Dallas. To locate the store nearest you, visit Twin Liquors and Dallas online.  

Born and raised in downtown Austin, Texas, Twin Liquors began as one small store and has developed into a successful “home-grown” family-owned company. Twin Liquors has a unique and well known reputation throughout the United States for having impeccable team members, outstanding customer service, conveniently located stores, extensive selections of fine wines and premium spirits from around the world, and substantial community involvement. There are currently 100+ neighborhood stores from Austin to San Antonio, the Hill Country to Houston, and the DFW area with their Sigel’s branded stores.

Taco Cabana menu news

Taco Cabana’s Shrimp Tampico Quesadillas and Shrimp Tampico Taco, available for a limited time only during Lenten season. Photo: Taco Cabana, used with permission.

Taco Cabana has menu news for February that include offers for Fat Tuesday, National Margarita Day, and a special menu for the Lenten season. (Taco Cabana, 2023)

On Tuesday, February 21, 2023 and Wednesday, February 22, 2023, Taco Cabana invites guests to celebrate Fat Tuesday and National Margarita Day with the choice of any flavor frozen margarita and Double Crunch Pizza (DCP) bundle all day long, at all Texas locations.

Guests can treat themselves with their choice of one of Taco Cabana’s 12 frozen margarita flavors like Blue Curacao, Dragon Fruit, or Strawberry Mango, and pair it with any tasty DCP flavor, like the newly-launched Shredded Chicken DCP or Chorizo and Egg DCP, or the original Ground Beef DCP for just $6.99. This two-day offer is only available to guests 21 years of age or older with valid photo ID during standard hours of operation at all participating Taco Cabana locations in Texas.

The Fat Tuesday and National Margarita Day bundles are available through curbside pick-up, drive-thru, in-restaurant and online orders only. Not available via third party delivery service providers.

With the start of the Lenten season, Taco Cabana’s delicious guest favorite Shrimp Tampico Tacos and Shrimp Tampico Quesadillas return to the popular Tex-Mex chain’s menu starting Wednesday, February 22, 2023 for a limited time. Both Shrimp Tampico Tacos and Shrimp Tampico Quesadillas will be served with TC’s uniquely satisfying Pineapple Chipotle Salsa.

To accompany the Lenten Season favorites, guests 21 years of age or older can choose from a selection of $3 frozen margaritas, including flavors like Strawberry, Lime, Mango, Dragon Fruit, and more. This offer is available for a limited time only during standard hours of operation at all participating Taco Cabana locations in Texas.

Taco Cabana, a subsidiary of YTC Enterprises, LLC, was founded in 1978. The brand specializes in Tex-Mex-inspired food including enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, flautas, tacos, double crunch pizzas, flour tortillas and a selection of made-from-scratch salsas and sauces. Restaurants feature open-display cooking, a selection of bottled beer and $3 tequila margaritas, patio dining, drive-thru windows, curbside pick-up, delivery and catering. As of February 8, 2023, Taco Cabana operates 143 company-owned restaurants in Texas.

Horror Writers Association announces 5th annual Summer Scares reading list

The Horror Writers Association announced this year’s Summer Scares reading list. Photo: RA for All: Horror

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Booklist, is announcing the fifth annual Summer Scares reading list, which includes titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians and is designed to promote Horror as a great reading option for all ages, and for during any time of the year. (Horror Writers Association, 2023)

This year, Summer Scares welcomes New York Times Bestselling author Daniel Kraus as their 2023 spokesperson. “My love of reading began at a public library — but I had to hunt for the horror,” said Kraus. “I would have been giddy to have a slate like our 2023 choices presented to me when I walked in. In fact, I’m giddy about it right now. It’s a tremendously far-reaching group of titles that epitomizes the breadth of creativity going on in the genre.”

The goal of Summer Scares is to introduce Horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come. In addition to the annual list of recommended titles, the Summer Scares committee will release themed lists of even more “read-alike” titles libraries can suggest to readers. In order to help libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will be working with both the recommended list authors and Horror authors from all over the country to provide free programming to libraries.

Every year, three titles are selected in each of three categories: Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade.

For 2023, those selected titles are:

Adult Selections:

  • “Ring Shout” by Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom, 2020)
  • “Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House, 2020)
  • “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” by Daniel M. Lavery (Holt Paperbacks, 2018)

Young Adult Selections:

  • “In The Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters (Amulet Books, 2013)
  • “Squad” by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle (illustrator) (Greenwillow Books, 2021)
  • “Mooncakes” by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (illustrator) (Oni Press, 2019)

Middle Grade Selections:

  • “Small Spaces” by Katharine Arden (P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018)
  • “Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories” by Dan SaSuWeh Jones, Weshoyot Alvitre (Illustrator) (Scholastic Nonfiction, 2021)
  • “A Small Zombie Problem” by K.G. Campbell (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019)

The Summer Scares Programming Guide, created each year by the Springfield-Greene County (MO) Library and free for libraries anywhere to access, is back with the tools libraries need to connect with their communities. It will be available beginning March 15, 2023 on the Summer Scares Resource page.