Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Emerald CircusThe Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an advance review copy from the publisher and I'm very grateful for it.
I have to admit that before picking up this book i had never heard of Jane Yolen. Turns out she's an acclaimed writer with many fascinating books. Another thing I have to admit is that I love short stories. I know how hard it is to tell a whole story on a limited number of pages. Some of the stories in this collection were entertaining, some were not. The problem that I had with Emerald Circus was that once the story was over I forgot about it. Unfortunately I cannot name a single story that stood out for me. All I remember about this book is that the stories were retellings of old fairy-tales. But wait, there's one more thing that I remember and it's that Emerald Circus was a very well written book. Fantastically well. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read good writing. And if you like old fairy tales with new twists and turns, then this book is for you.


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Amsterdam Exposed by David Wienir

Amsterdam Exposed: An American's Journey Into The Red Light DistrictAmsterdam Exposed: An American's Journey Into The Red Light District by David Wienir
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because of its beautiful cover. This should be a good lesson to me to stop picking books based on their covers. I hate being negative but I didn't like Amsterdam Exposed. I couldn't get into it and at some point started skimming, just to be over with it. The story wasn't engaging. It didn't keep me interested. And this has been a problem with many bios: a lot of authors just don't know how to write interesting biographies. The author told about dull and mundane things, but a more skilled author would've written these same stories in a much more interesting way. Biography is a hard genre and not everyone can write it the right way.

I'm very grateful to the publisher for the advanced review copy and I wish the author all the best.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1)The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up the moment I watched the trailer for the upcoming movie. It’s a dark children’s fairy tale, but because of the trailer I’d been expecting more than I got. This is the story of 10 y.o. Lewis who comes to live with his uncle after his parents’ death. Uncle Jonathan is a minor magician, and so is old Mrs. Zimmerman, the neighbor. Lewis is a friendless kid who tries to impress a popular boy and ends up summoning a dangerous wizard from her grave.
Obviously there will be a lot of difference between the book and the movie, but this is one of the rare cases where the differences seem to be for the better. Jack Black looks nothing like the ginger-bearded Uncle Jonathan, and Cate Blanchett looks nothing like very wrinkly old Mrs. Zimmerman, but it won’t matter. From the very first second you see Cate Blanchett on screen in the trailer, you can tell she’ll be brilliant, as always. Also, there were no octopuses in the book. It was a short read and I’m sure back in the day has managed to scare a lot of kids, but for today’s children might be lacking in action and adventure.
The illustrations by Edward Gorey are splendid. And creepy.

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Ready Player One. The Movie.

One word: BAD.
Two words: VERY BAD.
I didn’t want to write about this movie, because I was so angry, but I had reviewed the book (which I had liked more than I’d expected), so I’ll write a quick review about this terrible mediocrity and move on with my life.
This was unbelievably bad. What were everyone involved with this movie thinking about? What was the author thinking about? I was sitting in the movie theater, cringing and wondering if the script writer had even read the book, and it turns out the author himself was one of the writers. I guess he didn’t have much choice.
Everything was changed. The only thing left from the book was the title and how one of the minor characters died in the beginning. The rest wasn’t “Ready Player One”. It was “Spielberg Thinks He Needs to Change Everything.” I can’t remember another movie that would be so far from its source material. Surely I didn’t expect them to show 8 hours of Pac-Man, but come on, could the movie at least try to follow the book?
The humor was flat, the characters were even flatter. The story was a hot mess. Rebels? What the hell was that?
Parzival and Art3mis meeting in real life in the middle of the movie? The whole point was to meet in the very end.
All of the characters being from the same city, even though the whole wide world is engaged in OASIS? They were from all around the world in the book and that was believable.
Ogden Morrow being a hidden character in the OASIS who is live 24/7? Really? So the guy never slept, ate, and rested?
Art3mis sneaking into the bad guy’s office and no one spotting her? No security cameras?
The bad guy becoming Halliday’s intern? Why?
Art3mis being locked in a prison cell at IOI an getting free because the key (a lever) was hidden in that same prison cell? What kind of idiot puts the key inside the prison cell? No, but really?
Art3mis becomes an IOI slave, logs in from an IOI computer, but looks like her old avatar? HOW?!!! Then she takes off the helmet inside the OASIS, but stays in the game?
I could go on and on, but I’ve got better things to do, like working on my next book and hoping it won’t be as flawed in logic as this terrible, boring, cliche movie. They took a cool book and turned it into yet another Hollywood flick. A sour candy wrapped inside a glossy paper. Who needs all these special effects when the story sucks?

They raped the book the same way they raped "Wrinkle in Time." At least WIT flopped, and it may teach Hollywood suits a few lessons. But serioulsy, who in their right mind thought this looked good?


Can anyone even look at this pic with a straight face? I know I'm rolling on the floor :D :D :D
Looks like a school production with tin foil costumes and a bad dance choreography. Oh, well. Hollywood has lost its mind.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Moonlight and Spotlight (and #metoo)

After the oh-so-terrible “The Shape of Water” I decided to check out other best movies of the year that have received the Academy Award. I started with the “Moonlight.” 
What can I say? Nothing good. Absolutely nothing. “Schindler’s List” has won the best picture award. And now “Moonlight” has won it. Again, where’s the logic? What’s wrong with people? Why aret hey giving awards to such medicore and boring movies? What was so extraordinary about “Moonlight”? Nothing. It was so forgettable I can’t even remember what it was about. A guy struggling through childhood, boyhood and adulthood. I’ll have to check the other nominees. If this was the best picture of the year, I can’t even imagine what the other movies were like. 

Then I watched “Spotlight.” Well, this one was much, much better. The story was heartbreaking. Not that there’s someone left in this world who still doesn’t know about the “good old” Catholic priests, but watching them being exposed felt really good.
Can’t say that I loved “Spotlight” and that I was smitten away by it, but when compared to the other two best pictures, “Spotlight” is a masterpiece. 
Also, there was an Armenian character portrayed by the always great Stanley Tucci, and of course I loved the character, because of course I am biased, ha, ha, ha! But seriously, we need more “spotlight” and less “moonlight”.

Now I wish they’d make a movie about this whole #metoo movement, but with the truth. I hope they will expose all these “I had no idea” celebrities, who think that their condemning tweets and FB posts somehow make us all believe that they didn’t know. Oh for God’s sake, it’s Hollywood, the most toxic place in the world. Of course all of them knew. And of course almost all of them are guilty. One has to be a naive lamb to think that all those actors, actresses, directors and agents had no idea what was happening behind the not so closed doors.
Give me a break.

But of course Hollywood won’t admit it. They will probably make a movie about all that rape and sexual harassment, but will present themselves not as the predators that they are, but as some poor and innocent people who never knew. 

They knew, all of them knew.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dear God, it’s over. I have no idea why the author turned one of the most interesting characters in a children’s literature into a weak, boring Mary-Sue. I lost the count of how many times the once strong-willed and bold Lyra said “Oh, Will,” “what shall we do, Will?” “Ahh, Will,” “please, Will.”
And I absolutely didn’t care about the uninteresting and blank Will. I loved Lyra, despite that she was a little lying rascal; she was a fun character. I understand that Pullman wanted to show her growth and change, but for some reason the daring Lyra went through so many dangers and troubles and turned into a wishy-washy 13 y.o. girl who couldn’t take a step without asking the brave and mighty Will what she had to do now.
I didn’t like anything about this book, and kept reading it just because I had loved (and still do) the first one. I didn’t like Mary Malone, the Mulefa, the Gallivespians, Balthamos and Baruch, the Spectres. I always liked Mrs Coultier, she was a great baddy, but Pullman spoiled her too. At least Serafina Pekkala was more or less her old self.
I liked the ending a bit, because I didn’t like Will and was glad to see him go back to his world. I might even read “Lyra’s Oxford”, because I’m still missing my Lyra from the first book and hope to meet her again.
Overall, I’m glad this book is over. Now I can start something new.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75 stars.
When I heard of the movie, I knew I was going to read this. It’s always fun to read the book, then watch the movie. I’m seeing the movie later today and hope it won’t disappoint. After all, it’s Spielberg.
The book is a lot of fun, and as a nerdish geek, I recognized a lot of the references and kept reading with a smile on my face. I thought the book was a young-adult novel, but there were a few instances of bad language and a couple of F bombs, so no, it’s not for kids. But it did read like a book for teens, even though the references from the 80’s that this book is full of, are meant for people in their 30’s and above.
The first part was a bit slow, and there were a lot of moments when I wanted to be over with the book and go read something else. But something changed with the second half. I loved most of it; it was full of action and tension.
I also liked the characters a lot. Their interactions reminded me of the days of internet chats, when you made friends online but had no way to know how they looked like. So many of my girlfriends in the 00’s were disappointed when they at last met face to face with their online boyfriends, ha, ha!
I liked Aech a lot. I did a foolish thing and checked the movie page during my reading, and it took away a great twist, but it was still fun to read the part with Aech’s and Parzival’s first meeting in real life. And the last page where Parzival and Art3mis at last met irl brought tears to my eyes.
The author’s hard work and research was present on every single page. It’s always a pleasure to read books full of so much effort and hard work. This is not a serious literature and it never claims to be one. It’s pure entertainment for the sake of entertainment. A geek’s dream come true. And it’s great to see that a person’s geekiness has paid off. The details about Halliday and Morrow’s life were so meticulous that they seemed to be real people with real biographies. Oasis was well-thought and sounded like a dream place for every geek in this world.
And considering that Steven Spielberg is directing Ready Player One, reading the phrase about Spielberg possibly directing Ladyhawk made me laugh out loud. Talk about life and unexpected possibilities.
Overall I liked this book a lot and am waiting to see the movie. My only complaint is that there was no word about my all-time favorite Mario Bros. And Zelda, too.
P.S. I found two grammatical errors. Even the trads aren’t immune to them.


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Words of the Day

If you've read my older posts, you know I love writing down unfamiliar, strange, and interesting words from the books that I read into my notepads. I'm filling the 4th notepad now and have decided to once in a while post the new words on my blog.
So here are the words of the day:

filigree - ornamental work of fine (typically gold or silver) wire formed into delicate tracery

gossamer - a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather; something light, delicate, or insubstantial

chutzpah - extreme self-confidence or audacity (usually used approvingly)

infinitesimal - an indefinitely small quantity; a value approaching zero

genuflect - lower one's body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect

armistice - an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce

beribboned - decorated with many ribbons

camaraderie - mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together

venal - showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery; corrupt


Most of the words come from George Martin's books. But not only. I don't know which word came from which book, and it doesn't really matter. This is just another proof that books are the best source of knowledge in the world.
Enjoy the new words!

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Shape of Water and Other Movies That I Hate

Please don't say you've loved this movie. And if you do, please say you're joking. Being a sci-fi and mystery fan, I'd heard of this movie, but having lost all interest in Oscars long time ago (I think it was after Eminem won for the best original song), I didn't know this was the best movie of the year. Best movie of the year, meaning this is on the same level with Ben-Hur and Gone with the Wind.
For the last few evenings each time my boyfriend would ask what we could watch, I'd say "The Shape of Water." I was genuinely curious about Del Toro's latest movie. I'm not his biggest fan; moreover, most of the time I don't like his movies, but the "The Shape of Water" kept popping up everywhere over the Web, so I wanted to see what was all the buzz about.
Little did I know what I was getting us into.
The opening credits were nice, but after the first 20 minutes I wanted to turn the movie off. I was bored out of my mind. And it didn't help when in the first 10 minutes into the movie I saw the heroine masturbating in her tub twice. What else did I see? A most insipid, uninteresting, blank, boring, cliche, Mary-Sueish character ever. Damn it, Eliza annoyed the hell out of me; I can't remember the last time I've felt so much dislike toward a movie character. She was worse than the Mary-Sue queen Bella Swan from "Twilight." Who says that a mute character needs to be mentally impaired? Why? Or was she not mentally ill? Of course she was, otherwise she wouldn't be screwing a fish. There are a lot of movies about mentally disabled people (I Am Sam, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Rain Man), and they are honest with the audience about the character's mental state, but "The Shape of Water" seems to be telling us that Eliza wasn't mentally ill. Her only disability is that she can't talk. And she claims that's the reason she's become attached to the amphibian creature in the lab where she's a cleaner.
Because he can't talk either and doesn't see her muteness as a fault. I'm sorry but the same thing can be said about our pets. Our cats and dogs love us despite our faults and disabilities, but we don't go home and get into the tub with them.
Because they are freaking animals, that's why!!!

So this creature is brought from somewhere from the South America and is kept in a top secret lab with camera surveillance and high security, and somehow this insipid character of Eliza has no trouble getting inside and treating the creature with eggs. Okay, she could carry the eggs in her pockets, but how did she bring that freaking gramophone into the lab, turned it on and began listening to music with the creature?

The creature. I keep calling it "the creature" for a reason. This is not a being with reason equal to a human. No, this is an amphibian creature which might be standing some steps above a frog on the evolution ladder, but far lower than a human. It behaved a lot like a primate, a chimpanzee or a gorilla. Can you imagine a human being falling in love and banging a chimpanzee?
The evil military guys wanted to kill the creature, so Eliza kidnaps it and keeps it in her bathtub, then, after a second of hesitation, gets naked and finds the creature's sexual organ.
No, I'm not making this all up!
And when her best friend learns about it she isn't outraged, isn't disgusted. She laughs. She calls the creature a "thing", but she laughs that her best friend has had sex with that thing.

What is the idea behind this movie? That a lonely woman is so desperate she's ready to bang anything resembling a male? That bestiality is okay? No, damn it, it's not okay! This is not about orientation and freedom, this is about having sex with a male frog. And because the creature was presented not as an amphibian (hu)man, but a beast that chewed off the cat's head, the whole scene felt disgusting. A human that possesses a higher reason took advantage of a creature who didn't possess equal reason. He chewed off the cat's head, for God's sake! And Eliza's neighbor said something like "he's a wild creature." A wild creature!
And nowhere during the movie I got the feeling that the beast also had feelings for Eliza. It was always Eliza acting horny and clinging to the creature.
When halfway through the movie my boyfriend asked me "how do you think this stupidity is going to end?" I said, "they'll fall into the water and live happily after." Could this movie have been a little less predictable?
By the way, this story is not original. There's an older one, The Amphibian Man, a 1962 Soviet movie based on a novel by A. Beliaev. It's a wonderful story about human nature and love. And the love story is beautiful and tragic.Considering that The Shape of Water takes place in the 1962, it might be a little homage from Del Toro to The Amphibian Man. Or maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there.
There's another movie about an amphibian man, Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and in both cases we have a hero that is human as well as amphibian, not an amphibian animal that becomes the love interest just because it's bipedal and hides a penis somewhere under his scales. How did Eliza even know the creature was male. It could be female or a hermaphrodite? Would she still decide to have a sexual encounter with it?
That's one of the million problems of this movie. The plotholes were so big I could ride a truck through them. 
Other problems: 
  • the cartoonish, over-the-top evil for the sake of being evil bad guy. Did we really need to see how he was buying a car? Or how he was peeing without holding his member? Or how he was banging his wife? Or that he for some unknown reason developed a sexual desire for blank and uninteresting Eliza, told her about his lewd desire, and the movie never got back to that story line again,
  • the stupid Soviet spy doctor, whose every action spoke about lack of brains,
  • Eliza's neighbor who didn't seem very upset that the creature ate his cat. Oh well, he had some more,
  • the way the creature ran away and no one saw it, then got into a movie theater that was empty but for some reason the movie was playing, then was taken back by Eliza, and again no one saw it,
  • that for some reason they had to wait for the rains to release the creature, even though the water was there all the time,
  • that Eliza filled her bathroom with water that reached the ceiling so that she could keep banging the animal,
  • that the dying creature suddenly gained back its strength for no reason, and so on and on and on...
I don't get it. And I'm happy for that. I'm happy that I don't see it, because I don't think this movie was normal. I felt ashamed just by watching it. 

Is this some kind of hidden propaganda? I'm someone who's always taken all those propaganda talks with a grain of salt, but I seriously don't understand what's going on. When did this stupidity began? Maybe when a grown-up character from a teen's book chose a 5 year old girl as his soulmate and the fans thought it was beautiful? Maybe even earlier?

I'm giving up on Hollywood. It's a disgusting swamp with disgusting and stupid movies. Here are  other movies that have received huge praise and which I absolutely hated because of the stories' mediocrity:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: one of the silliest, most boring and illogical movies I have recently watched

Mad Max: Fury Road: fell asleep three times before they reached the desert

Terminator: Genisys: be damned everyone involved in this atrocity

Alien: Covenant: again, be damned

Life: the 5 most unprofessional and stupid astronauts in the whole world end up on the same spaceship

Warrior: where do I even start with this one?


Deadpool: absolutely idiotic story line about an ungrateful idiotic character

Django Unchained: so out of logic I couldn't believe it's so highly rated

Hunger Games: shaky camera and paper-thin plot. Also, I liked it more when it was called The Running Man,

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: so bad, disjointed and meaningless I almost walked out of the movie theater

Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets: I'll talk of this travesty separately

There are more, but I'm tired of writing. Hollywood movies are becoming more and more absurd, but at the same time are bringing more money. Where's the logic?

I love movies; have always loved them and have watched thousands of A, B, C, and Z category movies, but I'll better watch Terminator 1 and 2 for the 238765438th time then waste my hard-earned money on anything new that Hollyweird produces. I've had enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How Do I Make Covers?

Do you ever wonder how book covers are made?
Actually, it's one of my favorite parts of writing and publishing a book. I don't know how the publishing houses order their covers, but here's how I do it:

Usually I get the idea of the cover while I'm still writing the book. Depending on what's going on in the story, I envision what I'd love to have on the cover. I won't be falsely modest here; I think that all my covers are beautiful. Maybe it's because all of them were made by the a professional designer.
But before the designer begins, I sketch the cover myself or fix something together in Adobe Photoshop.

This is what I had sketched for the last Witch Hollow book.


And this is how it came out in the end:
http://bit.ly/whbook6

Me and my boyfriend (who's now also my cover-maker) ended up with exactly what I had envisioned. I wanted the town of Hollow to be placed inside a snow-ball, and here it is, Hollow in winter inside a snow ball.

Here's the process of making another one of my recent covers:


Again, from the very beginning I had been thinking about a torn Teddy bear on a windowsill. And for a very long time I was looking for an old teddy to snap its photo and place it on the cover. Some people promised me the bear, then disappeared. I searched until I realized that I could just buy the necessary image from istock websites. Yeah, I was a bit slow and it delayed the publishing of my first horror book for a few months, but in the end I got exactly what I wanted:

http://bit.ly/bdtst


Things were a bit harder with Abracadabra. At first I thought I wanted to have a castle on the cover -- the Witchcraft Academy. But after a bit of research I found myriads of covers with castles and palaces and knew I needed something else. Something simple yet subtle. Something that would stand on its own among so many covers with teenage girls and boys and wizards in cloaks.
So I began making my own cover in Photoshop:


After I knew what I wanted, my boyfriend did the professional part. The cover was red in the beginning, because red is such a noticeable cover, but a few days before the release date, I changed the cover to green. Because the badges of the first-years at the Academy are green:

http://bit.ly/abracadabra1

The cat, the broom, the cauldron -- Witchcraft Academy's coat of arms. 
I think it's beautiful and hope my readers agree.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Review From the Reader's Favorite

Yay! I've got a 5 STARS review from the Reader's Favorite. How great is that! And I submitted the review request without a payment. Submitting a review request without a payment gets you a lower chance to receive a review, but Abracadabra got a review nevertheless.
Please do not confuse the submission fee with a paid review. Reader's Favorite is a respected website and does not sell reviews. But they receive so many review requests that they have to ask for a submission fee to guarantee you a review. And that review can be anything, from 1 to 5 stars.

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/abracadabra


You can read the review here: Reader's Favorite. Liz Konkel, the reviewer, went into great details and said everything better than I could do.

There's also a GIVEAWAY on the Reader's Favorite. You can find the book by the author or the title and get it for free.

Another great news for me is that because Abracadabra has received a 5 star review, it will be emailed to 500.000 email subscribers free of charge. I have never been a part of such a massive subscription list, so I'll keep you updated on how everything went.

A Review from The Life of a Bastard

Such a pleasant surprise on my birthday! Damien from The Life of a Bastard blog has posted a very nice review on Amazon and Goodreads for Abracadabra: The Witchcraft Academy. You can see the review by clicking on the cover of "Abracadabra" below.
http://www.lifeofabastard.com/bastards-review/2018/3/17/abracadabra-the-witchcraft-academy-ya-by-irena-davidian

Damien has also started a giveaway for Abracadabra, so if you want to get the e-book for free, here's the LINK. No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway and it ends on March 23th, so hurry up!

I was very lucky that Damien picked up my book. I think I'd contacted at least 60 reviewers and all of them were buried under huge piles of review requests. It's getting harder and harder to get reviews from the book bloggers: too many books, too little time. I think I need at least another 5 reviews to even think about a Bookbub promotion. They say Bookbub is the best, and the rest don't even come close, so let's wait and see if I'll ever get a Bookbub promo. It's hard, guys, really hard, but don't give up on your dreams. Nothing comes easily. We just need to keep trying and trying, over and over again.

Stay well,
Your loving witch!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Witch!

It's my 100th birthday today, and I couldn't be happier. 🎈🎁🎂 I am working on the 2nd book of "Abracadabra" series, as well as a young-adult sci-fi about humans and androids living together (or rather, trying to). I'm not very active on social media recently, as I'm working on 2 books at the same time, and also doing a lot of reading of the ARCs that I receive from Netgalley. But I love posting on my blog, so won't be away for too long.
While I'm gone enjoy one of my favorite songs by Faun.



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trads vs Indies

So, recently I began accepting books from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. If you don't know what Netgalley is, it's a virtual space, where the publishers offer advance review copies (ARC) to reviewers, to garner reviews for their upcoming books. I thought if I'm so poor and cannot afford to buy books from the trads, then I'll get their books free of charge and will improve my writing by reading wonderful books by the amazing trads.


And you know what? Traditionally published authors do not write better than the indies. Nope, they don't. I've read books by indie authors that have been amazing, and I'm now reading books by traditionally published authors that are dull, uninteresting and badly written. 
Know what that means? We're better than we thought! Aright, maybe you already knew about it, but I used to think that all the trads were these brilliant authors with brilliant writing skills and vocabulary. I was so wrong. But then, if they're not better, why are they traditionally published?
Hmmm...
I guess there's such thing as luck. Connections. Let me think a bit more... I guess that's all. You need to be lucky. But if you're not, still it's not a reason to be sad. It's not all about luck. Finish your book and publish it independently. And if you're lucky, your book will get noticed... oh, wait...


 Damn it!!

 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Read and Gone by Allison Brook

Read and Gone (The Haunted Library Mysteries, #2)Read and Gone by Allison Brook
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All the opinions are my own.

3 stars out of 5.
When I read the blurb of the book, I thought it was going to be an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. Since I’m a huge Dame Christie fan, I couldn’t pass this one. I’ll be honest here: I’m a bit disappointed. While I can’t say that I hated the book, I enjoyed it less than I’d been expecting.

This is apparently a second book in a series, but you don’t have to read the first one, as it stands on its own in terms of the story and characters.
The story. While not bad per se, it was a bit dull for my taste. The murderer’s identity wasn’t a big surprise and didn’t make me go “WOW!”. From the very beginning it was obvious to me that Carrie had made a wrong assumption regarding a certain character and a certain conversation. That was probably the weakest part of the mystery.

The pace was slow and there were too many characters and mundane situations. This was no Christie, but more a Janet Evanovich type of book, with lots of secondary characters, a lot of dialogs and descriptions of things like eating, cleaning the table, watching the TV...
Another thing that bugged me was the ghost. But it was solely my fault. When I read the blurb I wasn’t attentive enough and didn’t take the “ghost” part seriously. Turned out there really was a ghost, and it took me out of the story a bit. I hadn’t been requesting a paranormal story, but again, solely my fault.

But there were also things that I liked.
The setting: I like mysteries and murders in small towns where everyone knows each other and anyone can be a suspect, and “Read and Gone” was exactly that kind of mystery.
The writing was good, too: smooth and easy to follow. It was a surprise for me to spot grammatical mistakes in a traditionally published book, but I hope they’ll be fixed before the book goes live.

Do I recommend “Read and Gone”? Yes. If you want a 3-hour entertainment with a mug of hot cocoa on a rainy day, then this book is for you. Enjoyable characters, a murder mystery and some snarky dialogues. If this sounds like your type of book, then by all means give it a try. If you’re looking for a fast paced detective story that will leave you breathless, then look somewhere else.

P.S. Big thanks to the publisher for the advance review copy.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doctor Sleep will put you to sleep. Literally.
One of the least scary and most boring horror books in my life. Sometimes I just don't get King. These are his books, so he's the one to decide what to do with them, but doesn't he think that one of the most chilling horror novels called "The Shining" deserves a better sequel?
If he's got beta-readers, then they're failing him badly.

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The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J. Bailey

The Mage and the Magpie (Magemother, #1)The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J. Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, did not finish. Stopped at 40%.
But this is by no means a bad book. It was a nice YA fantasy and I’m sure a lot of interesting things were going to happen. It was just not for me. There’s magic, mages, a kingdom in another world, but it seemed to me that story is more for 9-12-year-olds, and even though there are books written for even a younger audience that I enjoy, this one was just not for me.
The e-book is free, so if you love the genre then by all means give it a try.


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Sunday, February 25, 2018

ABRACADABRA on a Free Promo!

Abracadabra: The Witchcraft Academy is on a Free Promotion today and tomorrow!
Grab a free copy now and don't forget to tell me what you thought of it.

http://bit.ly/abracadabra1


This is a very special book for me. I worked a year on it, and it's the hardest book I've ever written. Turns out that the hardest thing for an author is to create a whole new world with its laws, economy, education, transportation, fashion, and of course its inhabitants. When there are all kinds of creatures living in your world from elves to dwarves, from humans to dryads, you have to devote a lot of time to each of them, otherwise your world won't seem complete. And so I did. I've tried to create a beautiful world full of wonders and magic, and hope very much my readers will love it as much as I do.
There's so much I want to tell about Abracadabra, but right now I'll leave you with the first book, and I'll go work on the second one, where I have to create another part of the magical world, with its own laws and dwellers.
Have a great time at the Witchcraft Academy!
Your loving witch,
Irena

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the fantastic first book this seems to have been written by someone else. What happened? Why was Golden Compass followed with such a slow-moving and hard-to-get-into story? And why was bratty but fun Lyra swapped with boring Will? I liked Lyra as a character, and my main complaint is that in the second book she stopped being the protagonist. Will came, and Will isn’t even half as fun as Lyra was. It’s like we left Bilbo Baggins somewhere in Mirkwood and followed one of the least interesting dwarves.
Another problem was the pacing. It was slow. And the worlds had become less interesting than they were in the first book. Sometimes it seemed that the author had no idea where he was going.
After the fantastic first book the second one was seriously lacking. I feel heartbroken.
I hope that the third part will be an improvement and Lyra will become the main character again.


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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Something has to be seriously wrong with me, because I can’t get into Neil Gaiman’s books. He’s the master, one of the best, his writing is excellent, but his books do nothing to me. It’s like going on a date with this gorgeous guy everyone has been talking about and pining for, and feeling nothing. Staring into his bottomless eyes and thinking about ending the date ASAP and getting back home to the not-so-perfect, “independently published” guy who somehow manages to make my heart beat faster.
I didn’t like a single thing about Neverwhere, and most of all I didn’t care about the not-so-smart and whiny protagonist, who sat down and began to cry instead of fighting for his life. I don’t even remember what the story was about, so little I cared for it during the reading. Such a shame!
Coraline, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Trigger Warning, Neverwhere… I’ve tried and I’ve failed. I still have the “Anansi Boys” on my Kindle. One day I’ll brace myself up and give it a try.


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The Genesis Code by John Case

The Genesis CodeThe Genesis Code by John Case
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can see why this book would be a bestseller when it had just come out. For the 90s it was probably groundbreaking. In 2017 it didn’t leave a big impression on me.

Spoilers ahead!!

A scientist has cloned Jesus Christ, using the ancient relics, many of which were fake, but still, one might have been the real one. And it did, because one of the many children born with the help of that doctor in the end turns out to be a clone of Jesus. What was his name? Jessie. What was his mommy’s name? Mary. That’s right, Jessie and Mary. This kind of coincidences make me roll my eyes. Also, Jessie is a very kind boy, a possible leader and loves fish. This is actually the last page of the book. The other 400 were filled with action, murder, running away from bad guys and a lot of bad or stupid decisions by the main hero. I still don’t understand why the bad guys from the bad church wanted to kill the cloned children. So what if one of them might have been a clone of Jesus, what would that change?
I think I’m being too harsh with this book. Actually it wasn’t bad. It was quite entertaining, even though the ‘cloning-Jesus’ part was obvious from the very, VERY beginning, therefore there wasn’t a big revelation for me when the truth was found out by the characters some 350 pages later.
For the genre lovers this will be a great read. For me it was a bit of letdown. I was never a Da’Vinci Code lover, but even I once in a while like to read something for pure entertainment and fast action.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely book! It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a YA fantasy so much. The Paper Magician is absolutely adorable and I enjoyed every single page. It was beautifully written, with a fast pacing and a very interesting approach toward magic. It was like reading about magical origami, and I love making origami so much!
I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequels, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Paper Magician. It was a quick, fast read that left me with a smile on my face.
Recommended for anyone who loves cute little tales about magic and magicians.

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Infinite by Jeremy Robinson

InfiniteInfinite by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.
When I can’t get a book out of my mind after finishing it, then the author has done something right. Infinite is an outstanding sci-fi novel. The author has put a lot of hard work into it and it shows. Infinite is well thought and well written. It’s a book about humanity and desperation, loneliness and hope, and about our desire to love and be loved.
Interestingly the blurb doesn’t do justice to the book. I didn’t really want to read it, but it had been a while since I had read a sci-fi book and I had missed the genre. I have to admit that it took me forever to finish the book. I’ve read a lot of long books, but with Infinite it seemed that I felt each and every one of those 400 pages. There was a moment in the middle when I didn’t want to go on anymore. I’m happy that I persevered.
is the story of Will, who’s one of the two last humans in the universe (the other one is in a cryo sleep). Will is alone on a faster-than-light spaceship traveling into the depths of the cosmos. Will encounters a lot of crazy adventures, and many times I thought to myself that maybe everything happening to Will wasn’t real, that unknowingly, he was inside an experiment, that he was being tested. I thought that if the author did something like that I’d throw my kindle into the wall.
Will’s journey reminded me of the dreams I have sometimes, about a spaceship with a sole survivor heading into nothingness, reaching the edge of the universe. Maybe that’s why the book has left such an impact on me. I loved the problematic AI, loved the parts with the evil AI, loved the idea of a 2-D planet and that the universe is a coded simulation, loved the part of the humanless Earth inhabited by strange creatures, of the Antarctica that had turned into Eden, of the blood-chilling adventure on the planet that was inhabited by crazy dwarves… And when Will woke up and the whole 370 pages turned out to be a simulation in a virtual reality I seriously thought about throwing my kindle into the wall. I stopped reading the book and couldn’t get back to it for a few minutes. But I did eventually, and I loved the ending. I seriously loved this book; I won’t ever forget it.


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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best and most original books I have read in a long time. I couldn’t get enough of it. Everything about The Golden Compass is perfect. There are very few books that I’m ready to reread, and this is one of them.

The Golden Compass tells the story of Lyra, a girl who lives in a parallel world, which is very much like our world, but different at the same time. Lyra was a real brat, sometimes obnoxious, other times a pain in the neck, but I liked her a lot. She was fun. Like a friend of mine who had taken me on a journey of a lifetime.

Really, I can’t praise this book enough. There are a lot of stories out there that repeat the ones we have read many times already (you hear me, Irena Davidian?), but The Golden Compass stands on its own. If you are a fantasy lover, then you need to check this book out. The plot is truly unique, the characters interesting and memorable. The names were fantastic: witch leader Serafina Pekkala was probably my favorite.
And I will never forget Iorek Byrinson and the fires of Bolvangar.


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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was beautiful, and I mean it. Laini's writing is mesmerizing. Check out my reviews, I'm quite frugal when it comes to praising an author's writing. Daughter of Smoke and Bone has to be one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. I can only dream to write like this. When the writing is so good you don't even feel like reading. This was like watching a movie, and god, was this movie beautifully shot!
Now the story. I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting something totally different. Something sappy and boring. But the book started with a blast. It was awesome. I was loving every bit of the story... until it turned into a romance. It's not the book though, it's me. I don't like flawless and eye-hurtingly beautiful characters. And I don't like it when all they do is falling in love with each other's beauty.
The book was so brilliant, I was ready to forgive the romance part, until the romance was all that there was. Still, I'm not sorry for reading it. I may not check the sequels of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I'm happy for having read it. I love monsters, all their kinds, and god, the book was full of them, each one better than the other.
Highly recommended for romantic fantasy lovers.

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Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters by Pearl S. Buck

Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's QuartersPavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters by Pearl S. Buck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely, an unusual book. I’ve always been fascinated with China, but had never read a book that would go deep into details about its people and culture. Also, I had never heard of Pear S. Buck and had no idea she was a Noble prize winner. After I read her book, I can see why she’d get an NP. She’s an amazing writer.

The Pavilion of Women might be boring at times, but when the book characters visit me in my dream at night, then the book has left an impression on me. And it did leave a big impression. Madame Wu, the main character, seemed weird at first. She brought a young concubine for her husband who adored her and didn’t want another woman in a country where concubinage and polygamy were common. She denied physical contact with him. I couldn’t understand her motives. I considered her a total fool, but little by little the picture became clear. I won't spoil the book for those who haven't read it, but this was one of the most interesting changes in a book character I had ever encountered.

Keep in mind that the people in this book are different. Everything is different. This was like getting into a time machine and having a trip to the other side of the world, then becoming a fly on the wall of a wealthy Chinese family. This is why I love reading good books by talented authors. They take you on an unforgettable journey at no price.
Pavilion of Women was an interesting journey and definitely left a big impression on me.


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The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion by Alexandria Clarke

The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion (The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion, #0)The Haunting Of Winchester Mansion by Alexandria Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wasn't really scary, but I got attached to the characters, which rarely happens to me, and read it till the end. It's a prequel that ends with a cliffhanger. No one likes it when a book ends with a cliffhanger, but I got all three books for free, so it doesn't anger me much :))) I'll be reading the second book to see how it's all going to end. As with all haunted house stories, this one features mysterious deaths, and who doesn't like a good detective ghost story?
As I said already this book isn't very scary, it's more like a Supernatural episode (Winchester Mansion, wink, wink), but I used to like Supernatural, and will dedicate a few hours of my time to The Haunting of Winchester Mansion. I hope I'm not going to end up disappointed.

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fascinating. Beautifully written. I love the way Jessie Burton writes, and will probably buy her other book, too. Her writing flows like a river without obstacles, it's smooth and even, and her outstanding research added even more colors to her already beautiful writing.
The story though wasn't my cup of tea. I still can't understand what was the purpose of this book. What was the story about? I'll try to keep the review spoiler-free, so won't go into details, but I didn't care for the story. Never once. And I didn't care for the characters. This was Amsterdam in the 17th century, but the characters, especially the main heroine, acted too modern to be believable.
The ending didn't give any closure to the story. The mystery was never really resolved. It seemed as if after 400 pages the story was just beginning. There were a couple of good twists, but the rest was rather predictable.
Overall, I'll advise this book to those who want to learn to write in English, but to me the story wasn't memorable.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

I Will Review Your Self-Published Books

I'm so sad for us, indie authors, but I know why it's happening. I was googling book reviewers, and it turns out most of them are not accepting self-published books anymore. The reason is the low quality of SP novels. And yes, it's true. Not always, but most of the time indie authors publish badly written, badly plotted, badly edited and badly formatted books.
And no one wants our books, because people want to enjoy their reading time, not trudge through a low quality novel. It's their right. 
In the last few years I have started and abandoned midway a lot of books, something I had never done in my entire life. Most of those books had been on a free promotion. And I have another 300 books on my Kindle that I've got during free promos. I know I won't be finishing most of them.

But there are authors among the indies, who are incredible, who have fantastic books. And they all need to get started from somewhere. So, I've decided to find those indies and help them get their first reviews. I know I'll have to go through a lot of mediocre books, but I've recently finished my new book and have a bit of free time.

If you want me to review your book, leave a comment under this post. Please DO NOT email me. Leave a comment about your book. If it's published, post the URL.

I am doing this to support the indie authors, which means I won't be giving your book less than 3 stars.
Does this mean I am going to give 4 and 5 stars left and right just because I want to support indies? Of course not. It would be dishonest. If I feel I can't give your book more than 3 stars I will tell you. If you still want me to post my negative review (can't believe someone will, but who knows?) then I'll post it.

1. Your book needs to be edited
I know that good editors cost a lot, and that the indies cannot afford them, but you either have to find someone with a reasonable price, or edit your book yourself. Don't tell me it's impossible. If necessary, go through your book 100 times, but find the typos. I've done that, and you can, too. One or two typos is okay, but 100 is a disaster.

2. Your book needs to be properly formatted
I hate unformatted books with wrong indents, margins, and chapters. If you don't know how to format a book in MS Word, message me. I'll explain you everything, or might even format your book for you FREE of charge.

3. Get a good cover
Designers are expensive, so go to istock websites and search for beautiful images. Some will cost you just $5-10.

If you can't do this much, then you're not ready to be an author. 

4. You shouldn't have a lot of reviews
If your book has more than 20 reviews, then please DO NOT contact me. Better choose a promo website.

5. No romance
Please, DON'T. I don't read romance. NEVER.

6. I will post my review ONLY on Amazon.com.


That's all, folks! Good luck!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

ABRACADABRA: The Witchcraft Academy

Yes! It's live!

The Academy of Lost Knowledge teaches witchcraft and sorcery, and just like any other school of magic, it is full of old secrets and chilling mysteries. 

When thirteen-year-old Aram Nazarethian finds the road to the Witchcraft Academy, he plunges headfirst into the world of sorcerer wars and wizard conspiracies.

Together with his new friends Aram will have the adventures of his life, while trying to find a cold-blooded murderer and stop the peril that might turn upside-down the world of magic.


“Abracadabra” is a spin-off of “Witch Hollow” series. If you liked the stories of witches of Hollow, then you will surely love this one too. Unlike "Witch Hollow" series, the story is happening not just in Ireland, but in a school of witchcraft, where the students arrive from all over the world.
The protagonist, Aram Nazarethian, is from Armenia. His two friends are Nikolai from Russia and Theodore from Great Britain.
Soon they are joined by Karishma from India, Gwenlian from Ireland, and Meilin from China. 
There's a lot of magic, magical creatures and fun adventures. The teachers at the Academy are humans, elves, dwarves, and dryads. They celebrate Halloween and Beltane, Christmas and Valentine's Day. The have all kinds of festivals and games; they play Pixie Polo and race on magic carpets.

Come to the Witchcraft Academy and become a magician, then study hard and receive a wizard's or a sorcerer's degree. 

The Academy of Lost Knowledge is a place you will never want to leave!