There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Book Reviews, Horror, Other Genre

I was lucky enough to stumble across this book while adventuring in East Oahu. I found it in the forgotten corner of a used bookstore on top of a column of other books.  As soon as I noticed the vibrant, red cover I was immediately drawn to it and once I learned it was written by a Russian author, I was only further intrigued. I’ll add that the book is beautifully designed inside and out.

5

This collection of short stories is dark, weird, and fascinating! The work responded to my nerdy love for literature and reminds me of something that would’ve been popular with my peers in college while I was getting my degree in English. Albeit, some stories in the book are better than others, there are a few that will become your favorites. An example of a story that I didn’t particularly care for is, “The Shadow Life”. It’s not badly written, it was just way too similar to any standard ghost story.  To get the most out of them, I suggest you take your time to really read them–please don’t just skim through; really think deeply about the story you’re reading, like you should with every book you read. My favorite story in this collection is, “Hygiene”, where a mysterious disease has forced a family to isolate their own daughter to keep the disease contained, or so they think.

You can get a copy at any regular book store like Barnes and Noble or on Amazon.

-E

Review: Holy Ghosts: Or, How a (Not So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night by Gary Jansen (Audio)

Book Reviews, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense, Other Genre

This book was a fun little read, but when I finally reached the end, I felt like I needed more; not that the book was lacking any creep factor or anything. The visions that Jansen’s own mother has will haunt you and you’ll definitely want to meet the clairvoyant who ends up helping him piece together the mystery going on in his son’s room.

Jansen does a great job of introducing interesting characters. I was also tickled by the fact he’s a fellow publishing industry worker and recorded the audio version himself! He did a really great job with the audio actually. He’s got a great voice and can read well.

For the most part, I liked it. For my ranking system, I gave it a 4.

Who this book is really for: This would be an interesting read for someone curious about how religion responds to the supernatural because–as you can expect from the title–it’s addressed quite a bit. This is what interested me, personally. I wanted to know how he dealt with his religion while facing things he couldn’t explain. Like Jansen, I grew up in a Catholic household, though I’m not anymore. Growing up Catholic, I was encouraged to ignore, deny, and avoid talking about ghosts and the supernatural. I actually learned a thing or two and was particularly interested in the bits about angels and supernatural events that are recorded in the Bible.4

Book Review: The Things We Wish Were True

Book Reviews, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense

 The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is a random audio book I found on Amazon one day. I wanted to have something for my long drives to work and around town. It’s not normally something that I would’ve picked but I was curious to see what the hype was about. It’s currently got over 2,000 reviews on Amazon! That’s pretty amazing considering there are just way too many books there as it is. Did I mention that it’s also fairly new? Like, it was published last month and it’s already done unbelievably well. It’s published by Lake Union Publishing, an Amazon imprint, so this is probably why.

So did it live up to expectations? I’d say yes, four stars, yes.

4

 

This is a great read for anyone who likes drama with mystery sewn in. The audio book was pretty worth the money! I’ll admit that initially, I didn’t like the actress’ scratchy voice but she’s better farther in the book so give her a chance. She’s also really good at accents!

What’s it about?

It’s got a Hope Floats vibe to it; one of the main characters returns home after a devastating event pretty much ends her marriage. And the story is pretty much about a group of people in a small town. Don’t get me wrong,  there’s definitely enough drama in this story to really keep you interested!

Your stomach will churn when you learn the creepy guy on the street really is creepy! You’ll want to burst when he goes after a young girl. You may even want to vomit a little. You’ll feel really bad for one of the families when you learn how a stalker is related to them in the story, too.

I was most tickled by all the love relationships going on in the story! I was really entertained by the strange love triangle dynamic going on with Bright, a woman who after finally winning the man she’s always wanted, has to deal with her his first love coming back to town. To add to the drama, his first love was her best friend growing up.

Get your copy here: The Things We Wish Were True: A Novel

Your Halloween Read: Satan’s Fan Club by Mark Kirkbride

Book Reviews, Horror

I’d like to start by saying that I had a lot of fun reading this book! Five big fat stars !

5

If you’re looking for a Halloween read, this is a great choice. This would definitely be a good book club pick because there’s plenty to talk about and when you learn about a few secrets, you’re going to want to talk to a friend.I even got on Twitter to see if anyone else was reading it because I wanted to share about the part I had just gotten to but wasn’t successful.

The way Kirkbride wrote the transitioning scenes kept me turning pages; I was dying to know what would happen to the characters next!  This would also be a great pick for someone looking to write a screen play. Maybe Kirkbride will be open to it.  Kirkbride has drama peppered all over the place, outside of the fact that the devil is hanging around town inviting people into his group/club and people are being picked off by a serial killer.

I think the most scandalous part of the story is the fact that the sinners in this book should be the saints.There’s forbidden love, dancing with the devil (literally), hypocrisy, and family secrets. Now, as with my other reviews, if you want the grand experience, read the book yourself! Don’t count on me for spoilers.  I will say a few things though. When you find out what’s going on beneath the layers of that family–a family that outwardly shines with Christian Doomsday light–your jaw will drop. Or maybe you’ll be a little sad like I was. I actually felt bad for the father in the story sometimes because his son, James, could be a plain jerk.  The scene where the high-ranking police officer comes to their house for a meal will make you want to slap James for being so rude. Sure, it’s natural to have a separate mainstream opinion and no one likes hypocrites, but did he have to embarrass his dad like that? The whole scene I was screaming, “oh my god, shut up James! Stop airing out that dirty laundry!” in my head. The little sister, Harriet, is pretty isolated, too. Everyone is so busy shacking up where they shouldn’t or putting on a face to hide what they’re doing, no wonder Harriet starts talking to mysterious shadow figures in her room instead of flipping out like a normal person. She has to talk to someone and since no one else really pays her any attention, she finds someone who will. When you find out who she’s really talking to, you’re going to be repulsed. I was caught off guard and I was disgusted.

The overarching question in this book is very deep: what are you willing to do to be happy and at what price? I actually thought about it for a while after reading Satan’s Fan Club. I’m still processing it. If I were put in James and Louise’s situation, what would I have chosen? First of all, if Nick kept popping up on me like that at the club (he pops up like a ghost) I wouldn’t have stayed long enough to even get an offer, but let’s pretend for a second that the question applies to me (hahaha). James and Louise are put in an impossible, unnatural situation but is it worth doing what Nick/Satan asks of them? This time, the “no chance in hell” idiom doesn’t apply, because there is a chance in hell. Who’s to say?

Buy a copy hereLearn more about Mark Kirkbride by visiting his website at http://markkirkbride.com/ and follow him on Twitter @markkirkbride! If you enjoyed this book, he’s writing another story about the apocalypse, coming out TBD. Check out his interview with me.

– E

Hidden Secrets (Secrets and Second Chances Book 2), by Donna M. Zadunajsky Review

Book Reviews, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense

“But, the thing was, if I hadn’t tried to kill myself, then I wouldn’t be the person I was today.”Hidden Secrets, Donna M. Zadunajsky

4I’ve finally finished reading this book and what can I say? Donna M. Zadunajsky really delivered because I was thrown for a loop at the end.  As you can tell from the quote, it’s a story about loss, depression, and finding oneself. Most important, it’s a story about discovering truth and finding happiness. After the main character, Carla, loses her husband and her baby on the same day, it sets her on a path that leads her to discover major events that happened without her knowing.

It wasn’t the nailbiter-mystery story I had hoped for however. And you can definitely get the same gust of pow skipping over part one and going straight to part two where it finally gets good. There were some weird/awkward editing choices in the text, too. Regardless, this book has great drama and if you love books with unexpected outcomes, definitely put this one on your list.

I also need to add that when it comes to the audio book, the author picked a winner. Thank goodness, too! I’ve had a few occurrences where I lost interest just because I couldn’t stand listening to the narrator. The audio book was pretty good and I had no complaints listening in for almost 7 hours of the narrator transitioning between characters. If you like a dry narrator who doesn’t do voice changes, you’ll be better off with reading this book.

Grab your copy of this book here. You can also read my author interview with Donna here.

Best,

Ella

Roman à clef at Play: An Interview With Author, Donna M. Zadunajsky

Interviews, Publishing

As an undergrad, I listened to my professors gush about “The Rape of the Lock” and Dharma bums–famous roman à clef titles of the serious literary wold. From the minute I learned what roman à clef  was, I was intrigued with the idea of writers disguising their real lives within the folds of their work and so, it’s refreshing to note that Donna M. Zadunajsky, a contemporary author, continues to write in this tradition.

Read on for the interview but definitely check out her latest novel, Hidden Secrets (Secrets and Second Chances) (Volume 2), for a phenomenal adventure that explores the complexity of the relationships we all share with others.

 And expect a review of this novel soon!

Q: What inspired you write this book? I started out writing a book about three best friends, but after writing 50,000 words, there was no way I could finish the book the way I was writing it. Each character had their own story to tell, so I decided to break them up into a series of books related only by the character being written in the book before it.

Alexis in Family Secrets, is my best friend Jill in real life. She chose the character’s name and career. Carla in Hidden Secrets is me with my life as a school teacher, and some real life events intertwined in the story. In book 3–that I’m writing now–is my best friend Angie, known as Ashley.

I would say that the question would be, what inspired me to write this series, lol.

Q: What challenges did you have while writing it? Making sure everything fit together in the end. I had to make sure that Carla’s husband and the timelines matched with the story. I had to draw a graph and write down dates about what happened so that further in the book the reader wouldn’t question my dates.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from reading your book(s)? That’s a good question.  I would have to say I want my readers to feel satisfied and that the story is complete with the ending filling in all the gaps. I do like to add a little twist at the end of my books to surprise the reader. I don’t want my readers feeling like they’ve already read a book similar to mine.

Q: If you could live in the story of a book, which one would you live in? My all time favorite movie and book is Anne of Green Gables. The location and people would be to me, an amazing place to be. It looks so beautiful and calming there and I just love the characters.

Q:  When you’re not writing what do you do? Three days a week I go to pilates before writing in the morning. I read, clean the house, do my daily chores like taking care of the pets; we have two dogs and two cats. I have a fifteen year old daughter who consumes my time after she gets home from school. I also work at a veterinary three days a week in the evening, so I can write in the morning. I also clean other people’s homes in the afternoon on various days in the month. So, I guess you can say that my writing comes first and then everything else comes after I have written some words. I love to keep myself busy.

Q: What else have you written? What else do you write? I started out writing seven children’s books, which are about my daughter and her life journeys. I accomplished and published my first novel, Broken Promises, in June 2012, and then went into writing my second novel Not Forgotten, which was published late Spring for 2013 and is now owned by Custom Book Publishing.

With my daughter entering Junior High, I went into writing about some true events in my first novella, Help Me!, which is a subject about suicide, cutting, and bullying.

My third novel Family Secrets: Secrets and Second Chances, is first in a series I’m writing, and have recently published book 2, Hidden Secrets.

I have written 7 children’s books, 4 novels, and 2 novellas.

Q: What’s your “writer studio” like or where do you feel inspired to write?

I write in the office that my husband and I share. When he’s at work and my daughter’s at school the house is quiet and it’s just me and my imaginary friends. Absolute quietness is what I love and need in order to write.

Q: Of all the character’s you have written, do you have a favorite? That’s another good question. To be honest it is actually the character I’m working on now. Her name is Lily, she’s 5 years old. She’s a smart little girl for her age, and I can actually see her in her very own book in the near future. In all of her scenes, my heart wraps around her and feels everything she feels and goes through. I absolutely loved creating her.

Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been writing professionally? When I was 13-14 years old. I couldn’t stop reading Stephen King books. I could always come up with bizarre stories, but just never pursued the writing craft until I was 33 years old. My daughter inspired me and I started writing about her adventures that she and I would go on. My passion was always to write mystery novels, but I also like writing young adults books as well. That is something I started getting into last year when I wrote about teen suicide and bullying. I have written a second book in the Help Me! series titled Talk to Me,  which has been selected as a Finalist in an unpublished contest. The winner will be revealed on September 15th in Denver, Colorado, which I’ll be.

I have been writing for at least 8 years.

Q: Where do you think book publishing will be in 10 years from now? I do believe that printed books will still be around because it has become more popular lately. A couple of years ago I would have told you that it wouldn’t exist because I read nothing book ebooks, but as of this year, I’d say I like printed books a lot more now.


I hope you enjoyed this interview! Again, catch her novel here. Follow her on Twitter @72Zadunajsky and find out what she’s currently working on by visiting her blog at http://www.donnazadunajsky.com/.

An Interview with a Hawaii-Based Publisher’s Editor-in-Chief, David Shinsato

Interviews, Publishing

 Q: Let’s start off light. So, what’s the funniest thing that has happened to you?

A: Funniest thing that happened to me… Well, this wasn’t exactly funny for me at the time, but other people sure found it funny when I told them. It’s probably the most embarrassed I’ve ever been in public. 

While I was studying abroad in Okinawa, I won a $50 trip to the Kansai region. I was one of three undergrads who were chosen by lottery. The rest were grad students. Anyway, the first night, there we were at a hotel having a big dinner. There were about 50 of us. After dinner, they announced that all of the people from each country present had to walk up, introduce themselves in Japanese (a language I could barely speak), and sing a song from the country we came from. Being the only American, I had to go up by myself. There were like 20 Chinese people so they got to sing in a big group…

As I walked up to the microphone, my yukata (a casual summer kimono, which I was not at all used to wearing) got caught in a sound cord and everyone got a pretty clear view of my underwear! Laughter ensued and I was pretty embarrassed. I proceeded to do my Japanese self-introduction, which I did terribly. It was made even worse by my embarrassment. Then, I couldn’t think of a song (something I should have done earlier) and I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and forgot the lyrics. It was the most humiliating walk back to my seat.

That was probably the “funniest” thing that has happened to me.

 

Q: That’s so brutal! On a positive note, I’m sure you cheered up a lot of people that day. What were you like in high school?

A: Honestly? Shy, if you didn’t know me, and annoying if you did. I’d like to say that I grew out of that stage, but that depends on who you ask (haha). Personally, I don’t really like High School David.

 

Q: How would your best friend describe you?

A: Ambitious, confident, fun, goofy, loving, and a hard worker. They’d describe me as someone who isn’t satisfied with a superficial relationship and who takes the time to actually get to know people. 

Full disclosure, I don’t know how to answer questions like these. So, I just asked my wife who is my best friend and that’s what she told me.

 

Q: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?

A: Uhhhh, I’m not sure. I don’t really find myself very interesting. I did enter a chess tournament once and I lost every match. I guess that’s something I wouldn’t put on my resume.

 

Q: You’re Savant Books and Publications’ newest Editor-in-Chief. What’s your most favorite thing about being an Editor-in-Chief?

A: Being able to find quality manuscripts that are enjoyable and consistent with Savant’s mission. I–like most people–love a good story and am happy when I can be involved in the process of getting that story out to the world. 

 

Q: And, your least favorite thing about being an Editor-in-Chief?

A: I’d say it’s rejecting manuscripts. I’m not at all happy when I have to do it.  For many people, being published is one of their life dreams. People work very hard on their books, but sometimes their work just isn’t a good fit for our publishing house. This is definitely my least favorite thing.

 

Q: If you couldn’t work in publishing anymore, what would you be doing?

A: If I couldn’t work in publishing, I’d do something else where I could be a part of the storytelling process–maybe in TV or movie production. I love animated films and shows, so I’d probably do whatever I could to get into that field.

 

Q: Let’s talk books! In your opinion, which is the best book ever written or which book do you wish you had written?

A: If you’re talking about a fiction book, that’s tough–it depends on the genre. But if I had to, what I believe are the best books ever written (at least one’s that I’ve read) I’d have to say, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and a short little sci-fi story I absolutely love called, The Dandelion Girl. For non-fiction work, definitely, The Bible.

 

Q: If you could live in a book’s story, which would it be? Which character would you be in it?

A: If I could live in any book, it’d probably be The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson. I love the world that he’s built and the complexity of the magic system in it. I’d probably be the character, Kaladin. I find myself a lot like him in many ways. If I had to pick a more popular book, I’d pick Lord of the Rings and be Sam. In the end, it’s fantasy worlds that really appeal to me.

 

Q: What’s the best advice you were ever given?

A: That’s hard to say, so I’ll just say the first meaningful piece of advice that came to my mind: don’t waste your life.

 

Q: Speaking of meaningful, in your opinion, what’s the most meaningful thing a writer should have or do to be a successful author?

A: The most important thing a writer should have to be a successful author is skill. There’s no other way around it. People will buy and read good books. If you can craft an intriguing story with interesting and relatable characters, people will take notice. Of course, timing, marketing know how, and connections are all important, as well.

But, in the end, none of those things will help if your book is terrible. There are exceptions; some books are mediocre at best, yet they have sold millions of copies. I can’t fully explain that. However, the works that have withstood the test of time are all literary masterpieces. If you are an aspiring author, the best thing you can do for yourself is: learn to write well. 

 

Q: Here’s the question writers are waiting for. What’s the one thing authors do that hurt their chances of being accepted into a publishing house?

A: The one thing authors do that hurt their chances of being accepted into a publishing house is not following submission guidelines. If you can’t be bothered to properly submit your work, then publishers can’t be bothered to take you seriously. “Gimmicky” stuff usually doesn’t work either.

 

Q: Lastly, what’s your definition of success?

A: That’s an interesting question. I feel like true success is something no one will ever feel that they have really “achieved”. I think it’s important to always have multiple goals and new dreams–to keep pushing yourself to new heights. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I ever felt like I had “arrived”. For now, I guess that’s my answer. Perhaps one day I’ll have something closer to an actual definition. 

At the risk of sounding cliche and kind of corny–which I don’t really care if I do–I will leave you with these lines from Disney’s Tangled. A great movie I might add.
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be? 
Flynn Rider: It will be. 
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then? 
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream. 


 To learn more about David go to http://davidshinsato.yolasite.com/ or contact him directly at savanteic@gmail.com.

Hope you had fun!

-E