Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swedish for Beginners by Susanne O'Leary

Maud, a young Irishwoman goes to Sweden to find out about her late mother, the beautiful Eleonore. She discovers not only a whole new family but also unearths some family skeletons and the shocking truth about her own identity. The mysterious Lukas is linked both to Eleonore and Maud's grandmother Julia. Set in Ireland, Sweden and Australia, this is a moving family saga that deals with identity, grief and loss
If you find yourself on an island in the Stockholm archipelago on a beautiful summer's morning and wander down the path to the rocks, well, who wouldn't slip out of ther pj's and swim in the cool, blue water, only accompanied by a fish or two and a couple of seagulls? And then to lie on a smooth, warm rock and dry off in the sun... Its the most delicious thing.
Imogen's Review
The sudden loss of her father signals the start of a journey of self-discovery for Maud, a 30-year-old woman from Ireland. She discovers her Swedish roots, when she realized that her mother, who passed when Maud was only four, was from Stockholm. Maud travels to Sweden to meet with the extended Swedish family that has been kept secret from her all these years by her father.
Susanne O'Leary unravels Maud's journey in a captivating way, with the reader immediately drawn into Maud. One feels her loneliness and struggles as she tries to deal with her new heritage and her new relationships. O'Leary's characters are fascinating and well fleshed. On a personal note, I was very touched by this story on several levels. I related to Eleonore (Maud's mother), in how she had uprooted from her family and moved to a new country, and also with Maud and her coming to terms with her mother's death and trying to getting to know her posthumously.
I would highly recommend this charming story to anyone who enjoys a light, relaxing read.
About the Author
Susanne O'Leary was born in Stockholm, Sweden. At the age of twenty, she married an Irish diplomat, which resulted in a globe- trotting life for many years. She has lived in a number of different countries, such as Sweden, Australia, Ireland, France, Belgium and Holland.
Susanne started writing in 1998, when she used her training as fitness teacher to write two fitness and health books for women. Then someone suggested she write a novel based on her experiences as the wife of a diplomat and her first novel, Diplomatic Incidents was published in 2001 by Blackstaff Press. A further 'diplomatic' novel followed in 2003, European Affairs, also published by Blackstaff Press.
While on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, Susanne had the idea to write Fresh Powder, which was published in 2006 by New Island, followed by Finding Margo, also published by New Island.
Susanne's husband left the diplomatic service a few years ago and they now live south of Dublin in a beautiful rural setting, very inspirational for writing.
All of Susanne's previous novels are set in France, one of her favourite countries and it wasn't until recently that she decided to set a story in her native Sweden. Writing Swedish for Beginners was a very emotional journey for her, as it deals with her own 'identity crisis'; living in one country but having my roots in another. Many of the heroine's feelings of confusion and rootlessness are Susanne's own but maybe a little less dramatic!

Q&A with Susanne O'Leary
Who/what was the inspiration for the story?
I got the idea for the story when I was on a visit to Stockholm. As I prepared to go back to Ireland, I felt leaving was such a huge wrench, which gets stronger each time I go back. So I asked myself the question: where is really 'home' for me? Where do I belong? Where are my roots? I decided to write a novel on this theme and, in a way, answer my own question. During this time, my mother gave me all the letters I had written to her when I was on a posting to Australia. The homesickness expressed in those letters really touched my heart and they added the element I needed for the story. The novel then took another turn, dealing with grief and death, which is harder to cope with when you live in another country. I also wanted to describe Sweden from the point of view of a stranger.
Who can you see playing Maud, Lukas, Barbara and Anders in a movie adaptation?
I think Gwyneth Paltrow would be wonderful as Maud and Alexander SkarsgÄrd (although he is a little young for the part) as Lukas. Maggie Gyllenhaal might be great as Barbara and Colin Farrel as Anders.
Will there be a sequel?
Many readers have asked me to write a sequel. But I don't see this happening as I feel the story is quite complete, despite leaving the ending kind of 'open'.
What kind of music do you enjoy?
I'm an omnivore when it comes to music. It all depends on my mood. I love Mozart, any of his piano concertos are fantastic to listen to while I write. But I also love opera (Cosi fan Tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute), country and western, jazz, blues, rock and pop. If I'm in the throes of writing a romantic scene, I often put on some Frank Sinatra.
What’s your favorite book? Your favorite movie?
There is not any one book or any one movie. But recently, I have read all of Stieg Larsson's (in Swedish) and a novel called 'American Wife' by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I really enjoyed. As for movies, the one that stick in my mind at the moment, is 'Mona Lisa Smile', which I saw quite recently. I also loved 'School of Rock' for the humor and music.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?
Stockholm, I think. Paris would come a close second. I spent four years there and loved it. I love Ireland too but not all the time.
High heels or flats?
Flats for everyday, because I'm tall and walk a lot. Heels for dressing up (love them).
Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Eric?
Eric! Because of Alexander...
What do you enjoy doing apart from writing?
I love horse riding and hillwalking. I live in the best counry for both. Also love skiing and swimming, reading and cooking.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I have just completed a co-written detective story. It's been great fun working with another writer and I am keeping my fingers crossed publishers out there will like it. If they do, we'll defintively write a sequel to that one and maybe more. Those characters are still so alive in my mind.


Monday, July 26, 2010

I Dreamt of Sausage by Corinna Borden

"Survival behavior relates to one's personality characteristics. Corinna's book shares many of these factors and makes them easy to understand because she is a native who has lived the problem and can share her experience. It is real and practical and useful for those confronting cancer and other problems."
Bernie Siegel, MD author of Faith, Hope & Healing and 365 Prescriptions For The Soul.
With humor and insight, we follow Corinna from MD Anderson to Tijuana, Mexico as she navigates the world of cancer treatment, allowing us into her thoughts as she learns to embrace the present moment.
Body introduces us to Corinna, her diagnosis, and conventional chemotherapy. The second part, Mind, shows the explosion of fear and turmoil that override her reality as she decides to move forward with alternative cancer treatments. Finally, in Spirit, the cancer treatment and processes become secondary as peace is recognized and sought.

Corinna's Official Site

Corinna's Fan Page
I Dreamt of Sausage Fan Page
CreateSpace Store

About the Author

"I am a writer, an eater, an azalea, a lover of beets, a walker, a backyard chicken keeper, a dog scratcher, a cat tummy rubber, a bathroom singer, a farmers market manager, a gardener, a mediator, a wife, a sister, a believer in miracles, and I live a magical life.
Proceeds from the sale of this book go to support the Polly Hill Arboretum.
Corinna now works in the world of food.

Dawn's Review
This was one of the hardest books I have ever had to read because Corinna is brutally honest about a subject that most of us know very little about. Her battle with cancer brings as close to the beast as we can be without experiencing it ourselves. On the surface, it seems as though the book is just a cancer survivor's tale; but there is a deeper meaning behind it. Corinna teaches us that life is worth living, and no matter what the obstacle, we must never let anything stop us from living it. Her positive outlook is inspiring and heartwarming. Throughout the book I felt my heart break for her with each twist life threw at her. At the same time I enjoyed her wit and humor. While it was hard to read about such a scary subject, Corinna's bravery gave me the courage to read it to the end, and I am happy for that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Day The Flowers Died by Ami Blackwelder

1930 Munich, Germany. Two lovers. Different worlds, A crumbling country.
Eli Levin and Rebecca Baum fall madly in love in Munich in the early 1930's and must overcome family disapproval, social prejudice, and the growing Nazi party.

Imogen's Review
This is a story that spans two years during a time when Germany was under turmoil and the Nazi party was coming to power. It is the story about two lovers, a Catholic woman and a Jewish man. It’s a story about their struggles in these fraught times.

Ami Blackwelder recounts the issues of this couple in a poignant, thought-provoking manner. The story has a slow pace which allows the reader to absorb the atmosphere of the lives (including the religious traditions) of the main characters, Eli and Rebecca. I would recommend this book to those interested in historical romance (no explicit scenes) from this era.

About the Author
I am a forbidden romance writer in the paranormal and historical romance genre. My unique experiences allow me an original perspective and a plethora of ideas to entertain readers.
I grew up in Florida and went to UCf. in 1997 had my BA in English and teaching credentials. I decided to travel overseas and teach and have worked in Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, China and Korea. Thailand is considered my second home now. I have always loved writing and wrote poems and short stores since childhood; however, my novels began when I was in Thailand

Q&A with Ami Blackwelder
Who/what inspired you to write this story?
The inspiration behind The Day the Flowers Died came to me literally in a dream. I awoke with such an intense passion for these two characters and an urge to tell their story that consumed me for three months, until the story was written.
Who could you see playing the main characters, Rebecca and Eli, in a movie adaptation?
Eli could definitely be played by Robert Sean Leonard (ten years ago) or perhaps 'sweets' from Bones. Rebecca could be played by Keira Knightly or Sandra Bullock.
Where did you get your background information?
I watched videos on youtube about the 1930's , Munich, Hitler, Nazis, and some of it was terrifying. But it puts you in the frame of mind needed. I also researched online in various historical sites.
Will there be a sequel?
No. This is a one time thing. I don't think any of my historical fiction will have sequels. But my paranormal and science fiction often do, though I don't plan it at the time:)

For more Q&A's with Ami, please see Dawn's previous interview: The Hunted of 2060


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zombie Stop Parade by Richard Buzzell

This story has nothing to do with zombies. It's about a charismatic hip-hotster who places himself in conflict with his own society. Through his website, he conducts a campaign of ridicule against the cash-grab mentality, which he sees as the obstacle to sustainability. He manages to connect with a nascent alienation developing on college campuses in the wake of the global financial fiasco. Suspicious activity brings pressure from legal authorities, but he refuses to make concessions. His best friend is torn between his misgivings and his personal loyalty, while those around him, urge him to bail out in order to save himself.

Q&A with Richard Buzzell:
This book is quite different from most books being released today. How did you come up with the idea for it? The story originated, many years ago, with the central character and developed from there. The development process was mainly one of deciding what not to write. Eventually I eliminated enough options to give the story some reasonable degree of focus. Once a focus was established, the story fed off of what was happening in the media.
What made you decide to write the book as a journal? I wrote the book as a journal because I didn't think there was any other way to make it plausible. I didn't want to have an omniscient narrator. I'm just not comfortable with it.
The subject matter really parallels society today. Are any of the characters in the book based on people in real life? I think the central character is partly derived from the person who gave me his copy of, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Since writing the book, I've encountered numerous people who could've been models for the protagonist. Matt Taibbi is one.
Is there a message you would like your readers to walk away with? I'd like readers to feel that they have more control over the culture they consume.
What was your favorite part about writing this book? My favorite part of writing the book was being able to produce some fresh phrasing.
Can we expect more books in the future? I'm feeling quite overwhelmed by the process of trying to promote this book and can't imagine trying to write another one. I expect to do some writing online in the future. I do like Harper Lee's example of writing one novel and then getting out of the business.


About the Author:
I've been a lifelong observer of popular culture, and a student of the socialization process,and this book is an attempt to express some of my thoughts on these topics. I can't say I have much interest in joining the clamor for celebrity, so I won't say any more about myself.

Dawn's Review:
Zombie Stop Parade is not about zombies; or is it? This story shows us how easily influenced we are by corporations and media. Even those who are against it and try to warn us of the dangers are sometimes seduced by the mythology. Zombie Stop Parade is very different from most of today's books. With an interesting format and unique subject it catches the readers attention right from the beginning. A hint of humor shows through with the clever names for our protagonist's "enemies", and while the subject is a serious one, I found myself smiling more than not as I read page after page. It is an engaging read from beginning to end.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking

Seventeen-year-old Alice Bonham's life feels out of control after she meets Jack. With his fondness for pink Chuck Taylors and New Wave hits aside, Jack's unlike anyone she's ever met.

Then she meets his brother, Peter. His eyes pierce through her, and she can barely breathe when he's around. Even though he can't stand the sight of her, she's drawn to him.

But falling for two very different guys isn't even the worst of her problems. Jack and Peter are vampires, and Alice finds herself caught between love and her own blood...

Imogen's Review
When Alice Bonham, a Minnesota high-school student, is rescued from a potentially life threatening situation by charismatic, Jack, her world changes completely. She finds herself completely drawn to him...until she meets his bother, Peter. She discovers that she is attracted to both brothers. However, she realized that her attraction to Peter is not just physical, but biological. Alison and Peter are meant to be together, but there's one complication-he doesn't want her. Jake does. There's another complication-they are both vampires.

Amanda Hocking takes us on an intriguing journey of discovery as Alice tries to figure out what she wants. This is part one of a series, I'm looking forward to reading book two-Fate.

About the Author
Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with John Hughes and Jim Henson. She's a guitar player in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and the proud owner of a the largest miniature Schnauzer ever. In between making collages and drinking too much Red Bull, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

The first three books in her series - My Blood Approves, Fate, and Flutter are available now. The fourth book in the series, Wisdom, will be out August 2010. The first book in the Trylle Trilogy, Switched, is out now, and the second book, Torn, will be out Fall 2010."

Q&A with Amanda Hocking
In a movie version of the book who would you like to see play Alice, Jack and Peter?
Alice – Natalie Dreyfuss
Peter – Emile Hirsch (from Into the Wild)
Jack – ??? I’ve thought and thought, and I can’t come up with anyone :S

How many books will there be in My Blood Approves series?
Absolutely no more than five, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be a fifth book.

Will there be appearances from other paranormal beings in the other books?
Not really in these books. I have other paranormal beings in different series, but in this one, I think it’ll be strictly vampire.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. Always. I don’t think there’s anything else I ever really wanted to do.

Which other contemporary authors inspire you?
Richelle Mead and Claudia Gray I probably draw from the most. I really love Alan Moore and Kurt Vonnegut, but they don’t really make a play in the types of books I write. Although, all four of those authors made me view fantasy differently, and I saw what I could with it.

What are your hobbies?
I make collages and watch a lot of movies. I play video games a little, but only when they hook me up. I read, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Eric (from Sookie)?
Team Edward in the books, Team Jacob in the movie, and Team Eric always.

Who is your favorite vampire?
Toughest question ever. Um… I’ll say Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries or Adrian Ivashkov from Vampire Academy. Maybe. Or Dracula, because without him, where we would be?

If stranded on an island, which one book would you hope to have with you?
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. I’m always reading it.

Could you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I just released Switched, and it’s the first book in a paranormal romance trilogy not about vampires, shifters, zombies, witches, or fae. I also have the fourth book in the My Blood Approves series coming out in August.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Switched by Amanda Hocking

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth.

With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.


Imogen's Review
How could you not pick up this book after the intriguing product description? This was an original and refreshing story. When teenager Wendy Everly suddenly discovers that the reason she has felt misplaced all her life is because she is a changeling, her world turns up side down. She is transported into a world of trolls, with the hope that she will finally belong. However, she discovers that the loneliness she felt in her human life remains. Her only salvation comes in the form of Finn. When he is taken away from her, she must make the difficult decision between doing her duties, or escaping back to her human life, where she has a loving family.

Amanda Hocking kept me totally engrossed in this wonderful fantasy. I can’t wait for the sequel, Torn.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In the Valley by Phillip van Wulven

These short stories will take you away, down into the valley and up again to soar over the mountains. Most are set in Africa, in the ancient bush, with people interacting with the animals, the birds and the spirits.
A collection of six short stories, the first four of which all share an African theme.

Q&A with Phillip van Wulven
Are any of the scenes depicted in your book influenced by real life experiences in Africa? Of course I drew on my own experiences growing up in South Africa and Zambia for the settings, the animals and plants and the general feel, as well as using actual incidents as the basis for many events. Real events have mostly been morphed by putting conversations and feelings that did not take place into their context.
Were any of the characters based on real people? Yes, in the two stories set in Capetown particularly - ‘Sunbird’ & ‘finding the Eland’ - both are based on real-life incidents from my childhood. The people in both those stories are based on real people. I should point out that ‘based on’ does not mean either the events or people as written are photographic reproductions of reality.
What made you decide to become a writer? I’ve always enjoyed story-telling, adding a ‘what-if’ to actual events, both to emphasise possible meaning and to explore different outcomes or consequences.
Do you have any other works underway? Yes, I have a completed novel, ‘Eland dances’, not yet published, and another about 3/4 written. I also want to continue the story of the elephant and Gosnaat the poacher from ‘In the Valley’ - the 10,000 word story in the book. There are also a few more stories sitting idle on my hard drive that might be going into another short story book soon, with some editing and polishing.
What is your favourite part of writing? When I am so immersed in the time and place of the story I lose track of any other context. Mostly this is when writing the first draft, when the characters and plot just unfold effortlessly. Then again, when things suddenly fit together and something I’ve written that doesn’t seem quite right falls into a new perspective with just a few words added or altered.
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? With short stories there is the satisfaction of having something complete that can be read and appreciated in one sitting. With a novel you can bring in much more complexity, with layers of meaning and several different plot lines running, more like real life.
Best answer I can give to that question is I enjoy writing both, just as I like drinking a cup of tea or coffee sometimes, and other times I like to drink India Pale Ale while watching a humming bird busy at the bergamot bush and smelling the new mown grass.

Amazon - Kindle
Phillip's Fan Page

About the Author
Phil van Wulven was born in Africa, in a family who changed houses and schools, as well as countries, quite often. Landlords, Headmasters, and governments prefer you to leave places as you found them, he discovered. He has lived in Canada for quite a while now, where he is busy growing roots. He hates rejection almost as much as dejection.
He likes trees, birds, sunsets, and all that, and is getting used to the idea that seeing a sunrise doesn’t mean he is on the way to work.
He likes to read, write, drink beer, and fix stuff.

Dawn's Review
In the Valley was such an interesting book. I've always been fascinated with Africa, and Phil's descriptions leave the reader feel like she is right in the heart of it. Although each story depicted in this book is fairly short, they do not leave you wanting. They are imaginative and descriptive in a way many authors fail to project. I enjoyed Phil's writing and hope to see more in the future.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Voodoo Love Song by Richard Daybell

Boy meets duck, boy loses duck, boy finds girl. At Disney World, Paul is picked up by a five-foot duck named Huey. Duckness proves to be skin deep, however, for Huey the Duck is really Huey the Girl, an attractive young woman who leads Paul astray and to Key West, where during a sailing adventure, they are marooned on a tropical island. Can romance survive pirates, pythons and panthers, voodoo, men who have passed through the earth twice, and things that go bump in the Caribbean night? Can Paul and Huey survive?
Voodoo Love Song is a tale of romance and misadventures among the living dead. It's meant to be read while lying on a tropical beach somewhere; it should end up with sand between the pages.

Q&A with Richard Daybell
How long have you been writing?
Think quill pens and typewriters so idiosyncratic that you could immediately be identified if you typed a ransom note. And carbon copies. I wrote my first book in the 1950's. I think I was about ten. It was very neatly printed on a dozen pages of a small notepad. It was an adventure featuring talking animals (My God, I'm still writing about talking animals). I sent it to a major publisher (without SASE). They sent me this very nice form letter rejection. Well, I was thrilled. That was probably the last time I got excited by a rejection.
What, if anything, inspired this book?
The Caribbean -- the beaches, the sugar cane fields, the pace, everything. And Key West. And New Orleans, particularly the Voodoo Museum, which fed my fascination for voodoo and caused me to look into it more deeply. This eventually became a crusade to do something about the bad rap zombies get, thanks to people like George Romero and his Night of the Living Dead. I find myself shouting at passers-by: "Real zombies don't eat people!"
The characters in this book are very entertaining. Are any of them based on people you know in real life?
In one of my short stories, the main character is writing a romance novel and her husband becomes jealous of her main character. When he demands to know who this character really is, she expains that he's everybody and he's nobody, he's manufactured from little bits of you, me, Uncle Leo, the guy at the supermarket. I guess that works for me. The adventurous parts of Huey are influenced by my wife Linda. The sarcastic parts, all mine. And so on. What's fun is when the character absorbs all these bits and makes them her own. That's when you lose some power as the author. Sure, you still have ultimate control: "You're going to die in Chapter 9." But she can say to you: "I would never say that. You can't put those words in my mouth. If you want somebody to say that, you'll just have to create another character. You're supposed to be a writer, aren't you?"
I know this book is not yet published. What are your plans for this book? Will we be able to purchase it in the near future?
I don't know. I'm still holding out for traditional publishing at this point. Strange new ways of doing things present themselves so fast that I can't keep up with them, however. Who knows? Maybe next week I'll be able to inscribe it on the inside of people's eyelids.
Would you like to see your book made into a movie? If so, who would you like to play the characters?
Of course, I'd like to see it made into a movie -- Avatar perhaps. As far as choosing actors, I used to do that but then they'd go off and play a serial kiler or a vampire and ruin everything. So I suppose I'd choose unknowns who would agree to retire after they made the movie. And a few sequels maybe.
Are you working on any other books right now? If so, what can we look forward to?
I've put together a collection of my short stories set in the Caribbean under the title Calypso -- Story Songs of the Caribbean. About two-thirds of them have been previously published in magazines. Several of them are available on my website and on I also have another completed novel, Terry and the Pirate, a romantic adventure featuring a group of maladroit modern day pirates. A few other projects are in their infancy. And I've envisioned this series about a crime-solving brewmaster -- the first title is 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, to be followed shortly by 98 Bottles. . .
Do you have any favorite authors, and have they influenced your writing at all?
Mercy, yes. At the top of the list is John Steinbeck, who I'd like to grow up to be. Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding. More recently Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher, Tom Robbins, Carl Hiaasen, John Kennedy Toole, Agatha Christie, Andrew McCall Smith, Nora Ephron. They all influence me. I'm easily influenced.

Richard's Website

About the Author:
Richard Daybell has been a writer/editor for most of his adult life, working at various times for a public library, a multinational corporation, a university, and state government. With his wife Linda, he also spent seven years as owner/chef of Churchill House Inn, a nine-room country inn in central Vermont.
His short stories and short humor have appeared in regional, national and international commercial publications including American Way and Hemispheres, the inflight magazines for American Airlines and United Airlines, The New York Times, Buffalo Spree, Salt Lake City Magazine, and Tampa Tribune Fiction Quarterly as well as such literary magazines as Rosebud and Dandelion.
Richard and Linda are now living in Lincoln, Vermont, in the Green Mountains where Richard continues to write, concentrating more on novels.

Dawn's Review:
Voodoo Love Song tells us of an unlikely couple who, shortly after they meet, find themselves on an adventure of a life time. Danger and mystery are the key elements portrayed in this novel, keeping us on the edge of our seats the whole time. But even more important is the dialogue between Huey and Paul. Their back and forth banter is both entertaining and comical. Even as they face the dangers of the island, fighting off zombies and pirates, and desperately looking for a way home, they continue to entertain us with their quick wit and humor. Richard is truly and entertaining writer and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

This week's featured author: Susanne Lambdin

Susanne's love for Star Trek took her to Los Angles in the late '80s. She is best known for her 'based in part' contribut...