In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted takes readers back to the land of Garla and introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. What was the inspiration for these fantastically imagined worlds?
Truthfully, I based them on my home of Southern California with the cooler areas to the west of the mountains and the desert to the east. My picture was more of Rome or Greece at the height of their power than of some middle European medieval land, and the white-marble and columned Avaret Keep exemplifies the architectural feel I was looking for. When it came to Thristas, I love the desert. Lisen’s response of awe as she and Korin come through the Pass and she sees Thristas for the first time expresses my feelings about the deserts of California. Most people see deserts as dry, sterile places, but they teem with life–both animal and plant life. My inspiration was to show the breadth and depth of this life and its influence on a people who had lived there for many generations, establishing a culture separate from Garla’s and giving their lives a meaning dependent on no one save themselves.
Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. How did you tackle character development in this story that is different from book 1?
Lisen is, of course, a work in progress. It is absolutely essential that she struggle to find who she is in this mess that she sees as her life. All bets are off for her. It’s do or die, and as she begins to realize that she cannot win without cheating and that she must win in order to fulfill her mother’s hope for her, she also recognizes that she must find a way to become a person who she isn’t quite yet. I loved exploring her hidden spaces and corners, seeking out the fortitude within her to make it possible for her to do what she does at the end of the book. And when the degree of her ferocity came to me one day driving home from the grocery store in the guise of that moment when she cuts off her braids and then tells Nalin she never was a hermit, I knew I’d found the Lisen she needed to find on her journey.
There is a holiday in this story called Evenday/Evennight. How did you come up with this idea and develop it in your story?
You will note that in Garla, they call it Evenday because they live and work under the light of the sun. On the other hand, the Thristans call it Evennight because the center of their lives, the time conducive to productivity, is in the dark, away from the searing heat of that very light the Garlans worship. This day on earth is called the vernal equinox, and I saw the Thristans as being closer to nature and therefore more likely to attach a more spiritual importance to it than the Garlans. Hence their centering of an entire ritual around it, while the Garlans celebrate it more casually. A lot of the Thristan culture revolves around something akin to the nature-centered cultures of our own world, including Wicca.
Where does the third book in the Lisen of Solsta series take readers?
Two major questions remain. What happens to Korin and the special “package” he carries away from Lisen and Avaret at the end of Tainted? And what the heck are they going to do about the unstoppable Lorain? Lisen has seen Thristas for herself and is apparently the first Empir to have done so, and that alone puts her in a unique position in her dealings with Thristas as their “Protector.” I think, however, that the most fascinating aspect that opened itself up to me for inquiry was how the miracle of child-bearing might affect a man. I explored and hopefully resolved the questions and conflicts raised by the events in the first two books by digging deeper into both Garlan and Thristan culture and by opening up the possibilities for redemption for Lisen but only if she can accept the fact that as Empir she has responsibilities that sometimes require desperate and even cruel measures to fulfill them.
“In Fractured, Lisen Holt, Valley girl, beach lover, learned she doesn’t belong on Earth. Re-adapting to Garla, the place of her birth, proved difficult, but the greater challenge was learning that she is the Heir-Empir and must confront her brother for the throne. Witnessing her only friend’s murder, defending her own life with forbidden power, and succumbing to possession by her friend’s soul left Lisen fractured, with little hope she’d ever recover.
The story grows darker in Tainted with Lisen and her guardian companion, Korin, traveling to the great desert of Thristas. They hope to find safety in the anonymity of the barren wilderness, out of the range of Garlan spies. There, Lisen learns the ways of Thristas and its fierce people who view Garla’s Empir as a tyrant. In an effort to prove their sincerity, Lisen and Korin participate in the Farii, the spring fertility ritual which changes everything for Lisen. She returns to Garla with a brilliant but damning plan that she believes will ensure her victory against her brother.”
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The Heart to Kill is an edge of your seat crime novel following Sarah, a high-flying law student, who returns home to help an old friend prove her innocence. What was the inspiration for this thrilling case Sarah takes on?
The inspiration for the novel was Euripides play, Medea, where Medea murders her two sons in revenge for her husband, Jason’s abandonment.
The lawyers Sarah must work with have a ‘boys club’ mentality. Did you see Sarah breaking into this group or did you want her to blaze her own trail?
In my mind, Sarah was confused by what happened. She believed she excelled in everything she did and didn’t quite comprehend how she could be treated in the way she was. While she wanted to become “part of the group,” in the end she was forced to blaze her own trail.
This is a suspenseful crime story that gets the details just right. What research did you undertake to ensure the law was portrayed accurately?
Part of my background contributed to this novel. I served as an expert witness on change of venue trials, interviewed California judges and attorneys who were serving or had served on the Family Bar for a Ford Foundation grant to study the impact of the (California) 1970 Family Law Act, set up reading learning centers in 32 California State Prisons to teach prisoners to read, read trial transcripts for preliminary hearings,read the South Carolina law on murders, and had three attorneys advise me on several issues.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
Sarah comes back. She is now in New York City living with her Aunt Beccah and working as a paralegal for a law firm specializing in labor issues. She finds a book with an inscription “To Yetta,” picture of a woman, and a receipt for services to be rendered to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The story, The Search for Yetta, and her current legal work on a class action suit defending female janitorial workers in New York against wage abuse, finds Sarah discovering, not only who her Great Aunt was, but that the current abuses among low-wage earners today closely parallel her Great Aunt’s experiences. Publication? Keep your fingers crossed.
Author Link: Website
Savvy law student Sarah Wasser returns to her apartment to find two telephone messages: She has not been chosen for a coveted summer internship, and her best friend from high school has just murdered her two children. Unwilling to admit the internship failure to family and friends, the quick thinking Sarah secures a position on JoBeth’s defense team and returns to her sleepy hometown in South Carolina.
But Sarah is not well-prepared for working in a community rife with duplicity and betrayal, and her efforts are met with the benevolent amusement of the senior law partner, the resentment of the trial attorney, the rush to judgement by the folks of Eight Mile Junction, and discovery of her father’s role in the degradation of JoBeth.
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Lisen is not your average seventeen-year-old hermit in the mystical land of Garla. D. Hart St. Martin’s first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, Fractured, takes us on Lisen’s complicated journey of discovering her destiny in a land where people will pay a high price to obtain power. After spending seven years on Earth, Lisen is brought back to Garla to fulfill her fate: become the Empir, bring peace to Garla, and prevent her tyrannical brother from taking over the throne. With the aid of nobles, captains, and magical hermits, Lisen learns how to adapt to the pressures of her new life, embrace her destiny, and win the battle raging inside her head.
Fractured by D. Hart St. Martin is a captivating story of heroism, greed, and fulfilling one’s destiny; but what makes this novel so unique is how the characters, and the world itself, break gender stereotypes and social norms. Fractured is Book One in the Lisen of Solsta series, and this book focuses on the life of Lisen Holt, or rather, Lisen of Solsta. The novel begins with the kidnapping of seventeen-year-old Lisen on a beach in California. Once she comes to her senses, Lisen finds that she’s been taken to Garla, a world that resembles the magical-medieval world of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Astonished with every new discovery she makes, Lisen learns about her new “home” in Solsta, the land of hermits (people with mystical powers who are removed from society). Most interestingly of all, Lisen discovers that she used to live there as a child, but due to a prophetic vision, her guardians hid her away on Earth for seven years to ensure no harm came to her. Thus, when she returns to Garla and Solsta, Lisen feels both uncertainty and vague familiarity, and her memories (and necropathic skills) slowly return over time.
What I loved most about the novel is that it plays with the idea of who (or what) is truly in charge of shaping our “path” in life. It calls into question the idea of fate, and Lisen initially pushes against her destiny when she’s told that she’s the heir of Garla. Lisen also suffers from a memory lapse and must go through extensive training with Captain Rosarel and Holder Corday before she can take over as Empir (or ruler), in order to prevent her tyrannical brother from ruling Garla. I find this theme particularly interesting when combined with the “hero’s journey” plotline, as Lisen is much more complex than the archetypical “hero.” Throughout the novel, Lisen goes through stages of grief once she discovers she can no longer access her old life back on Earth, but several events throughout her journey prove what her life’s purpose truly is.
While some of the minor characters’ voices (such as Eloise and Nalin) were drowned out by the main characters, Lisen is truly brought to life through Hart St. Martin’s fluid and compelling writing style. I thought Lisen’s personality was fun and authentic; Hart St. Martin accurately captured the sassy attitude of a teenager who’s forced to learn a whole new way of living (I mean, who wouldn’t be sassy about that?). While she seems to have accepted her fate by the end of the novel, it’ll be interesting to see where Lisen’s “destiny” takes her next.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B0098RN2KG
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A good mystery novel is one that will challenge the reader, misdirect suspicion, and keep the reader turning the page to find the next twist to see if they were right. Accidental Killer by Tong Zhang meets all these requirements, as well as throws in some Chinese Mob style twists. The main character, Sarah, is a bright mid twenties writer that also has a degree in programing and seams to draw out the good in people. The book is filled with technology references and science information but this does not impact the reader’s ability to grasp what is going on even if they don’t understand the technology being discussed. There is a small amount of romance in the book that adds to character development rather than being the center of the plot.
This is a contemporary story that takes place in California’s Silicon Valley area, with some outskirt resorts and the mountains of Tahoe. One of the key plot points is on nanotechnology, but the author does not go so in-depth into the science that the average reader will be lost. The same goes for the genetics discussion that some of the characters have. What is nice about this novel is the strong female protagonist. Sarah is not a fluff character, and she is very relatable. She talks about finding balance between traveling the path that was expected of her, computer science/programing, and her passion, writing. She over comes personal tragedies of being left by her mother and later her aunt that raised. We learn a lot about many of the characters through their interaction with Sarah, she is able to bring out their best sides and show the readers passion rather than just flat characters that move the plot forward. Hardly any character brought into the novel is fluff. This is important because it means that Zhang is writing with a purpose and not just trying to fill the book up with pages on pages of meaningless content.
Accidental Killer starts as if you’re stepping into someone’s life as a spectator. There is no preposition so (without spoiling things) the beginning of the story is confusing, but becomes clear a chapter in and the realization of what is really going on is magnificent. Several other characters are mentioned as well with no clue as to who they are or where they fit in, Scotty, Ramsey and Mr. Bash being a few. You will eventually learn who they are and how they fit into Sarah’s life but it takes times. While confusing, it does add to the mystery aspect of the novel; who are these people and what are their stories. If you can stick with the writing through the first two chapters you will be engrossed and unable to put the book down. There are definitely some memorable characters that I can see making a repeat appearance if Zhang continues the series, namely Jake and Madam Wu. Both are left with the impression they have more stories to tell. Overall a good mystery novel, quick read, and entertaining characters.
Pages: 189 | ASIN: B01527IF84
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The Spirit of Grace by Terry Lynn Thomas is set in the 1940’s against the backdrop of WWII-era California. Sarah Bennett has been living at The Laurels, an asylum, for the past year. When her mother fell to her death in the family home, Sarah was the only witness and prime suspect, but amnesia has erased her memory. Her father gets her released to come home on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death, hoping that her memory will return so the truth might come out.
But home doesn’t seem to be a safe place. Her new stepmother, Grace, is threatened by Sarah’s presence, the townspeople are still suspicious, and her small town is full of billeted soldiers and rumors of spies. Sarah just wants to clear her name, if only she could remember that night.
Sarah is a young woman, privately educated and raised in a wealthy household. Though she was sheltered, her free-spirited mother raised her with a sense of independence that helps her deal with the suspicious townspeople and invading reporters. Her father is distant, her stepmother is clearly up to no good, but the longtime family housekeeper, Anca is her ally. Her father’s handsome writing assistant, Zeke, seems nice, but there’s something suspicious about him. Despite her attraction to Zeke, she fears he may be a spy.
Zeke has a habit of conveniently popping up whenever Sarah needs him that’s almost too often. He’s also a delightful romantic interest, and the tension gives Sarah and Zeke’s scenes together a lot of life. Both characters develop and grow throughout the story, fighting a battle between distrust and genuine attraction. The story has roots deep in the Gothic romance tradition, all the way down to the old family house that has its own secrets.
The author does a fine job of providing details that bring 1940’s California to life. Little touches like the women wearing hats and gloves in public, blackout curtains at night to hide houses from Japanese bombing, and food rationing are all reminders that this isn’t the modern era. Even the descriptions of the military structures built along the coast are spot on. Ms. Thomas has certainly done her research, and it shows in these important details. We don’t get to spend a lot of time in San Francisco, but its proximity and military history is crucial to the story.
I was disappointed in the paranormal aspect of the story. Strange things do happen, but it’s mentioned in an offhand manner that minimizes a plot point that turns out to be important. It’s dropped in without very little backstory or support, other than a few characters speaking to Sarah about it, but they don’t give her any further information. I feel the story would be just as mysterious and thrilling without it.
If you like classic Gothic romance, this is the book for you. Fans of mystery books and thrillers will also find something to like in this book. The plot is simple, but there are some interesting twists and mysterious encounters that will make you question your assumptions.
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 1626943966
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