My review of The Goldfinch, the 2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #TuesdayBookBlog #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

A popular topic of discussion while I was at a writing course this summer was reviewing classic and/or prize-winning literature and how most of us felt unqualified to do so. Oh sure, it’s easy to review literature when you love it. When you don’t? Eek! How dare I say I didn’t like a novel that has won one of the most prestigous literature prizes for the English language? Who do I think I am? My inner voice can be quite insecure.

donna tarttWith those thoughts in my mind, I will endeavor to review The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I have never been a Donna Tartt fan. But I’ve previously blamed that on language as – for reasons too boring to go into – I read The Secret History in Dutch. Let me assure you, I did read The Goldfinch in English. Unfortunately, reading in my native language did not improve my view of the novel. (Perhaps I should have read it in German?)

Reading The Goldfinch is like watching a train wreck happen – in slow motion. What’s slower than slow motion because this novel creeped along at the pace of traffic in Istanbul on a Sunday afternoon? Unfortunately, I’ve never been one for rubbernecking at accidents. Everything and anything that could possibly go wrong in the narrator’s (Theo) life did. It was painful to watch. I know this is literature and a saga to boot – but couldn’t Theo have something go right in his life?

donna tartt 2There is no doubt that the characters were well developed, although there were so many that I sometimes lost track of who’s who. My goodness does Theo know a lot of people! And some associates disappear for hundreds of pages before coming back. I had to flip back and forth a bit at times, although that’s probably my fault as I took freaking forever to read this book. Personally, I want Hobie to adopt me. I don’t know anything about antiques, but I’m willing to learn. I also loved Boris’s character. I wouldn’t trust him any further than I could throw him, but it was fun to watch the guy wiggle his way around. That said, I don’t think I’d trust Theo either.

donna tartt 3

The actual Goldfinch hanging in the Mauritshuis down the road from me. 

Disappointedly, the novel fell apart in Amsterdam. The unfortunate part of knowing a foreign city intimately is that no one who is not native to the city can write about it well enough. I could write a list of mistakes, but only I care about that, so I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say that I had an incredibly hard time not throwing the book across the room. At least my husband found my snorting at the book amusing. (Although as a native Amsterdammer, he did sympathize with me. Or at least he pretended to – he’s not stupid.)

Nobody said I had to prize-winning literature, right? I’m giving the novel three stars as it is obviously well-written, the character development is unrivaled, and the story is unique.



#BookReview of Tossed Into Love by Aurora Rose Reynolds #Romance

tossed into love

Title: Tossed Into Love

Series: Fluke My Life

Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds

Genre: Romance

~ Blurb ~

Libby Reed is over it. Or that’s what she tells herself. She’s lusted after one of New York’s bravest for years, but firefighter Antonio Moretti has doused her interest for the last time. As much as she wants the arrogant jerk (in a bad, bad way), they can’t even be in the same room without setting each other off…which might be a problem now that she’s volunteered to help out in his family’s restaurant.

Antonio’s been burned before. Now he knows better than to trust a pretty face and follow another pair of long, beautiful legs into heartbreak. But while Libby might rub him the wrong way, he can’t deny the heat between them. And it only burns hotter when she steps up in his time of need. The closer they get, the more he realizes he may have misjudged her. Then again, he doesn’t know the secret Libby’s keeping that could send their relationship up in flames before it’s even begun.

~ Review ~

I nabbed this book from NetGalley as I’m a fan of Aurora Rose Reynolds’ Until series. I do love me some instalove. I don’t care how unrealistic it may seem. I was somewhat leery about this story as the description makes it clear this is not an instalove situation. Antonio actually sounded like a jerk from the description. I decided to give it a try anyway.

Although I liked Libby, I didn’t love her. I didn’t care for the descriptions of clothing, and Libby’s life is fashion. Something I’m not interested in – at all. I also found her successfulness at her age unrealistic. The details about her new business endeavor were missing. How in the world did she manage to do a renovation in so little time? I need her construction crew!

I liked Antonio more than I thought I would. He did have a reason for his judgmental behavior. He could have opened up his eyes a little sooner, though.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It’s a quick, fluffy read for when you just want to relax. Nothing wrong with that. But figuring out a star rating wasn’t easy. Although the story is exactly as advertised – a light love story with a guaranteed HEA, there were quite a few things that annoyed me and the story followed a typical romance formula making it feel somewhat cliched.

~ About the Author ~

Aurora Rose Reynolds is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author whose wildly popular series include Until, Until Him, Until Her, and Underground Kings.

Her writing career started in an attempt to get the outrageously alpha men who resided in her head to leave her alone, and it has blossomed into an opportunity to share her stories with readers all over the world.




My Review of The Beast of London #fantasy #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog from L.D. Goffigan

beast of london

Title: The Beast of London

Series: Mina Murry Series

Author: L.D. Goffigan

Genre: Fantasy

Published: April 17, 2017

~ Blurb ~

An electrifying retelling of a classic tale, THE BEAST OF LONDON is the first book of the Mina Murray series.

Mina Murray once lived an adventurous life, but after a tragedy in the forests of Transylvania, she left it all behind. Now she has settled into a quiet routine as a schoolteacher in London, engaged to the respectable solicitor Jonathan Harker, attempting to fit into the stuffy upper class London society to which he belongs.

Her dark past comes careening into her present when Jonathan is abducted by a group of vampires from a society ball. Determined to rescue him, she teams up with her former paramour Abraham Van Helsing and his colleague, Scotland Yard Inspector John Seward.

As they pursue Jonathan’s abductors from England to the Low Countries and beyond, Mina realizes that Jonathan’s abduction is tied to a larger threat against humanity…

~ Review ~

I was given a review copy of this novel from the author a while ago, and I finally managed to read it this past week while I was looking for something light to read. Although the novel started off slow, once the characters are introduced the action grows and it became hard to put down. I have forgotten the novel was a re-telling of a classic tale and didn’t know what I wasn’t getting myself into.

The story is told from Mina’s point of view. I enjoy reading novels written in first person and Mina was likeable and relatable. She was strong, yet damaged. I’m not sure how believable her character is for the era (would a woman in that time period gone off with two men on an adventure???), but this is a fantasy novel after all. I think I’m in love with Abraham and hope Mina opens her eyes to see what he has to offer her. *Fingers crossed for the next book in the series*

Although I enjoyed the story and would continue to read the series, I had a few problems with the novel itself. My biggest problem was the Dutch. No one would have spoken in informal Dutch in that time period, and the word choice was often incorrect. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what university she’s referring to as the Municipal University of Amsterdam (The University of Amsterdam, The VU, I don’t know). There were also quite a few editing mistakes.

I hate cliffhanger endings! I didn’t realize this book was the first of a series. I am not a big fan of series that are composed of novels that are not standalones.

All in all, an enjoyable read. I’ll definitely continue with the series.

~ About the Author ~

L.D. Goffigan writes paranormal fantasy novels. She studied film and dramatic writing at New York University. She grew up on the East Coast but now resides in a large city by the sea on the West Coast. When not writing, she enjoys traveling and dreaming of new fantastical tales to tell. Her novel, THE BEAST OF LONDON, is the first book of the Mina Murray series.

Updates from an introvert attending a week-long writing course #MondayBlogs #Swanwick70 #writerslife

I know I said I’d be offline this week while I’m at Swanwick Summer School, but I’m skipping breakfast this morning to quickly write a blog post because I’m an introvert (a loud-mouthed introvert, but an introvert nonetheless) and I could use a break from the other 300 plus delegates. So, I’m hiding in my room and drinking a coffee and eating a meergranen biscuit I brought from home for breakfast. Do I know how to live or what?

Between preparing for summer school and working on the marketing to launch Finders, Not Keepers next week (whose brilliant idea was it to launch a book days after returning from an intensive course, anyway?), I haven’t managed to finish The Goldfinch yet. To be perfectly, painfully honest, I haven’t made much progress at all. I planned to read in the plane on the way over here, but we had a 3 ½ hour delay due to a bird strike. Normally, that’s lots of extra reading time, right? Um, not if you are Dena. Dena heads to the Irish bar and has a pint (or 2… no one’s counting, right?). BUT the book is on my nightstand and I will try to get a few chapters in here and there. I will finish this book eventually. I will.


Actual evidence

In the meantime, a quick update on The Writers’ Summer School. So far, it’s living up to my expectations. I went to two courses yesterday: crime doesn’t pay and sitcom writing. I’m not sure I can use much from the crime doesn’t pay lecture as I don’t get into forensic evidence much with my cozy mysteries, but it did get my creative juices flowing on the next book in the Not So Reluctant Detective Series. Melly is in for some serious trouble on that one. Sitcom writing is not something I’ve considered doing, but I went along to get some tips for writing funny stuff. I do try to write funny stuff, after all. The lecturer was quite good. I must admit I didn’t enjoy the group writing activity. When you’ve only just met someone, it’s awful hard to work together. #NotATeamPlayer

On the agenda today is another lecture in the crime doesn’t pay series and a short course in creating characters. I may even put on my dancing shoes and go to the disco this evening, although after last night’s horrible result in the quiz (resulting in that second ill-advised bottle of wine), I’m unsure.

Signing off …

My review of All The Light We Cannot See, the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #MondayBlogs #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

All the light we cannot see 2I’m back on track this week with my Pulitzer Prize Challenge. I’ve just finished the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, All The Light We Cannot See from Anthony Doerr. This book absolutely destroyed me – in a good way. I loved this book. Loved! Loved! Loved! I’m obsessed with WWII on the European Front, so it’s not such a surprise I would enjoy Doerr’s novel, which takes place in France and Germany in the years leading up to the war and the war itself. But this novel is so much more than a novel about the war. It is an epic story that explores the very depths of human nature.

When people ruminate about the great American novel, this is the type of book to which they are referring. Doerr doesn’t just describe Europe before and during the war. He opens the door for us to view that world through the eyes of Marie-Laure and Werner. He transports the reader to the streets of Paris and Saint Malo. You can almost taste the salt water from the sea in the air as you read. Then, he jumps to Germany and the coal mines where I could practically feel Werner’s desperate desire to find an escape from the mines awaiting him.


(c) Antoine DECLERCK

After we fall in love with Marie-Laure and Werner (and I dare you to say you didn’t fall in love with these two), he slowly builds suspense as the war machine that was Nazi Germany revs its engines. My heart was in my throat as Marie-Laure fled Paris with her father. Werner’s journey was no less perilous. His exceptional skills with radios have allowed him to escape the mines, but what other horrors await him? Doerr jumps back and forth through time building and building suspense until a reader is forced to pull up a chair and turn the pages until the final culmination of the Battle for Brest and the occupation of Saint Malo.

Doerr connects the stories of the various characters in ways a reader would never suspect, but with the result that the story is interwoven in such a way as to remind us that humanity is not only made up of different tribes and cultures, but at its base we are all the same – We are all just human beings trying to survive in a sometimes extremely harsh world.

Everyone should read this novel. If nothing else to remind us of the damage caused to civilians during war.


Coming up: I’m now reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’ve been working on this book for months! The likelihood of finishing before next week is therefore low. Not to worry! Living just minutes from the actual painting, I can share some stories about it with you.



Follow a peculiar explorer & downstrodden acrobat in the #adventure #comingofage novel from Patrick Canning #excerpt

A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat span the globe on a building-sized hot air balloon, in search of a precious artifact and the murderous treasure hunter who seeks it.

July 20 TheColonelAndTheBee_300dpi_1842x2763 

Title: The Colonel and the Bee

Author: Patrick Canning

Genre: Adventure/Coming of Age

Published: 6/1/2018

~ Blurb ~

Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.

One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.

Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.

The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.

Grab a copy!


July 20

~ Excerpt ~

“Flying the Ox is much more akin to playing an instrument than operating a machine. Approach the challenge less formally, do so with confidence, and the craft’s perfect obedience will be your reward.”

I lost sight of the burner strap and by accident pulled a vent on the main balloon. We began to rotate and descend with great rapidity. The Colonel allowed me to find the correct cord on my own, and I did so just in time as the Ox nearly scraped a rolling pasture hill, startling a herd of brown Belgian cows enough to sour their milk.

Taking care to avoid the ripping line, I continued to bring the Ox up, searching for the northwest wind. To my chagrin, I sent us southeast, and it took a deft intervention from the Colonel to set us right. Applying the correct pressure on the correct combination of cords in the correct sequence did indeed give him the appearance of an accomplished maestro.

“Skill comes with practice, and northwest can be elusive. Northeast can be downright tempestuous,” he said as if recalling a talented snooker rival.

I readied another question, but the Colonel anticipated me. He held up a gentle hand to stay the incoming query, motioned with both hands downward, indicating I should relax, then gestured to the edge of the Ox.

So worried I’d been about that morning’s lesson, I’d hardly taken a moment to observe our environment. I joined the Colonel at the railing, and became lightheaded with wonder. The full effect of flight had been disguised by darkness the previous night, and now, in the maturing light of dawn, I beheld a world transformed by perspective: rivers and mountains were maps come to life, trees were seas of leaves that shimmered emerald in the breeze, even birds flew at a height far below the Ox, moving like schools of fish in currents of wind.

“Toast my bloomin’ eyebrows,” I mumbled, forgoing any attempt at eloquence. “I didn’t know… I couldn’t have imagined…”

“Wonderful, isn’t it? From this height, we’re permitted to see plainly the orchestrations of daily life, rank with crisscrossing motives and the clutter of needless haste. Up here in the rarefied air we are weightless in cool æther, unspoiled by the odour and noise of man’s desires far below.”

We stood side by side, watching the scene in silence, until something in the distance stole the Colonel’s gaze.

“There. Antwerp on the horizon. Drink your leaf juice if you must.”

By now, all of the Manx were flying in a loose halo about the Ox, gently displacing the Belgian mist we floated in as they dove and twisted as birds in play.

“They have such charm and spirit,” I said.

“They detect my excitement. This visit could prove fruitful in our search for the criminal. He’s been most elusive thus far.”

“Do you know the murdered party?”

The Colonel’s face fell a note, but he recovered quickly.

“I’m interested in the criminal.”

“To bring him to justice?” I gulped my tea. “For this or a past transgression?”

“There is plenty to choose from. It is enough for you to know I seek an audience with the man.”

“He has committed other crimes?”


“Is he dangerous?”

Most certainly.”

I finished my tea as the green vegetation and black soil of tilled fields shifted to the red brick and grey stone of buildings. Antwerp’s harbour introduced itself to the nose long before the eyes.

The Colonel inhaled deeply.

“Have you been?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“A bastion of crime and seafood, how I adore this city. I apologise as it’s unlikely we’ll have time for a proper tour. Perhaps a return under less harried circumstances. Unfurl those ropes there, won’t you?”

The spiderweb of roadways below passed ever faster as we descended. I let drop a collection of heavy ropes over the side of the Ox as the Colonel set her down in a rather regal park. Despite the posh surroundings, there was an air of danger. Apparently, the Colonel felt it too.

“No chance we’re deflating here,” he said. “Down the steps with you. Help secure us.”

 ~ About the Author ~

July 20 IMG_5118

Patrick spends as much time as possible turning coffee into words that look like books, shorts, and screenplays. Most of his stories attempt to look for the meaning of life in an adventurous way, and often employ humor, important since the search usually doesn’t turn up much.

Connect with the author at: My Website


Red Rider explores the depths of revenge & the strength of human bonds #thriller from Gerrit Steenhagen #excerpt

July 19 Red Rider 8.25 x 10.565 print

Book title: Red Rider

Author: Gerrit Steenhagen

Genre: Thriller

Published: April 2nd, 2018

~ Blurb ~

A grieving father – known to the reader only as Teacher – takes on a new identity after the brutal murder of his teenaged son. Masquerading as a substitute teacher, he tracks down the killer – a high school senior – and methodically builds a web to entrap him. Teacher does not desire simple justice or death for the killer; he wants the killer to endure what his son endured. But Teacher’s plan takes a life-shattering turn when he must save his son’s former girlfriend from the clutches of the brutal MS-13 gang.

A taut, suspenseful thriller, Red Rider explores the depths of revenge and the strength of human bonds.

Grab a copy!


 ~ Excerpt ~

A priest once told him: “Tragedy teaches us life is short and there is no time for hate. Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose.”

He told the priest: “Life is long without my son and there is only time for hate. My life’s purpose is to avenge my son’s death.”

Sleeping inconvenienced him. Sleeping took time from hate. He spent his night in a cemetery, lying atop a grave, bare-chested. His pressed shirt was draped over the headstone. His head rested on a bulletproof vest. His eyes were open and catatonic. He could be dead.

His phone vibrated. He didn’t blink. His phone flashed an event: Henry’s birthday, April 20th, 4:05 a.m. His eyes dried out. His vision blurred. Tears were stimulated. He blinked.

He sat up and dismissed the event. His phone blinked the time: 4:06 a.m. He strapped the vest to his torso. His hands shook again. He pulled the pressed shirt from the headstone. The name and date on the headstone matched the name and date that had flashed across his phone. Henry would’ve been eighteen today.

He buttoned his shirt. A price tag dangled from the sleeve. He tugged at it, gone. He looked for more tags. One dangled from his waist. He tugged at it, gone. He stood.

A streetlight shone upon a red motorcycle. A red helmet hung from one handle grip, a satchel hung from the other. He straddled the motorcycle, slid on the helmet, harnessed the satchel to his shoulder, leaned into the seat, twisted the grips, tapped the clutch, and kick-started the bike.

~ About the Author ~

July 19 author pic

Gerrit Steenhagen grew up in San Diego, CA. He wrote, produced, and directed the indie drama If Tomorrow Comes. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Author links:



Read an #excerpt of Vic Boyo, Doofus Detective in: Double Murders are Twice as Bad #mystery #humor from @mfowler76

July 17 - Vic Boyo - eBook Cover

Title: Vic Boyo, Doofus Detective in: Double Murders are Twice as Bad

Author: Milo James Fowler

Genre: Mystery/Screwball Comedy

Published: 2/27/2018

~ Blurb ~

Two murders. One detective. Half a brain.

1931, New York City: Detective Vic Boyo may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but that doesn’t stop him from solving cases as only he can. With a little luck and a whole lot of gumption, Boyo sets out to find the murderer of a local cop. Problem is, Boyo’s more interested in a gorgeous femme fatale accused of killing her husband. She’s destined for the electric chair, but Boyo’s got a hunch she might be innocent. And nobody gets in the way of Boyo’s hunches, not even Vic Boyo himself.

 Grab a copy!

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

~ Excerpt ~

Things were quiet, and the hallway was dark. Shaking the wet collar of my trench coat, I reached to unlock the door and stopped. Because it was already open.

Yeah. Somebody was inside, and it wasn’t me.

“Welcome, Mr. Boyo,” came a gravel-coated voice from the impenetrable darkness of my living room. “Please do come in.”

I felt for the heater I always carried along with me, tucked safely into the waist of my pants. One of these days, I planned to spring for one of those swanky shoulder holsters, but that day hadn’t arrived yet.

Squinting into the dark, I shoved the door open.

“Close it, Boyo,” the same voice ordered.

“You forgot something,” I said.


“That’s Mr. Boyo to you. Whoever you are.” I shut the door and figured it was dark enough for my heater to make an appearance. Which it did, but I had to aim blindly. Never stopped me before. Hasn’t stopped me since. “Is the power out?”

“We feel safer in the dark. Don’t we, boys?” Deep chuckles came from opposite ends of the room.

Dang. They had me outnumbered.

Gravel-voice continued, “But if you’re an unfortunate victim of achluophobia—”

“Gesundheit,” I said.

“—then we’ll let you have your precious light.”

As soon as the corner lamp switched on, I got a good look at my uninvited guests. Three thugs in striped suits and felt hats held Tommy guns and stood around my sofa where their boss sat smoking a cigar with his feet up on my coffee table. The nerve of that guy. No manners whatsoever. He was a real big butterball and wore an expensive-looking white cotton suit. His thin grey hair was combed back and tucked into a derby as brown and fuzzy as a chestnut mare’s patootie.

I’d already slipped my heater back into the waist of my pants and covered the bulge with my coat. I knew better than to try my luck against those Tommy guns.

“Mind telling me what this is all about?” I said.

The fat man rose and cleared his throat, pointing at me with his stogie. “Tomorrow morning, you’ll be put on the Merryface case.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Shut your trap, Boyo, and let me do the talking. I’ve got connections, see? If you’re smart, you’ll refuse. That is, if you plan to be alive this time tomorrow night, you’ll turn the case down and find something healthier to do. Healthier for you, that is. ”

“You make a habit of threatening cops?”

“I make a habit of telling idiots what’s what.” He motioned to his boys and they approached me en masse, heading for the door. “Joey. Give Mr. Boyo a little taste of what’s in store for him.”

“What’s that, Boss?” said one of the gun-toting thugs.

“Give him a glimpse of the bright future that awaits if he doesn’t play ball.”

“Uh…” The thug scratched at his head, obviously at a loss.

The fat man sighed, shaking his head as he regarded the carpet for a moment.  “When you want something done right…” he trailed off.

Then he plowed his fist into my solar plexus, and I doubled over, almost positive the room had capsized. With a groan, I dropped to my knees, straining to breathe.

“Let that be a lesson to you, Boyo. Do the right thing, and nobody gets hurt. Including yourself.” They tromped out of my place and slammed the door shut behind them. Their heavy footfalls echoed down the hallway outside, fading into the distance.

“Good riddance,” I wheezed, stumbling forward to turn the lock.

~ About the Author ~

July 17 - FowlerBioPic

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he’s not grading papers, he’s imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. So far, his short fiction has appeared in more than 150 publications, including AE SciFi, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and Shimmer. Find his novels, novellas, and short story collections wherever books are sold. Milo is represented by the Zack Company. ​

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Spotlight on Black Queen White City from @ConcerningSonya #literaryfantasy #excerpt

Black Queen White City is positively cinematic…the novel is undeniably the product of an immensely fertile imagination brimming with confidence.
…rather like the superhero films of today, different people will enjoy different aspects.”
Jack Messenger, author and book reviewer

 Adobe Photoshop PDF

Book title: Black Queen, White City

Series: The White City Cycle, can be read as a standalone

Author: Sonya Kudei

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fantasy

Published: Trierarchy, 16 April 2018

~ Blurb ~

Set in contemporary Zagreb, Croatia (the “White City” of folklore), Black Queen, White City is inspired by local myths and legends as well as drawing on an eclectic mix of influences, including Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, C.G. Jung, superhero comics and classic 1980s movies.

Leo Solar is a star daimon, a celestial being with powers so vast that he can literally blow up a sun (but not in a bad way – it’s all perfectly safe). This is why when he gets sent to Earth, more specifically, his least favorite part of it (Zagreb) with curtailed powers to undertake a dangerous frustrating mission, he is not the happiest star daimon in town.

Dario is a twenty-something former Zagreb University student whose search for meaning is continuously thwarted by the demands of his eccentric landlady. After he accidentally meets a mysterious stranger in a starry outfit who goes around town battling monsters from the Underworld, Dario’s life suddenly takes an interesting turn, and he soon finds himself caught in a flurry of action that includes the celestial realm above, a hidden magic realm below and the erstwhile ordinary Zagreb somewhere in between.

Stella is an 11-year-old girl whose dungeon-like school on the outskirts of East Zagreb is a bit of an evil magnet. One day she plays a creepy playground game with group of school friends, which inadvertently awakens the spirit of the fabled Black Queen, who, unbeknownst to the townspeople, still dwells in a deep enchanted chasm under Zagreb’s very own Bear Mountain.

The Celestial Realm (a.k.a. “outer space”) is a place where star daimons with enormous powers and questionable hairstyles perform valiant deeds in order to maintain the balance of the universe, while engaging in petty inter-stellar squabbles and meddling with the affairs of Earth.

All of these people, places and fictional constructs come together in an action-packed over-caffeinated culmination on October 31, colloquially referred to by locals as the Night of the Witches.

Also making an appearance are magic trams, football hooligans, belligerent egg-sellers, jaded small dogs, miniature monks, seductive snake-women and sadistic primary school teachers.

Read the first two chapters online:

~ Grab a copy! ~

Author website ~ Amazon

~ Excerpt ~

In a hidden corner of the east flank of Central Europe (or the west flank of Eastern Europe, depending on your point of view), in a green valley of a winding river, there is a city that certain locals, during rare moments of inspiration, refer to as the White City, although the less poetically inclined, as well as those who don’t know anything about the place other than that it exists, call it Zagreb.

This is not the kind of noisy, hectic city that makes people stressed, obese, prone to rants about the accelerating pace of modern life, and likely to have a mid-career breakdown followed by an extensive backpacking trip to a remote country. If anything, it is fairly sober and subdued. If the White City were a character in a Regency novel, it would be one of those comely, level-headed types that ends up marrying the parson.

Neither is it the sort of city that just goes on and on until it becomes another city. Its shape and size are clearly delineated. There is a sprawling east-west axis and a somewhat stunted north-south one. The latter is due to the presence of a fairly high mountain on the city’s north side and a river in the south. The mountain, although not the comes-with-a-permanent-ice-cap sort of high, is still high enough to have cable cars, organized hiking trips and squirrels. And the river, although not an insurmountable obstacle in itself, has proved to be such a convenient barrier against various third parties that have attempted to invade the city over the course of many historical periods that the townspeople have been reluctant to cross it until very recently.

~ About the author ~

July 16 2018 sonya-kudei

Sonya Kudei is a writer and artist with a BA in English Language and Literature and MA in Cognitive Linguistics. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic Online and The Linguist Magazine. She has worked as a journalist, illustrator, graphic designer, subtitle translator, editor, teacher, product manager and (very briefly) tourist guide in Venice. She was also a web developer in London for over five years. Originally from Zagreb, Sonya has been living in the UK for over twelve years.

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My review of The Road, the 2007 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #MondayBlogs #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

the road 3

I forgot to take a picture of the bookstore, so here’s the bookmark. 

I’m skipping to 2007 today with my Pulitzer Prize Challenge. I have a good excuse for skipping around – really, I do! I totally screwed up when I chose books to take on vacation. I only took one novel from my pile of Pulitzer Prize winners as I assumed I’d only get one read. WRONG! I read Less during one flight and still had two weeks of vacation to go! While exploring an independent bookstore in Franklin, Tennessee, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I just had to buy a book to support the bookstore, and this was the only Pulitzer Prize winner I could find that I didn’t own. (The store was not specialized in fiction. I only managed to find The Road as McCarthy is considered a local boy in Tennessee.)




the road 1The Road is another novel I would never have purchased on my own. I don’t enjoy postapocalyptic novels (and not just because I can’t spell or pronounce a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-t-i-c.) But once I got into the story, I couldn’t put the book down. I was filled with questions: What happened to the world? Who are those roving gangs? Is the boy really his son? What happened to his wife? I kept flipping through pages faster and faster, hoping to find the answers.

If you’re looking for a book that wraps everything up in a neat little bow at the end, this is not the book for you. This is a book, which forces you to think. I finished this book on a flight from Dallas to New York two weeks ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, these are not happy thoughts – not surprising considering the novel is postapocalyptic.

McCarthy’s style of writing takes some time to get used to. His lack of punctuation – according to McCarthy, semicolons and quotation marks are mere little marks that blot the page – was confusing as all get out. The internal editor in me was going out of her mind while I read this novel. Luckily, at some point she had a complete hissy fight and shut up.

In addition to learning that award-winning authors can write their own grammar rules, I discovered – to my utter surprise – that I would not survive a postapocalyptic world. McCarthy describes in detail how the protagonist finds and prepares ‘food’. Food is in question marks as I’m not sure I could stomach – literally – the things the protagonist ate. If the food choice didn’t do me in, the work involved in finding food, using makeshift tools, and finding fuel would have finished me off. That’s before taking the weather, roving gangs, and all that walking into consideration.

I would have never thought a novel singularly focused on a man and his son walking a road would pull me in. (I assumed I was going to have to force myself to read this novel.) It’s a testament to the talent of McCarthy that I was utterly and completely captivated by The Road. This is a must read and in the running for best novels I’ve read in 2018.

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I’m now reading All The Light We Cannot See from Anthony Doeer. I promise I will NOT be finished with the novel by next week (It’s my birthday this weekend!), but I do have an adventure related to the novel I will share with you next week.