The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseine

          
 I don’t remember a time where I cried so much over a book. I was so outraged in the beginning where Amir would be cruel towards Hassan. When Hassan was so loyal to him and how Amir didn’t protect Hassan from rape. 
Having said that, I felt Amir was a victim of circumstance and a victim of a fathers guilt. I didn’t admire Baba for hiding such a big secret. He should have been honest to Hassan and Amir from the beginning. That was only the right to do. Amir had to over come so much of his fathers mistakes and treatment towards him. But in the end he redeems himself from the mistakes he had made. I was so disturbed when Baba died without telling Amir the truth about his family and what he had kept from everyone.

Hassan was a good boy and grew up still courageous, strong, loyal and never lost his integrity. Even after everything he had gone through.

This was a moving story that will haunt me for a very long time.

I rated this story five stars.
Stephanie

Interview with Susan Higginbotham

1.  Who or what inspired you to become an author?
I can’t point to any specific inspiration because I have been writing almost as long as I remember. There have been times when my writing took a backseat to other pursuits, but never a time when I gave up on the idea of authorship altogether.
2. What is your favorite book you have written and why?
They all have a special place in my heart, but The Traitors Wife is the book that got my career as a novelist started, so it’s probably my sentimental favorite.
3. Who is your favorite character you wrote about in Her Highness, the Traitor and who is your least favorite?
When I started writing Her Highness, it was originally going to be about only Frances. Then I came across the letter that Jane Dudley wrote to Lady Paget begging for help in saving her husbands life, and it moved me so much, I knew I wanted to tell her story as well as Frances’s. So for a time, Jane Dudley became my favorite characterto the point where she eclipsed poor Frances. But as I got to know Frances better, I became very fond of her too. John Dudley also endeared himself to me. I even developed a sneaky affection for the Duchess of Somerset, to the point that I’d like to give her a novel of her own someday.
I find it very hard to dislike any of the characters in Her Highnessat least any of the major characters, because I think they all had some redeeming quality. Collectively I dislike the men who deserted Jane Grey’s cause at an opportune time and left John Dudley to face the queens wrath alone.
4.  What is your next book project?
I’m working on a novel about Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, who was a niece of Henry VIII. As a young woman, Margaret had the bad judgment to become secretly engaged to Lord Thomas Howard and got thrown into the Tower as a result. Later, Margaret schemed to marry her son Henry, Lord Darnley to Mary, Queen of Scots. It was a match which would in tragedyand which would ultimately put the Stuarts on the throne.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring author? 
Read widely in your chosen genre, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t and so you can develop the skill to recognize when your work needs to be improved. Listen to constructive criticism and be willing to learn from it. Above all, write! Too many people wait for the perfect time and place to write and because of that never get anything done. You don’t need the perfect writing nook; you don’t need to retire or to have the kids in school. You just need your imagination and your passion to tell a story, and if its a story worth telling, you need to make the time to tell it.
Thanks for interviewing me!
 Bio:
Susan Higginbotham has worked as an attorney and as an editor and currently works for a legal publisher. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Her first novel, The Traitors Wife, won the gold medal for Historical/Military Fiction in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Susan has written two novels, The Traitors Wife and Hugh and Bess, set in fourteenth-century England, and two novels, The Stolen Crown and The Queen of Last Hopes, set during the Wars of the Roses. Her forthcoming novel, Her Highness, the Traitor, is her first foray into Tudor fiction.

The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen

This girl Sally has a five year affair with this married man named Clive. He dumps her and of course she is upset and wants revenge. But what does she expect would happen? She thinks he would have left his wife for her? She should have gotten the clue that wasn’t going to happen after the first year or so! It gets better….She is with a man name Daniel and they have two children together.

I have to admit I was mentally exhausted after reading this story. A story about infidelity, obsession and revenge.I was utterly disgusted with Clive and Sally. More so with Sally and just how far she went. She should have left it alone when Clive dumped her. Sally had her revenge and she payed a high price for it. She broke up a family, including her own. Of course Clive helped with that also.

I felt Sally had no shame, guilt or remorse. In the end of the story she says, “If I’ve learned anything from this at all, it’s that life goes on and we must move on too.” Separately.

Wow! What a nut case!

This book is definitely a page turner. The Author Tamar Cohen does an excellent job exploring a person’s mind on obsession and revenge.

Stephanie

I am The Chosen King by Helen Hollick

I first discovered Helen Hollick on Goodreads. When I read Forever Queen I was captivated by the story of Queen Emma. The story was so beautifully written, I wanted to continue on to the sequel as soon as I could. In the sequel the story moves on to Harold Godwinsson. Who becomes King of England after Edward dies. Harold was the last Saxon King of England.

The horrid Duke William of Normandy wants England for himself. He invades England, which leads up to the Battle of Hastings. Needless to say… I was devastated when Harold died, especially in such a horrific way. But I understand Helen wanting to stay true as possible to the historic events that took place.

It has taken me a while to write this review due to the fact the story is so good I wanted it to do the story justice. Helen said to me, “Just be honest, even the “didn’t like” bits. Constructive criticism is always welcome.” I reply,“ In my little fantasy world if I were to change anything. It would be that my love king Harold would have crushed Duke William and his army, taken all his lands and live happily after with me.”

Throughout reading this amazing story, I kept on thinking how Helen describes the politics and drama of the royal court. She describes it as if she lived during that time to see it all unfold with her very eyes. That is how wonderful and intriguing the story is. One can tell that Helen does extensive research on her subjects and history, which is inspiring. I could only dream of becoming as good a writer as she and I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

Stephanie

Interview with Author Victoria Grossack

Authors Victoria Grossack & Alice Underwood
1. Who or what inspired you to become an author and to write about Greek Mythology?
When I was fourteen – a very long time ago – we read Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex, in my high school English class. I was fascinated by the story but I felt that it was being told wrong. (Such heresy, criticizing Sophocles!) Sophocles’ play gives the point of view of Oedipus, but I thought that Jocasta’s perspective was far more interesting. She gave birth to a son who was taken from her; she lost her first husband, King Laius; after the death of Laius she was challenged by the Sphinx. Her life was rich with drama. Moreover, she had more clues than anyone, and so I was fascinated by the question: did she ever realize that Oedipus was her son, and if so, what did she do about it? I thought Jocasta’s story would make an incredible novel, covering about forty years of her life – as opposed to Sophocles’ play, where everything happens in one day.
I longed to write this novel, but I realized that I could not write well enough to do justice to it. I also knew I knew nothing about ancient Greece. This was before the internet, when research had to be done in libraries, and when I was too young to travel to Europe and explore archaeological ruins. But the story stayed with me. I remember crossing my fingers throughout the years and hoping that no one else would attempt it, because I always felt that it was my story.
Fast forward several decades. By the time I met Alice Underwood in Switzerland I had several writing projects under my belt – some terrible unpublished novels, and a few successful short stories and articles. I can’t say that I was a good writer when we met, but I had improved significantly since my time as a freshman in high school.
Anyway, Alice and I were working for different divisions of the same company and collaborated on a work-related project. We found we made a very good team and wrote several non-fiction articles together. We were also both interested in ancient Greece, and fortunately, Alice had minored in classics, which meant that she already knew a lot of details about Bronze Age Greece. And so we decided we to write Jocasta together.
Writing fiction with another person is very different from writing non-fiction articles, and our first pass was abysmal. It took us a while to work out a rhythm, based on our own strengths and weaknesses. Amazingly, our strengths and weaknesses are mostly complementary.
While writing Jocasta we became intrigued by Niobe, who was queen in Thebes just before Jocasta. Her story is absolutely fascinating – she’s the daughter of King Tantalus – and so we tackled that next. The project was rich and complicated and so needed a trilogy to do it justice.

2. What is your favorite book you have written and why?

What a question! If you have several children, aren’t you supposed to love them equally? Anyway, Alice Underwood and I have written four books together: Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, and the Niobe trilogy, which consists of Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes, and Arrows of Artemis. I’m truly happy with how they all turned out. Children of Tantalus is a great adventure as well as a coming-of-age story, and Arrows of Artemis offers a solution to a mass murder that has gone unnoticed for more than three millennia.
But favorites? It’s a toss-up between Jocasta and The Road to Thebes. Jocasta has a pure intensity that keeps building until the truth explodes. The Road to Thebes has great characters – a cowherd turned musician, a villainess plotting a coup, and a wisecracking ghost. They both have romantic elements, too – which for me is usually a turn-off, but works in these books because the characters are so appealing.

3. What is your next book project?

Alice and I are working on Guardians of Thebes, a sequel to Jocasta. It covers the showdown between Jocasta’s brother, Creon, and Jocasta’s daughter, Antigone, as well as the time from the end of Jocasta to the war between Argos and Thebes.
Each book has presented unique writing and storytelling challenges, and currently Guardians, although it has some great scenes, is driving us crazy. We’re not sure if it will ever reach the point where we can publish it. However, we encountered monsters in each of our other projects, and somehow slew them, so we hope to get through this one too.

4. What is your favorite quote?

When in grade school, I was forced to memorize Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, and lines come back to me when I need them. Here are my favorites:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
Life has given me successes and failures and I have learned that often neither is fully merited. Other lines, when I consider political discourse these days, strike me as especially apt:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
By the way, your questions make me realize what an impact education has on our lives! How different mine would have been if I had not read Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Kipling’s If!
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
First, start with small projects. For example, if you wanted to run a marathon, you would focus first on jogging around the block instead of going out to run 26 miles. The same is true for writing. Work on a short story, or write up a comic or dramatic episode from your life. Blog. Get used to producing clean sentences and good paragraphs. You need training for writing just as you need training for anything else.
Second, study so that you actually know what you’re doing. Good writing has many aspects to it. There’s plot, and character development, and dialogue, and themes, and conflict, and tension, and even deciding which spelling rules to use – to name a few. You could try to learn how to do this all on your own, or you could get help. There are books on writing. There are writing courses. There are writing groups in which the members critique each other’s writing. I belonged to a group for years, and I actually learned tons from critiquing others’ writing. As I went through scenes written by others I discovered what worked, what didn’t and why or why not, probably with more objectivity than if I were reviewing my own words.
Finally, write because you love it, and not because you want to make money. Money and fame may come – but they probably won’t. Nevertheless, if you have a story that you are burning to tell, telling it will enrich your life.

Victoria Grossack’s Bio:

Dartmouth graduate Victoria Grossack leads an international life, with homes in Switzerland and Arizona and a professional career in the financial industry that has spanned the Atlantic. She is fluent in German and French (and English of course) and has an MBA. Her last full-time position was as a Senior Vice President in New York City for a reinsurance company, but she is currently writing full-time and living with her husband who is a professor at the University of Arizona. Her writing has been published in Contingencies, Woman’s World, I Love Cats, and The Journal of Actuarial Practice. She was a regular columnist for Fiction Fix, writing monthly articles that have been used in several writing classes. She teaches writing courses at Coffeehouseforwriters.com on historical fiction, creating characters, and the levels of structure in fiction. She also tutors mathematics, as solving problems in algebra and geometry make a nice break from creative writing.
Alice Underwood Bio:
Alice Underwood studied classics at The University of Texas and Princeton University while earning her degrees in mathematics. Her passion for antiquity has taken her from the shadowed catacombs of Princeton’s libraries to the ruins of Pompeii and the sunny shores of Crete and Santorini. Her work has been published in Consortium, Networks, and The Journal of Actuarial Practice. Currently an Executive Vice President at one of the world’s top insurance brokerage firms, Alice lives and works in New York City.
Thank you for giving me the pleasure of this wonderful interview!
Regards,
Stephanie

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

This is probably one of the best memoir I have read in sometime. I was feeling so many different emotions reading this story.

I was conflicted with the political side of it though. It’s a horrific and complicated situation. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a unique person. He was raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Srip under horrible conditions. The lack of humanity these people are under are appalling and tragic. Abuelaish never gave into to the bad situation he was living in. He stayed strong and never gave up. Which is understandable if he did. He grew up to become a medical doctor. He is certainly a person to admire.

One of the things I respect him for most is that when his daughters were killed by Israeli soldiers. His sadness over the loss of his daughters never turned towards hate and wanting revenge. He wants peace between the Palestinians and the Israeli people.