Sometimes stories challenge everything you thought you knew about something and this is one of those books. The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a dark fantasy of fantastical proportions. Centered around the anti-heroine, Lilith, we follow the creation of the angels and their life in Floraison or “Heaven.” Lilith chafes under the rule of God and rebels, enacting the traditional role of Lucifer, although the Light-bringer joins the ill-advised rebellion as well. These celestial rebels are cast out of Heaven, down on earth where their bodies are changed, and they must rise to the new challenge of surviving a new world.
In some ways, Quiroz-Vega’s novel follows familiar beats of other angelic tales and even the traditional Judeo-Christian scripture passages, but she goes further by using Lilith as her vehicle to rend Heaven apart and creates a whole new story to tell. The descriptions in the book are particularly rich, and clearly there was plenty of thought spent in developing what Heaven and even Earth would look like to the angels.
The book is long since it is two novels, but for the reader, it gives the story a full arc and even mythic cyclical structure. Lilith starts out as a typical heroine but slowly becomes more and more consumed with power and manipulation. Her development is done pretty well, even if somewhat expected. Then again, what else can happen in Heaven without a rebellion? The fact that it is Lilith who takes the reins rather than Lucifer is a modern take on the fallen angel story, but one that refreshes the form and takes inspiration from the Hebrew myths surrounding the figure of Lilith.
I found the second part to be a little more interesting on the basis that we exited Heaven and now life becomes hard on the rebellious angels who have to suffer from new forms and real pain. Lilith’s growth as a character continues, but by the end almost reaches a point of no return. And I found this disconcerting, since Lilith represents in a lot of ways, femininity taking over and dominating what has traditionally been Lucifer’s role in Judeo-Christian religion. Lilith’s stagnation as a character lessens the impact of the overall story for me, but the world building and fresh take on the story itself were enough to save the book.
All in all, this angelic fantasy is one that most readers will enjoy. The elements of world building and the cast of characters is more than enough to chew through and the meaty page number of these combined books will please anyone. Lilith may sit well with other readers, considering her dynamic characterization in the beginning. Overall, a wonderful read for anyone looking for a unique fantasy tale!
Pages: 504 | ASIN: B074CPKLHH
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Choose: Snakes or Ladders follows Mitty who comes up against sexism and classism and must challenge others’ prejudices while fighting her inner demons. What was your inspiration for this provocative novel?
I didn’t have any articulated inspiration for the novel. It started as a short piece and grew seemingly by itself. I thought it was about an innocent young girl in the 50’s. I actually didn’t know that I felt so strongly about class issues and sexism. Nor about sexual safety of young people. My main conscious focus was on her struggle to find a way through the internal and external restrictions. As a former therapist, it has always saddened me that many women, particularly in the 50’s, were denied natural pleasures because of a culture of ignorance and shame around female sexual activity. As well of course, of career advancement.
What I really enjoyed about Mitty’s character is how well developed she was but continued to transform throughout the novel. What were some obstacles you felt were important for Mitty’s character development?
Her main obstacle was the extreme shaming and ignorance of the fictional sect in the novel. Another strong obstacle was Mitty’s lack of anyone who could help her come to some knowledge and understanding. I loved Violet’s attempts to inform her. The struggle is linked to the development, through ups and downs, of her self-worth – another essential ingredient in a life of achievement, pleasure and love.
I think you did a great job of illustrating that female beauty and sexuality can often be a poisoned chalice. Why do you think this is an important, especially with today’s #metoo movement?
I was amused by Mitty’s character as a woman who was beautiful and sexually arousing without her knowing it. And heartened by her innate sensuality. Perhaps if young women were educated properly and allowed to have awareness and acceptance of these factors, they would be less vulnerable in the face of male assertion of power in all ways. A lot of work needs to be done to educate men, particularly in self-awareness.
In the sequel all these themes continue to build strong plot threads, together with some surprising twists in Mitty’s life path.
What life experiences of your own did you put into the novel, if any?
That’s a tricky question. A life experience of teacher and counselor helps to build a wide understanding. Personally, none of the events as depicted happened to me, although fragments of similar occurrences have been combined to build a different fictional history. For example, my much loved grandmother had overcome a restrictive religious background, while still quoting many homilies to me, with a wry smile. Otherwise, sometimes just a few words overheard will trigger a scene. So there is a basic truth in it all.
This is “a well-plotted tale of human growth, sexuality, and self-discovery which will be enjoyed by readers of women’s fiction and literary fiction alike.”
Mitty is a young girl brought up in a punitive sect who escapes to a typist job in the city – a step to fulfilling her dreams of being a lady. She is hampered by deep fears of hell and punishment, and utter ignorance of the facts of life.
The 1950’s – sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not in the small towns of Australia. There were lots of jobs, clothes and wealth in the cities but this threatened the values of the past – a culture where men desire and decide, while women love and serve.
Miss Mitty Bedford knew the outside world through Hollywood movies at the local Pictures, only to find in real life that there can be nasties behind smiling, beautiful faces.
A stalker’s attack clashes with her newfound joy in sensual self-discovery inspired by a crush on her boss, and her love for decent, loving, traditional Col. She writhes between shame, repentance and joy.
Mitty wants a career and respect, but what path must she choose? She needs love, but does she want freedom more?
This emotional and dramatic journey to win trust, love and independence, will keep readers turning the pages, as well as provoking questions that still apply today.
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Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.
Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.
Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.
Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!
The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.
Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.
Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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Storm of Arranon by Robynn Sheahan is a science-fiction fantasy saga of Erynn and her people. This book is a fictional self-journey. Erynn is not entirely who she thinks she is, and as a result, she goes on an epic adventure of self-discovery and acceptance. Along with her personal growth, she discovers another world within her world. Erynn then embarks on a journey with new friends filled with mystery, magic, and murder. Through this excursion from an omnipotent narrator, you are sucked into a unique, wonderful world and learn the intimate thoughts, wishes, and desires of everyone.
This book is astonishing. It is a thrilling ride filled with excitement from the beginning to the end. The opening line in the book grabbed my attention and made me want to continue. There is an air of mystery that also kept me hooked and wanting more. It was difficult for me to put the book down.
Sheahan also creates a refreshing book with a female lead. In most books, the man is rescuing the woman, but Erynn is a strong, independent women calling the shots and fighting her own battles. One part of this I did not like was that Sheahan compared the leading female to a man to show her strength, something I could have gone without. Another aspect was that she was small, which is also another trope with female lead characters. Otherwise, it strays pretty far away from the stereotypes of female leads.
The story is complex, interwoven with various plot devices. There is an entire world the author creates complete with a made-up language. Some of the words were not explained or given context, but you find out what they are or what they represent later. One writing style device I had issues with was the use of italics; there were some instances I was not sure why the author used them.
It is important to note that you must pay close attention to everything going on in the book. Something or someone you would deem as insignificant in most books turns out to be important. There is also a lot of action going on at the beginning of the book, and then throughout the rest of it, do not let that deter you. It may be overwhelming for some, but it is easy to keep track of and incredible. Storm of Arranon is a fascinating, fun read. Overall, the world Sheahan created is a wallop of a tale that fully immerses you.
I got to discover this novel world with Erynn as she discovered it, which left me with a feeling of wonderment. I highly recommend this book to others. I have also seen there are more books in the series, and I am looking forward to reading more about Erynn and her adventures with her friends.
Pages: 287 | ISBN: 1466234970
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In Beyond Cloud Nine Ace fighter pilot Brooke Davis stumbles upon a conspiracy involving terrorists, aliens, and the highest levels of government. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The plot of BC9 was born of two initial premises.
First, as a kid, I loved anything with fighter planes, especially fighter planes in space. Many shows and movies featured the brash young male fighter pilot of which we’re all familiar, but few works of fiction starred a female lead pilot. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced a female lead would give a story a different feel, and it hadn’t been done nearly as often, so I rolled with it.
Second, we’re all familiar with the standard alien invasion story. Powerful aliens hover their gigantic motherships over our big cities. The human military is powerless against them, can’t punch through their shields, etc. Just when all hope seems lost, we humans find the one glaring weakness that will defeat these intelligent yet negligent invaders and hallelujah! The world is saved and everyone bands together in harmony. Can I get an eye-roll, please? With that in mind, I thought to myself, “How can I turn that premise upside down and leverage it to my advantage?” I thus had the antagonists in BC9 use a seemingly cliché alien invasion in a very non-cliché way to push their agenda.
I felt that the technology and science in Beyond Cloud Nine were delivered in such a way that anyone could understand it. Was this by design?
Absolutely. I seek to make my writing accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. I try to take after Arthur C. Clarke, who was a master of taking complex scientific concepts and simplifying them into an easy, breezy read.
The editor of BC9 deserves a lot of credit for teaching me the difference between telling, showing, and experiencing. We’ve all heard that an author should show rather than tell–most of the time; there are instances where telling makes sense. Don’t just write that something happened (telling). Write descriptive language that demonstrates it happening (showing). However, there’s another level beyond showing that better speaks to readers. Don’t just show something happening. Show how it affects the character, physically, mentally, and emotionally (experiencing). Rather than bogging readers down with the technical details of how something works (a pitfall some hard science fiction authors fall into), I try to place my focus on how technology and events affect people.
Brooke Davis is an interesting and well developed female character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
With Brooke, I definitely indulged my inner pessimist. I took everything that annoys me and magnified it tenfold. Also, as discussed earlier, I tried to create a lead that contrasted with the typical suave fighter jock. Brooke is anti-social. You won’t find her in bars tossing back shots.
The guilt of believing she killed her father taints her perception of everything.
A main story arc that’s every bit as important as whether the antagonists are defeated is her journey to work through that guilt and grow.
I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Where does Brooke Davis’s character go in the second novel?
The sequel, Beyond the Horizon (Beyond Saga Book 2), was published in May 2016. It stars Brooke’s niece, Maya, as the girl embarks upon humankind’s first interstellar mission. Brooke plays a critical supporting role even though she remains in the Sol system. “Demoted” to a civilian flight instructor because of her actions at the end of BC9, Brooke seeks to earn her way back into a cockpit. When she learns of the tragedy awaiting the interstellar mission, she takes a series of bold actions to try to get out to Gliese 581 to save her niece and the mission.
While we’re on the subject of sequels, I just sent Beyond Yesterday (Beyond Saga Book 3) off to the editor. The third installment in the tetralogy should be available in the summer of 2017.
Ace star fighter pilot Brooke Davis lives for pushing hundreds of gees in orbital combat, but she’d give it all up in a moment to become the first human to fly faster than light. When Brooke stumbles upon a conspiracy involving terrorists, aliens, and the highest levels of government, she finds their goals seductive but their methods abhorrent. With the moral core of human civilization hanging in the balance, she must risk her shot at history, her family, and her life to prevent the schemers from forcing their nefarious brand of salvation upon the solar system.
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The Eyes Behold Tomorrow by Ken Hart is fast moving action filled fantasy novel. Ken Hart describes his writing perfectly, “believable, without incredibly ridiculous situations that suddenly appear to solve all the character’s problems” (Hart p166). This novel merges human and a race called the Feletian into an intertwined future encompassing alliances and some galactic waring with other races. Feletian is a matriarchal society where the men are claimed into what are called stables. Women rule and men are expected to defer to them in almost every situation. They are also known for their peace keeping ways. They are non-violent and only use force when absolutely necessary. The two main characters are Robert Teach, a millionaire playboy from Earth, and Kamini a Feletian recruiter and Princess from Feletia. The two of them end up having a volatile relationship with good and bad moments, but always working together for what is in the best interest of Feletia, even if their views and tactics don’t always agree. Robert is a hot shot that likes to shoot first and ask questions later, Kamini prefers a more peaceful approach and always looks to see the good in others.
The story starts out with the recruiting of men from Earth. Typically, the Feletian’s were looking at the best military men Earth had to offer when Kamini approached Robert and asked him to join up. Having nothing better to do with his life at that point he agreed. The character of Robert is your typical arrogant playboy that thinks he knows it all and doesn’t take orders well. He makes an enemy in the first few days with another recruit, Desaris. Robert and Deasaris’s relationship is almost as interesting as Robert and Kamini. They might not like each other but will have to work together to save the Feletian’s and ultimately Earth from the alien races known as the Lyonians and eventually the Grrulagan.
Queen Aphelia is the peace keeper; she takes great interest in Robert from the start. In reference to the title, The Eyes Behold Tomorrow, some of the women of Feletia have what they call the gift. This is an ability to see into the future. She sees Robert’s future and his importance to her world. Because of this, she puts up with a lot from him, his lack of conforming to protocol, and his unorthodox, by their standards, tactics in just about every area of this life. He is a great commander and becomes the captain of their new prototype space craft. His role as captain makes things challenging as his relationship with Kamini and her family grows. Robert develops a strong attachment to Kamini’s little sister Princess Selena. This attachment starts showing Robert there is more to the world than himself and what he wants to do, he starts thinking critically and growing. The transformation in Robert is dramatic by the end, but not so much he loses his charm. Kamini proves to be a strong leader and capable of enduring the worst the world throws at her. Together they set out to create peace in the galaxy they reside in.
Overall the world that Hart has created is original and captivating. The strong female roles show how women can be strong and nurturing and still rule without faltering. I think this book would appeal to a wide variety of readers, science fiction lovers, people looking for strong independent women fiction, and anyone that just want a little less outlandish science fiction. The book does not have happy resolutions, there is no perfect bow to wrap up the story line. The book is open ended enough to leave room for sequels but even if Hart does not continue this story line, there is a satisfying ending. It does end on a happy note for those that want a book that can stand on its own.
Pages: 274 | ISBN: 1629891177
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The Mansion’s Twins follows Ellie and Savannah Senka, fourteen year old twins who run away from home and journey to a magical world. What was the inspiration behind Ellie and Savannah being twins and the bond they have?
It felt right for the story for a couple of reasons. First, it was important to me to have well-rounded female characters girls could relate and look up to. Sometimes in fantasy books, when there’s a “strong female character,” she stands alone, and ends up bashing other girls in order to set herself apart. In reality, girls are most empowered when we lift each other up. Having two female protagonists gave me the opportunity to show this. Ellie and Savannah learn to work together, support each other, and bring out the best in each other. I also had twins in mind because I always wanted a twin sister. I actually built them around my idea of an ideal sibling relationship–of course, I wanted them to be real, so they couldn’t be perfect. But I always wanted to share that kind of connection and understanding with another person, especially because I did not have it with my own sister.
The new world is full of magic, but it’s filled with danger after being destroyed by a terrible storm. I found this new world to be intriguing. What were you hoping to accomplish when developing this world and do you feel you’ve told the whole story?
I wanted a world readers could immerse themselves in, that was similar to our own enough to be familiar, but with magic integrated deeply enough to be captivating. I also wanted to show how the people reacted to this disaster, mainly the way they came together in the mansion. I certainly haven’t told the whole story yet, but there are many sequels to come!
I think the twins go through some very challenging obstacles throughout the story and grow because of it. Was there anything from your own life that you put into these characters?
I think there are at least pieces from my own life that I put into every character I have, and some are more obvious than others. For example, Savannah stands out to me. I’m naturally a shy person, and have often found myself in situations where I’ve needed to step outside my comfort zone to accomplish something. This gave me strong connection with Savannah, who has to do the same in the story. She is quiet and careful by nature, and learns throughout the book how to find her voice and confidence.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be published?
My current work in progress is called “Acapella Angels.” It tells the story of Ellie and Savannah’s parents, Cassandra and Travis, in the days leading up to the storm. It will reveal their first meeting, how they fell in love, Cassandra’s time in Summer’s Angels, and the mysteries behind the storm itself! I plan to release it later this month.
Ellie and Savannah Senka, fourteen year old twins, ran away from their unhappy homes, thinking they’d return after a brief adventure. Together, they journey to another world. The new world is full of magic, but though it was once beautiful, it is damaged, unbalanced, and dangerous after a terrible storm. Ellie and Savannah may be the only ones with the power to restore the world to its original state, for the magic of twins is rare and powerful. The girls are welcomed into a grand mansion, the safest place in the aftermath of the storm. There, they learn who they are, and what they have to do. To restore the world, they must travel through the mansion to the center of magic and reset the balance. They discover their own magical abilities, find joy and friendship in the mansion’s family, and face the dangers of the storm’s left-behind magic. The journey to the center of magic is full of twists and turns, magic and excitement. Ellie and Savannah support each other to overcome obstacles along the way, knowing the whole world is depending on them.
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