Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Affinity Konar, “Mischling”

Mischling_Graphics3

To celebrate the paperback release of the amazing and emotional read, “Mischling,” I got a chance to ask author Affinity Konar some questions about the novel. I am a big fan of her debut work so I am thrilled to share her answers with you!

And if you haven’t read the book yet, go get a copy; you won’t be disappointed.


Why was this subject important for you to write about?
It was so important to me actually, that I wanted to not write it. My family left Poland in 1932, and were harbored safely in America, so while I was growing up I always felt pulled back to the period, and to what could have been, if my ancestors weren’t offered this refuge. I think it’s necessary to live with that warning in the back of your mind, especially today, to let it echo in remembrance. When I was a teenager, I found the story of the twins in Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, and so many of the testimonies approached questions of to how to retain one’s own humanity, how to survive, resist, and attempt to restore oneself after unimaginable trauma. After I read that, I couldn’t stop imagining a conversation between a pair of twins whose bond was their refuge, their means to survival.


How did you find the balance between such a dark subject and an ultimately uplifting story?
The trickiness of finding that balance is one of the reasons that the book took so long to write. One doesn’t want to impose any kind of veneer that might lessen the trauma of a very real experience. But I wanted to pay tribute to stories of incredible endurance that I can’t help but be inspired by, specifically because they arose out of the extreme darkness of Shoah. So managing this element came down to voice for me, in the end. The imagery that arises out of the voices of Stasha and Pearl may be charming, but they function as veils for horror. It was my hope that the very necessity for these veils–or the fact that the girls would resort to such transformative thinking–would magnify the true peril that they endure.


What is your advice to aspiring authors?
I have to quote Sarah Manguso from “300 Arguments”. “I’ve written whole books to avoid writing other books.” That was my life for a long time. Nothing that came out of that avoidance was very good. So I’d say that honoring your desire to write about what scares you most is important. If it’s not terrifying you on a certain level, if might feel necessary enough to bring out the best you have to offer as a writer. Also, oatmeal is cheap and nutritious when times are lean, dogs are good for getting you out of the house, and you should read everything you can, whether you’re drawn to the text or not, because it all informs the kind of stance you’ll take on the page


What are you working on next?
It feels odd to talk about this, because this book has felt like my life’s work, and I honestly never expected to finish it, much less start another. But I have found myself writing in hotel rooms while touring, so I guess I won’t be stopping any time soon? It’s currently in chaos, but it’s a chaos centered by a search for meaning and restoration, and I suspect that this is an element that will always be afoot in whatever I attempt to do.



About the Author

2894415Affinity Konar was raised in California. While writing MISCHLING, she worked as a tutor, proofreader, technical writer, and editor of children’s educational workbooks. She studied fiction at SFSU and Columbia. She is of Polish-Jewish descent, and currently lives in Los Angeles.

She dearly misses writing about Pearl and Stasha, and is grateful to any reader who might find the company of the twins.

Posted in Reviews

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one had been in my queue for awhile, as I got busy with other deadlines. But I was so happy to get to read it, and I am ecstatic to say that this book was well worth the wait. Creepy, suspenseful and full of drama – this book has it all and kept me turning pages late into the night.

First: one of the themes of this book is sexual abuse, and those who wish to avoid that topic should probably skip this book.

The book follows two timelines: Lane Roanoke moves to the family home in Kansas after the suicide of her mother. Living there are her grandparents and her cousin (also 16 years old at the time) live there. All Lane knows about her relatives is that her mother was estranged from them and that her and Allegra are the last of “the Roanoke Girls,” a line of young women who either die young or run away. After one fateful summer, Lane runs. Eleven years later, she learns Allegra is missing and she decides to return to Roanoke to find Allegra and face her family’s demons once and for all.

This book packs quite an emotional punch, really grabbing you from the first page and never letting go. There is a pervading sense of something being “off” as soon as Lane gets to the house, and while it doesn’t remain a secret for long, you can’t look away because you want to know how it all ends. There are so many things that you need to know.

The book also touches on a lot of issues that are really important (fidelity, love, abuse, etc.) and it really gives a great weight to the story. You don’t feel like you’re reading a gratuitous, dramatic novel, but something much more important, if that makes sense. It gets you thinking about different issues and things people face.

I really liked this book and can’t recommend it enough. It’s hard to describe why, but I guess the book just pulls you in and makes you care about the people in it.

I can’t wait for more from Amy Engel.

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Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Justin W.M. Roberts

34122259I’m thrilled to be able to talk with another author about work and their craft. Justin W.M. Roberts, author of the action-packed “The Policewoman,” took some time to share his thoughts on his characters and his experiences as a writer.

– Where did the idea for this novel come from?

Drug trafficking is a problem faced by every country. It’s big business and it’s a matter of time drug cartels will try to take over a country.

 

– This novel not only had action, but a lot of emotion too – laughter, romance, etc. How did you balance that in your writing?

Well, the life a real police officer is not one action sequence to the next. In fact, 99% of it is boring. This book is art imitating the life of a police officer, albeit an extraordinary life.

– Why did you choose a female protagonist? 

Good question! This book is more of a military action thriller than a crime fiction novel. Since there aren’t any female officers in the UK’s Special Air Service, I need the main protagonist to be a female so there can be a romance element in the book.

– What authors do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

I enjoy reading Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, Andy McNab, and Chris Ryan

– What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just write! Send your work to a lot of people so they can send their feedback.

– What are you working on next?

The Policewoman is book one of a series. I’m currently writing the sequel.


About the Author

Justin W.M. Roberts was born in London, son of a British Army General, and grew up in Hong Kong, Germany, and England. After graduating from Hull university with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Psychology, he continued traveling and living Europe, Africa, and Asia.

He currently lives in Indonesia where he is an analyst of political affairs and an active promoter of secular humanism.

Authors of military thrillers are welcome to PM him (on Goodreads) for book reviews.

Posted in Reviews

The Policewoman by Justin W.M. Roberts

SThe PolicewomanThe Policewoman by Justin W.M. Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5, rounded up to 4 stars.

Readers looking for a nonstop thrill ride through the underworld of narcoterrorism need look no further than “The Policewoman.” The book is not only an action-packed ride, but based on current events involving drug cartels and powerful drug kingpins, feels relevant; like it could indeed be the future.

This book is set in 2026, when the world’s most elite police units help take down brutal drug lords, who run the supply and distribution of the world’s drug supply. Sarah, the main character, is enlisted to help elite United Kingdom and Irish forces take down an Irish drug cartel, which has set up its largest factory in Sarah’s native Indonesia. Sarah, a bit of a “Wonder Woman” herself, must help bring down these criminals, who are as brutal and sadistic as they are efficient. Along the way, Sarah must fight for her own life, as well as the lives of those she loves.

This book has a great premise – it’s like a Mission Impossible movie in novel form. The suspense comes from whether or not the lead characters can survive their mission: the enemy is incredibly ruthless and cruel, employing a psychopathic killer to take vengeance on those who stand in their way. And the scenes with this killer do not hold back – he’s a pretty terrifying character.

The book also features some very good, developed characters – they quote movies and joke around, as well as fall in love. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to laugh or get the feels from what appears to be a tough-guy action novel. I was very pleasantly surprised.

The only drawback of the novel is that some of the descriptions and background information can get tedious, but with some polishing, the author could cut down the novel’s length and make the book a little tighter and take it from “good” to “great.”

But the story at its core is really enthralling and will delight military/action fans. I enjoyed the great locations and characters very much.

I’m excited to see what is next for this author.

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Posted in Reviews

Be My Killer by Richard Parker

Be My KillerBe My Killer by Richard Parker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Be My Killer,” is a book that has a great premise to live up to: What would happen if people put themselves out there on social media as potential targets for psychopaths? Who would be responsible for their deaths if they did die?

Fortunately, the book lives up to the “hype,” in my opinion, with the gore of a slasher movie and the suspense of a good detective story.

The novel follows Hazel, a documentary filmmaker who sees that a childhood friend has become the fourth victim of a ruthless killer who took people up on their tweet “requests” to be murdered. Hazel and her film crew set up shop in the abandoned amusement facility where Meredith was murdered to seek some answers about the killings. Then, people attached to the project begin to disappear.

This book is a great, creepy read. From the setting – an abandoned amusement park called the “Fun Zone” – to the eccentric cast of characters that knew the victims and have agreed to take part in the film, this book is nonstop suspense. The death scenes are a little gory, but nothing you wouldn’t see in a typical slasher movie. If you can’t stomach those, this isn’t the book for you.

I didn’t see the ending coming. In fact, I had no idea where the novel was going because there were enough moving parts and characters to create multiple plausible villains. Without a doubt, some of the side characters – like one victim’s social-media-obsessed stepbrother, or the creator of the @BeMyKiller Twitter account – really make the book great. You just want to know how they all fit into the story.

At the same time, the only downfall of the book is in the myriad of characters that can become confusing at points, especially toward the end at “the reveal” scene, when the fates of the characters is decided. Some of the names made me pause and think, “Oh yeah, that’s so-and-so.”

Overall, this was a very good thriller that will give you goosebumps. I thoroughly enjoyed it – it’s a must read for horror movie fans or anyone looking for a good creep-fest!

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Posted in For Fun

Exciting New Releases Just in Time for Summer

It seems like there’s been a bunch of great new releases this week – and look at that, just in time for your summer vacation! (I typically pack four or five books for a vacay)

These are books I haven’t read, but hope to read and review in the near future. Let me know what new releases you’re happy to see!

Here’s the two that caught my eye:

 

Block 46
by Johana Gustawsson, Maxim Jakubowski (Translation)

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.


Grit by Gillian French

Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.

But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Posted in Reviews

Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh

Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Melinda Leigh – author of the “Midnight” series – has started another thrilling, suspense-filled series with “Say You’re Sorry,” which is filled with suspects, and little romance too.

Morgan Dane has taken time off since the death of her husband two years ago. But just as she is about to go back to work for the District Attorney’s office, her teenaged neighbor is accused of murdering his girlfriend, also a family friend. Morgan agrees to defend him, and finds that a case that looked open-and-shut is anything but. Working with her high school sweetheart to investigate the case, can Morgan figure out what’s going on in a town that seems to have secrets around every turn?

This book was very twisty and had several subplots which added to the bigger picture of the mystery. There are points when it seems clear what happened, but then you’re thrown in another direction. However the subplots did not take away from the main mystery, which is the murder of a young girl at the town’s party spot. Leigh is very good at maintaining that balance.

I’m interested to see more from this town in the future, based on some of these threads.

And the central mystery gets dark. It’s not for the faint of heart. Not that most murder stories are cheerful, but this one involves sexual assault in various forms. But nothing seemed gratuitous, and it was handled well. Morgan’s determination to get justice also adds a great balance to these aspects, showing that there are people who care about making sure victims of crime get justice and are taken seriously.

I did not guess this ending.

The romance was a little cheesy, but it was still enjoyable. Hopefully in later books will see the characters’ relationship developed more.

Overall, I’m looking to more from Morgan Dane and Scartlett Falls.

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