January 19, 2012

Unread Interview - Brian Thompson

Hello people! Please welcome Brian Thompson for today's Unread Interview. He is promoting The Anarchists, his new book which will be released in April 2012. It seems like an amazing book, I've read the first chapter and I am ansious to read more, since it is a sci fi book with some political/cultural twist that seems to interest me deeply, it's sitting on my to read list :)
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.

Below, the interview :)

Tell us a bit about your book (s).
The Anarchists is set in the year 2050, where four people experience tragic loss. A supernatural force offers them a chance to improve their lives. Three of them take it and one has to be "convinced." They return to reality and find out their benefactor has become a global threat. Their decisions either save the planet or destroy it.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
I've always written stories. I wrote mostly poetry in high school. In my senior year, both in high school and college, I took creative writing courses that changed my life. That's when I discovered a calling to write books. 

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
I read as much as my schedule allows. I like a little bit of everything. I have Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), Sula and Beloved (Toni Morrison) on my shelf; those are classics. I dabble in allegorical fantasy, like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. If I want a laugh, I turn to Young Adult fiction.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
My favorite scenes to write are the ones when I can inject comedy into them. The focus of my books are mainly serious, so adding jokes, physical slip ups, or playful banter helps lighten the mood. I'd say my least favorite to write are the ones heavy on exposition - it's hard for me to tell whether or not I'm telling too much instead of showing.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
In this book, I would say I relate to Micah the most. Micah is an agnostic scientist and I am a Christian author. We couldn't be much more different there. But, he loves his girlfriend and children, and the financial struggles of his family keep him awake at night. I've been there. 

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
For me, romance would be the most difficult. There are love stories in all of my books, but they are never front-and-center. They are usually lingering in the background, giving depth to my characters.

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
I know it sounds kind of weird, but reading the Bible inspires me. Every kind of story you could ever want to read is in there. For action/adventure, there's King David. Romance is in Song of Solomon. Inspirational stories are in the New Testament. The fantastical elements in my second book, The Revelation Gate, are all biblical - just WAY exaggerated. 

My writing environment is downstairs, in my office. I have a calendar with deadlines hanging in front of my desk, and when I'm writing a novel, I plot it in Post-It notes on the wall. For music, I listen to old school rap, R&B, contemporary and classic rock, gospel, classic jazz or Christian. The music doesn't have to match the mood of the piece I'm writing, but sometimes it does.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
The Anarchists is a page turner with a complex, but engaging, story line. It's a piece of dynamic storytelling, where a small group of people control the fate of the planet. Even if speculative fiction makes you itch, give it a shot. The characters are endearing or hateful, kind of self-involved or selfless; all are deeply flawed.   

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
No sequels to The Anarchists - it ends in a very, neatly-wrapped, decisive conclusion. However, I am writing a sequel now - Gates of Kuzimu - which is the sequel to The Revelation Gate, my second book. It will be a trilogy, with the third book (hopefully!) coming out in 2014.

January 13, 2012

Review: The Red Diamond of Nadiridjna - Ann M. Kraft

I read this book with high expectations, and that is always a major mistake. It wasn‘t better than The Opera Ghost Lives, but it wasn‘t bad, at all. I chose to open with a strong sentence like this, because this review is hard for me. I loved the book and yet I can't quite point what made me get stuck on the review.
I feel the need to say that's been months since I read it and just couldn't review it because I couldn't wrap myself around my feelings towards it.
I liked the book by itself, but it just didn‘t feel like the same characters than the previous one or even the original ghost. Erik felt like another person and, sure, he is a new person now that (((SPOILER ALERT))) he‘s married to Amalie and they have a beautiful life and an amazing baby girl, but... Everything is just too perfect. Erik is way too nice and forgiving, the girl is too smart, Amalie is too controlled and understanding and it frustrates me.
Also, the amount of religious talk in it, made me skip paragraphs. As an agnostic, I tend to avoid religious books, specially Christians and even more specially preaching books. I love reading about religion, I love studying them, but I do not like to be preached to, I do not like people trying to convince me of things, even if they aren't religious on the usual sense of the word (they do not preach on a religion but on Christianity/being religious in general).
And seeing Erik yap and yap about how God saved him and how God was good and all that, well, it was a major issue. I liked the hurt and evil Erik, because he was broken and had to be loved. Now that he's just trying to save the world preaching the word of God, well, then, that's no fun. He feels too out of character to me.
I know it's real evil of me to think that way, but it's that same thing I said before - they are all perfect and loving and caring and not real people, they are just not real, not relatable. If they had weaknesses, that would make them much more perfect "character-wise".
At one point Erik says he doesn't miss his old life, how could he, and that he barely missed the music, but if he did, he had that at home too. Now wait, he is comparing the Opera House with his Church's music and his home's piano? No offense - just not the same.
Now, that did NOT ruin the book for me, though. I still loved it very very much.
We get to know more of Erik's life, we get to know more of the Daroga, Erik's friend. We see more of his family together.

This is a new Erik, a loving and caring father and husband. It's good to see him being loved and being someone he should be from the start. We also get to know some hidden secrets of Amelie's family and friends and that is pretty cool as well, knowing some of Amelie's father's deeds and also Amelie's father's friends.
The story shows some o Erik and the Daroga's ancient past (Persian past) coming back to haunt them, when some men come investigate the Daroga for the missing Red Diamond of Nadirijna. I won't tell much, but I really enjoyed the plot and I really liked the main story, the parts with Erik showing how much he'd grown as a human being and yet still retaining all the mistery of the Phantom. The only part that was slightly too stretched and a bit preachy was the other part of the plot, regarding family secrets.
Even if we have tense moments and some of the Old Phantom, this is the happy ending to the Phantom of the Opera, to Erik. I still want, desperately to read more about it, about him and his story. But I just wish they were a bit more real, a bit less perfect, a bit more relatable.

I'm ansiously waiting for Ann Kraft's next book, The Phantom's Legacy: Family Secrets, which is out due this Spring and will not follow the same story of the Phantom, but has sort of a connection :)

Also, the third book on The Opera Ghost Lives series is on the works and I'm eager to see Erik again.
You can buy The Red Diamond of Nadirijna (the book, not the diamond, clearly) here on Kindle version or Paperback.
You can also read the first chapter of The Phantom's Legacy here.

January 08, 2012

Review: Dancing with Duality - Stella Vance

This isn't the kind of book I'd pick up to read and I believe both the cover and the summary do not bring it justice, because it is a wonderful book and it doesn't look like, from the cover and blurb. So I was very lucky to receive a free copy for review, since I can correct that mistake for many people - I can show them how amazing the book really is.
Stella Vance pours her heart out. Her story isn't easy, she's been through a lot. Not so much in suffering (not like abuses or starvation), but more like learning, personal and spiritual growth.

I feel like I connect to her story more than others because I've had my mystical phase and I lost it, sort of.
When I was young, I never went to church. My father, being raised a Lutheran and a church mouse, always wanted to, but mom didn't like it much - just lazy, I guess. I went to church went it was time for confirmation and so I had mine and went there and studied and read the Bible and was proud to memorize everything, just like I always loved studying in school. But I always questioned. And so I went to the internet, not much later (a couple of years later I got my computer with internet) and researched all I could. I made some friends and I found paganism, in general. I was obsessed with Wiccans and Masons and all that stuff, I started collecting stuffs, crystals, incense, little witchy dolls and wearing a pentagram. A friend of mine taught me how to read the cards and I was learning how to read the palm lines. But after a while it faded out for me. I thought "well, now I know what to believe and I know what to do" and went on with life.
I started calling myself an atheist - because, really, there is no "God" (and don't flame on me, this is my view, if you believe in God, fine, I'm not trying to convince you if you don't try to convince me) - but atheist never quite described it. I just have an honest disgust for organized religion and the antropomorphic god they created. And when Stella said that on her book, I knew we'd connect.
Stella Vance tells her story honestly, from the horror and freedom that came with her parents' divorce to her late teens, college years, first loves, travelling, marriages, abortions, experiences with several legal and illegal substances and so on.
She was worried that her abortions might shock. I'm not sure if this is considered a spoiler (or if there is a way to spoil a book as such, because to me, any information doesn't take the fun and the amazement of the story as it's told), if you consider it a spoiler, I apologize. I don't find it shocking - it's "in-character", even if the character isn't fictional, because after a while, reading the book, you understand her and you follow her and you end up expecting her to rationalize and act a certain way - and everything she did was perfectly in character, it fit her personality.
I was shocked (or amazed) at the way she managed to get rid of addictions whenever she felt that she needed to, got rid of diseases and problems simply by wanting it and working with her body and her mind to do what was needed. I still lack much of that self control. But we share the desire to learn and t impove.
The belief in reincarnation is also mine as well as hers. For me, it felt simple, I knew more than I could have learned since I was born and I simply didn't know where the information came from. So I believed I eiter was too smart but had a terible memory for the "where's" or I knew it from a previous life.

Also, there is something I must point out. If the back cover picture is trully Stella's (she's used a pen name to write the book, so perhaps the picture isn't hers as well, but I think  it is), then I am in awe. She is beautiful, her body, her confidence, at the age she is now (around 55), well, I don't have that figure and that confidence at the age of 24. I hope by my 40's I have learned how that is.
I also felt a major conection to Stella when she talks about other languages and travelling. I never travel, except to my grandma's which is a 1 hour ride, but I love travelling. On my High School graduation we tavelled 2 states for this paradise-like island and it was amazing. This year, I went 3 times to São Paulo, not the capital, in-state, for work related things, and I loved it, flying, traveling by plane is what I was made for. And now I'm eager to graduate on college because I'm treating myself with a travel instead of a party. I'm still deciding, but I think London ;) And I'm also addicted to new languages and I learn them easily.
Also, I adored how feminist Stella is, even if she doesn't call herself that directly. She believes in herself and in the power of women, she believes in sexual liberation and financial and social independence. I believe that too.
I read this book, seeing myself. I read this book, connecting to each and every sentence.
Around the ending, I disconected a bit because I either didn't get there yet or I'm not going to. When the talk about Advaiti started, I got a little off - I relate to it, but I can't quite merge with that view, not yet. But the idea of seeking enlightnment by learning is perfect with my views - it hurts me, every day, that I know I will never read all the books in the world or learn all there is to learn.
I recommend this book to everyone who is open to new experiences, who cherish a woman's freedom, who is highly espiritulized and who isn't afraid of talking or seeing someone talking openly. You must rid yourself of your prejudices and see Stella for who she is - a flawed human being, who chose the best she could and, really, had great results, harvested great rewards and is still living an amazing life, full of love, freedom and enlightenment.

You can buy Dancing with Duality on Amazon on Paperback or Kindle Edition.