Reading Recommendations and a Request for Help

Hi All!

I hope you’re enjoying your July. I’m trying, with marginal success, to stay calm, cool, and collected. I’ll get back to you next month on how that’s working.

I have gotten in some pretty great reading recently, at least. So if you’re casting about for something to read, here’s what I’ve been enjoying:

With the interest in reading works by black authors at a high, now is a great time to check out some great thrillers by black authors, featuring black characters. I just read a couple of books from Kevin Macklin’s Jon Dough series, about a drug dealer with a heart of gold who deals out vigilante justice on the side. Maybe it sounds a little off the wall, but “Certain Reprisal,” the book I just finished, has some very telling and prescient critiques of police violence. Plus the books are zippy, fast-paced thrillers that will keep you turning the pages to the end.

In a different but equally enjoyable vein I just finished “Take a Number” by Janet Dawson. The book came out in 1993, so it’s got some amusingly dated stuff in it about fax machines and pay phones (remember those days? What a blast from the past!), but at its heart it’s a complex, richly told mystery featuring a spunky female PI. If you like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series, you should definitely check out Dawson. Plus, in “Take a Number,” the heroine is dating a Navy officer named Alex, to my intense amusement!

(Spoiler alert!!!!!!

 

 

 

My heroine Rowena dates an ex-Navy officer named Alex.

 

 

 

Spoiler over).

 

What about you? Any great reads lately?

Okay, and in a slightly related vein, this is where I ask you for help. First of all, now that my newsletter is getting bigger, I’m setting up a separate ARC team. So if you’re interested in being an ARC reader/reviewer for me, please click here. You’ll get first crack at reading books before they’re released. You’re not obliged to leave reviews, but of course I would appreciate honest reviews, preferably left on at least two platforms since I’m in the process of expanding beyond Amazon.

Here’s that link again.

Second of all, I’m currently working on “Honor Court,” the next book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I’m planning for Rowena to go to Monterey, California over spring break. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Monterey myself and even if my health permitted travel, the pandemic wouldn’t! So if you’ve ever been to Monterey, Monterey County, Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Defense Language Institute, or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, send me your recommendations for landmarks I need to include in the book, and sights Rowena has to see. If I include something you sent me, I’ll give you a shoutout in the acknowledgements!

And now time for this week’s giveaway:

Mystery & Crime Book Cave July

Check out the Mystery and Crime giveaway on My Book Cave

Happy reading!

Sid

P.S. I normally listen to music when I write, and sometimes I incorporate the music into my writing. I just worked “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie into my current work in progress. Check it out below, and keep an eye out for it when the book comes out 🙂

A Very Cool Contest

Hi All!

I wish the contest I’m about to mention were cool in physical form as well as concept, but alas, at the moment it’s pretty ephemeral, so you’ll just have to settle for metaphorical coolness.

I hope you’re getting plenty of coolness, physical or metaphorical, in real life as well. I’ve been admiring my flowers, which are flourishing in the jungles of North Carolina. I’ve also been wondering how much this weekend’s dust storm is going to irritate me. Answer: At least somewhat. How are you faring? Has anyone gotten hit hard in the Caribbean?

And I know I’ve been emailing you a lot recently, but there’s good reason! First there was the sale on Campus Confidential. Thanks, by the way, to everyone who helped make it a success. And while the sale on the ebook is now over (although you can still pick it up for a cool $3.99 if you so desire–universal link here–or read it for free by requesting it through your local library), Google Play is still doing a 99c deal on the audiobook. Link here. I don’t know how long that deal will last, so snap it up while you can!

And now I’m participating in a cool contest, run by BookSweeps. You can enter here (entering is free) for a chance at winning a whole bunch of first-in-series books featuring women sleuths, plus a shot at an e-reader. Not only is Campus Confidential one of the books on offer, but I also entered it myself as a contestant–although if I win, I’ll probably give away my winnings to one of my readers 🙂

Female Sleuths Giveaway

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, good luck in all your endeavors!

Take care,

Sid

 

Reading Recommendations and Last Chance to Get “Campus Confidential” for 99c

Hi All!

I hope you’re having a great weekend. Here in the swampy Southeast, it’s appropriately muggy. I used to have a magnificent tolerance for warm, damp weather. Not anymore. Turns out that a lot of chronic health conditions don’t care for this kind of weather.

Between that and the push to finish up two major projects this week, I had a bit of a crash yesterday, but I’m doing better-ish today. AND I finished my projects! I sent in the revised manuscript of my academic book on Chechen war literature to the publisher on Wednesday, and I finished recording the audio version of Trigger Warning yesterday. Yay! There’s still a fair amount of editing to do, but you can listen to the podcast of the first half for free on most podcasting programs.

And speaking of audiobooks, Google Play is running a discount on the audiobook of Campus Confidential right now. You can get the audiobook for just 99c here. Meanwhile, it’s the last weekend to get the ebook of Campus Confidentiafor 99c on all stores. Universal link here.

If you’re looking for yet more to read (and who isn’t? I know my e-reader is simply groaning under the strain!), here are a couple of interesting-looking books I stumbled across recently:

Avenging Adam

Avenging Adam has dogs! Dogs, I say, dogs! I’m already hooked. It’s free on KU.

Affliction of Praha

Simon Gillard is currently giving away advance copies of The Affliction of Praha here. You may or may not know this about me, but I spent a fair amount of time studying Czech, so a Czech-themed murder mystery caught my attention right away.

Happy reading everyone, and stay safe!

Sid

Get “Campus Confidential” for 99c For a Limited Time

Hi All!

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, wherever you are. Things continue to be unsettled around the world. My home state of North Carolina has seen a series of mainly peaceful protests, although there have also been accounts of police in the larger cities using tear gas and pepper balls. And while everyone’s taken their eyes off it, COVID-19 has started to run riot and we are now experiencing pretty scary levels of growth in the number of cases, especially in my region.

Needless to say, I’m staying resolutely at home. Whether you’re staying at home or going out and engaging with the world in a meaningful way, I hope you are staying safe and taking care of yourself and those around you.

In more positive news, I’m discounting Campus Confidential to just 99c for this week!

Campus Confidential Front Cover Small

If you haven’t read it yet, Campus Confidential is a mystery, a thriller, and a story of karma. It’s very much of the real world, and is more gritty than cozy, but it also offers the promise that there are good people in the world, and that good deeds can be rewarded, sometimes when you least expect it. So while it’s not exactly fluffy escapism, it does offer the promise that heroes are real, or can be.

Want to get it while it’s on sale? The universal link is here.

If you’ve already read/listened to Campus Confidential and want to check out the rest of the Doctor Rowena Halley series, I’m currently doing a pre-release podcast of Trigger Warningbook 4 in the series. You can listen to the podcast for free on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

That’s about it for today, folks. Once again, the universal link to Campus Confidential on sale is here.

I’m Now Podcasting “Trigger Warning”

Hi All!

I hope you are all safe and healthy, and holding up as well as can be expected under lockdown. What special strategies are you using to stay sane?

My wild and wonderful semester is careening to a halt. We are all waiting with bated breath to see what the fall brings, but it only affects me somewhat, since I am supposed to be on research leave. My proposed project is on Anna Politkovskaya, whom I reference several times in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, so expect to hear regular updates about that.

Meanwhile, I’ve started working on the audiobook of Trigger Warning (preorder the ebook here for just 99c!). As with the previous books in the series, I’m planning to release it as a podcast first before putting it up for sale. You can currently listen to Episode 1 on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If all goes well, I should be adding 1-2 episodes a week over the next few weeks.

Recording audiobooks is a ton of work, but I also find it very satisfying artistically. Originally I was against the idea of doing voices, but when people started telling me they liked it when I did voices, I got into it, and now try to do distinct voices with distinct accents and speech patterns for each character. I can’t say that I’m always 100% successful, but it’s fun–okay, incredibly difficult and frustrating, but in a fun way–and people seem to like it.

To increase the fun, I’m contemplating doing a little Kickstarter project in order to make audio versions of the short stories I’m writing from the perspective of Dima, Rowena’s Russian ex-fiance. Stay tuned for more updates, and in the meantime, if you’d like a free e-copy of “Summer Break,” the first of the shorts about Dima, email your proof of preorder of Trigger Warning to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com.

Stay safe, everyone, and have a great weekend!

This week’s featured free book event is the Romantic Suspense and Mystery Book Giveaway:

Romantic Suspense and Mystery

Living in Interesting Times

Hi All!

I hope everyone is safe and sound and at home. We live in interesting times, do we not? Of course, so do most people. If you’re feeling apprehensive/panicky/outraged at how everyone’s losing their dang minds, maybe now is the time to watch my favorite inspirational speech of all time:

There are other forces at work besides the will of evil.

The good news, from my point of view, is that my university, like many other universities around the country, has mandated a switch to remote learning for an indefinite period into the future. This is good because proactive closing of schools is supposed to be one of the most effective measures you can take to stop the spread of disease. It’s a little irritating for those of us who had our disability accommodations request to study or teach remotely denied because it just “didn’t meet our rigorous standards” or was a “hardship” for our programs, but it is an amusing lesson in karma, I suppose.

It is my sincere hope that in a few weeks we’ll all look back on this and wonder what the big fuss was about. Successful contagion-containment measures always look like overkill. And that’s okay. Better to be safe than sorry.

Meanwhile, for those of us who do mainly intellectual/creative labor, perhaps being trapped at home will bring about a tremendous burst of productivity! As someone who’s mainly trapped at home all the time, I can testify that there’s nothing like it for getting your creative/intellectual work done.

For example, Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s most beloved writer, had one of his most famous bursts of inspiration and productivity while under quarantine at a family estate in the country, as cholera ravaged Russia. He was untouched by it, and wrote some of his most magnificent works, including the wonderful A Feast in Time of Plague. If you’re casting about for something to do while in self-isolation, maybe check it out! Get the entire collection of his Little Tragedies! See what wonderful things can come of quarantine, alongside all the bad stuff.

This also, of course, seems like a great time to plug my own writing, so as a reminder, Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, is currently on pre-order. I’m in the process of transitioning everything to “wide,” meaning available on all stores, not just Amazon, so the link for Trigger Warning is a universal link that will take you to your preferred store.

Trigger Warning Cover 4.5 Small

Currently trialing yet another cover.

And if you preorder Trigger Warning now (it’s just 99c!) and send me your proof of preorder, I’ll send you an exclusive short story, completely free! What’s not to like? Email me your proof of preorder to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com or reply to this post, and I’ll send you the link for Summer Break, a little side story set in the war zone in the Donbass.

Stay safe, everyone!

And last but not least, here are this week’s selection of giveaways:

Sneak peek promo banner

Check out the Sneak Peek Giveaway to get an exclusive preview of upcoming releases

The Art of Murder

Get an armful of murder mysteries in the Art of Murder Giveaway!

Preorder “Trigger Warning” and Get an Exclusive Free Story

Hi everyone! Happy March!

In Russia it’s the first day of spring. Feels a lot more spring-like here in North Carolina, however, than I imagine it does in Russia. Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons.

I have another short and to the point post today: Trigger Warning is on preorder! For 99c! I’ve decided to “go wide” with the series, so it’s available at most major retailers (Google Play is being a little slow, but it should appear there soon). The universal link is here.

And, as a special exclusive treat, I’ve written a short story that I’ll be giving away just to people who preorder Trigger Warning. Just send me your proof of preorder to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com and I’ll send you a link to download your copy of “Summer Break,” a short story from Dima’s point of view.

Happy reading, everyone!

This week’s selection of free books is The Art of Murder giveaway on Bookfunnel

The Art of Murder

Get a Very Early ARC of “Trigger Warning”!

Hello everyone!

Well, it’s practically sort of wintry here right now, with temperatures below freezing. This is after a bunch of 60-degree days in December and January, and an actual tornado last week. Luckily it didn’t get too close, but any sort of tornado event anywhere within a three-county area knocks me out pretty good. One of the side effects of my health issues is that I appear to have become a weather witch. Who knew?? Has anyone else experienced a sudden ability to read the weather like this? The researcher in me is fascinated by this.

But magical powers are not the topic of this email–Advance Review Copies of Trigger Warning are! You can get an e-copy of it on Bookfunnel here.

It’s still cover-less, since the vote that many of you so kindly participated in the other week returned an almost exact 30/30/30 split between the three covers. So I’m going to have to do some more testing with them. But in the meantime, I thought I’d start letting my most dedicated readers have first crack at the (coverless) book itself. You’ll have plenty of time to read it and, if you feel moved, leave a review on Goodreads, because I’ve tentatively set the release date for the first week of September.

I decided to set the release date so far out for several reasons. One is that I’m also working on my academic non-fiction book, and I’m hoping to wrap up the revisions by the end of this semester. Another is that I’m planning to “go wide” with my books and release them on all retailers instead of just Amazon. This means that they will no longer be available on KU, which is a bummer, but on the flip side, anyone can request them through their local library. And, of course, I’m always happy to send readers free review copies 🙂 But it will take a little while to get everything up and running on all the retail and library sites.

The third reason I’m waiting so long is because I’m hoping to get A) the next book in the series (tentatively titled Honor Court) finished by then so that I can release them in rapid succession, and B) I’m planning to write a series of short stories from Dima’s point of view that interweave with Rowena’s main storyline. They will be available as exclusive preorder or download bonuses, so stay tuned for that! But it will take me a little while to get them all written and edited.

But enough about future hopes and dreams! Once again, if you would like to get an ARC of Trigger Warning, the link is here. It’s on a restricted list so it should ask you to provide your email address again in order to have access to it. If you have any problems with it, just let me know at sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com and I can email your the files directly.

A note about the content: A major topic in the book is gun violence in schools. This is something that I care about deeply. Not only is it something that all teachers have to consider these days–my friends and I have discussed our plans for what we would do in the event of a shooting more than once–but in the past two years there have been fatal shootings both at my BA alma mater and at the college where I currently teach. There have also been multiple fatal off-campus shootings of students at my PhD alma mater. The one at my BA alma mater was a typical “school shooting,” while the one at my current campus was the result of gang violence, but in both cases young people were gunned down by other young people who strolled onto campus and into a school event with loaded firearms.

If you find this upsetting–YOU SHOULD! Channel those strong emotions into political action.

So Trigger Warning takes on the topic of gun violence, as well as bullying and incel culture. A lot of it, as usual, is based on my own experiences and those of my friends, colleagues, and students. It’s fiction, but it’s the type of realist, partially autobiographical fiction that Toril Moi has identified as a trend towards what she defines as modern existential character-based fiction.

That’s a fancy way to say that it’s supposed to feel super-real to the reader, while dealing with “big issues” questions. So like all of my books, Trigger Warning has its dark moments. But also like all of my books, it also has a lot of comedy (I’m going for a chiaroscuro effect), and very little on-camera violence or gore. So you can go into it knowing that some difficult questions might be asked, but there is not going to be a high body count or explicit scenes of violence. Explicit language, yes :), explicit scenes of killing or torture, no.

Wow, that was a lot of writing! We probably all need to get on with our days, so without any further ado, here’s that link again to the Trigger Warning ARC.

And here’s this week’s selection of giveaways!

Listen to Books in 2020

There’s just a few more days of the Listen to Books in 2020 giveaway!

And check out the Short Story Suspense Promo, going on all this month!

Another Sneak Peek of “Trigger Warning”!

Hi Everyone!

I am slowly, more slowly than I was initially expecting, making my way through the revisions of Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I’ve been slowed down by my work on books for my other pen name, my academic writing, the beginning of the new semester–it’s so pesky the way you’re expected to show up and teach classes regularly–and my own rather slow revision process.

One of my rounds of revisions is to read the entire book out loud. This is prior to making the actual audiobook, although it did give me the idea of making audiobooks. But it’s a pretty slow stage, even if, in my opinion, an essential one, especially if I’m trying to preserve my already-strained voice–again, that pesky teaching!

Listen to Books in 2020

Speaking of audio, you can get free samples of my books and many others in the Listen to Books in 2020 giveaway on Bookfunnel.

However, I do expect to have e-ARCs of Trigger Warning ready sometime this spring, and of course, you will be the first to know! Meanwhile, here’s a quick excerpt:

3

I got up from the table and, with all eyes focused on me, made my way past the woman from food service, who was staring ahead impassively like she was a hair’s breadth away from snapping and calling all these assholes on their pretentious bullshit, and Tanika Scott, who gave me a smile that was probably supposed to be encouraging but came out as stricken, and left the basement. Even though I tried to close it soundlessly, the door slammed behind me. Good thing I wasn’t being disruptive by texting silently.

I checked my phone as soon as I was out the door. Three more texts had come from Dima while I’d been sitting there getting lectured on sensitivity and consideration. I figured this was as good a reason as any to go all the way outside and get out of the oppressive basement for a while, so I did.

By the time I got out onto the sidewalk, a fourth text had come from Dima. A shell fragment had lightly grazed his shoulder, he said, but it was absolutely nothing to worry about. He’d been bandaged up and pumped full of antibiotics, and was already back out on the front lines. Best of all, it was his left shoulder.

Now I’m balanced, he wrote. A wound on my left shoulder to counterbalance the one to my right hand.

I don’t think that’s a good kind of balance, I replied. While covering the battle for the Donetsk Airport in December, Dima had gotten three fingers on his right hand snapped by Ukrainian forces who thought he was a separatist, not a journalist. Luckily he’d convinced them of his journalistic bona fides before the torture had gone any further. He’d even gotten an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the paramilitary Right Sektor, out of the bargain, so he considered it all worth it. I was less sure.

No worries! he texted. Like I said, it’ll heal by the wedding. Meanwhile, not sure whether to stay here around Mariupol, go up to Donetsk city, or check out Stanitsa Luganskaya. There’s so much action I’m spoilt for choice!

How long have you been on the front? I texted back.

Oh, you know how it is.

Yes, I do. How long have you been on the front without a break?

You know I can’t go home.

I know. Dima’s home was Moscow, but he wasn’t welcome there anymore.

You can go to Kiev, I pointed out.

True. I was there just…well, I guess it was six months ago, at least. No, more. Before New Year’s. I came out here to greet the New Year with my comrades, and I guess I haven’t left since.

That’s eight months on the front! After another year already. You need to take a break. At least go to Kiev for a few days. Or maybe you could go somewhere else. Have you done anything about Israeli citizenship?

Dima’s maternal grandmother had been Jewish, so there was a chance that he might qualify for Israeli citizenship. It was something he’d talked about on and off for years, but never actually done anything about. Dima might write blistering diatribes against the corruption poisoning the Russian Federation, but the homemade tattoo over his heart that read “Russians Don’t Surrender” was the real expression of his one true faith. I suspected that the only way to get him to renounce his Russian citizenship would be to pry it from his cold, dead fingers.

Not yet, he texted back. Someone I know in Kiev said he’d look into it for me, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.

I ground my teeth a little. What about American citizenship? I texted. You could probably qualify for political asylum.

Still trying to get your stars and stripes on me, Inna? ))))) Actually, no fooling, I did ask about that the last time I was in Kiev. They told me officially maybe, but they told me unofficially I’d need to do something like marry a native-born American citizen to be sure.

I stared at the phone for a long time. Was it the heat of an August morning in Georgia making me feel sick, or was it a rush of crazy emotion at those words? I wanted to laugh, cry, vomit, kiss someone, and punch someone in the face all at once.

You know that would be easy enough to organize, I texted back.

Really? Who’d you have in mind for the bride? ))))) Kim Kardashian? ))))))

Is that who you want? I meant to add some smiley faces to help keep the tone light and joking, but my hands were clumsy on the phone, and I accidentally sent the text instead.

No thanks. Armenians are nice to look at, but I’ve never wanted to marry one )))) I’m afraid there’s only one American woman I’ve ever considered worth a second glance, Inna, and that’s you.

Why was my heart beating so fast? I must have gone soft after a few years up North, and now I was getting heatstroke from a little warmth and sunlight. It wasn’t even that hot yet.

This might not be the best moment, and I don’t…I erased that text, started another one, erased that one, tried again, erased that one too, and went back to my original words. This might not be the best moment to say this, and I don’t want you to feel, I don’t know, awkward or obliged, but you know that if you ever need an American bride in order to get an American passport, that can be arranged.

There was an excruciating eternity of waiting before Dima’s next text came through.

Are you offering? ))))

Of course, if that’s what you need.

There was another excruciating eternity of waiting.

Oh, Innochka. My little Decembrist’s wife. Don’t waste yourself on me, Innochka, my silly little girl. Aren’t you still with that American? What’s his name?

Alex. Yes. But we’re not married. We’re not even engaged. It’s just a…thing.

Does he know that?

I don’t know.

Is he a good man?

Yes.

Better than me?

Different.

That means he’s better. And I hope he is. Because I want you to marry him.

Who are you, my father? Do you also have a dowry you’re prepared to offer along with my hand and heart to the first suitable suitor?

))))) Still as witty as ever, Inna )))) But no fooling, Innochka, if he’s a good man, you should marry him. Didn’t you just turn thirty-five? You’re not getting any younger, and old age is not a pleasure, especially when you’re alone.

And what about you?

Let me take care of myself, Inna.

You don’t seem capable of taking care of yourself. You just got hit by a shell!

A shell fragment. If it had been a direct hit, I’d be smeared from here to Rostov ))))

You know what I mean! You say you can take care of yourself, but you’re not doing a very good job of it. For the love of Christ, Dima, go see a surgeon about this wound. And take at least a little break from the front. Go to Kiev, go to Lvov, go to wherever the hell you want, just get out of the Donbass for a while. At least until your shoulder heals.

I obey, Comrade General!!!! )))))

Naughty boy!

You know it ))))) Wait: aren’t you supposed to be at work? Some kind of training?

They kicked me out for texting.

They kicked you out for texting?!??! What is this, a strict regime of freedom deprivation? Are they going to send you to do corrective labor next?!?

So it seems. But with a paycheck.

A paycheck—that’s good. Get back in there and earn it!

I obey, Comrade General!

Akh, Inna, what am I going to do with you? ))))) Look, I have to go. My phone’s about to die. Try not to get into trouble, okay?

I’ll promise if you will, I wrote. But there was no reply.

***

I hope you enjoyed it! And here are a few more giveaways:

Foreign Exchange Cover Small

Did that excerpt want to make you find out more about Dima? You can read a bit about the backstory between him and Rowena in Foreign Exchange. Grab it and many other free suspense stories in the Short Story Suspense Promo.

International Mysteries and Thrillers

Want to read about more international women and men of mystery? Check out the International Mysteries & Thrillers giveaway.

A Thrilling Experience

And the Thrilling Experience thriller and suspense giveaway is still going strong!

What Are We All Reading?

Hi Everyone! Happy Solstice!

I hope you are all having a good and low-stress holiday season. I am pleased to say that I got all my final grades submitted a good 36 hours before the registrar’s deadline, *despite* having finals scheduled the Friday and Saturday of exam week. Yes, Saturday finals are a big thing now, in case you haven’t been keeping pace with the innovations in higher education.

I’ve also managed to read some pretty interesting stuff, which I’ll share in a bit. But first I wanted to remind everyone that the audiobook of Permanent Position is currently free on Apple and Nook.

Permanent Position Audiobook Image

The Apple link is here and the Nook link is here.

I’ve also just uploaded the audiobook for Campus Confidential, book 1 in the series, and I’m working on revisions of Trigger Warning, book 4 in the series. So keep an eye open for excerpts from that, coming soon!

Meanwhile, though, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve been reading and enjoying recently. And of course I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

First of all, I was riveted by The Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers, their in-depth report on the current war in Afghanistan. I highly recommend it to, well, everyone. Afghanistan is the longest-running conflict in US history, and soon we will have soldiers serving over there who weren’t born when it started. So it behooves us to pay attention to it.

I also have a personal/artistic stake in this, since John, my heroine’s brother, is deployed in Afghanistan in Campus Confidential, and comes home at the beginning of Permanent Position. This was a way to work my “day job” research on contemporary war literature into my fiction. As I like to stress, while the Doctor Rowena Halley series shouldn’t be taken as pure autobiography, it is based on the experiences of myself, my friends, my students, my colleagues, and people I’ve encountered for my research. It’s meant to reflect the current zeitgeist, and as such includes a lot of current events.

I also recently finished reading the English translation of Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog.

Klotsvog

It’s another must-read of the year, in my opinion. The story of Maya Abramovna Klotsvog, a Ukrainian Jewish woman born in 1930, it follows her Becky Sharp-like career from husband to husband and lover to lover. WWII, the Holocaust, and the post-war repression of Soviet Jews all form a backdrop to Maya Abramovna’s picaresque strivings to achieve upward mobility. That might not sound attractive, but it’s actually a riveting picture of Soviet life.

I was finishing up the edits on the audiobook of Campus Confidential at the time, so it was particularly apropos. Each of my books depicts a different social group, and Campus Confidential focuses on the experiences of Soviet Jewish emigres. The stories of my characters were inspired, again, by the stories of my friends, students, and colleagues, as well as those of Soviet Jewish authors such as Vasily Grossman and immigrant writes such as Gary Shteyngart. (Believe me, you also want to rush out and snap up their books ASAP if you haven’t already done so).

And for something maybe a little more mainstream, although still delightfully off-the-beaten-path, I’m currently reading Palm Beach Finland, by Antti Tuomainen.

Palm Beach Finland

Not sure if I’ve shared this yet, but I’ve been to Finland and speak a bit of Finnish. Although not enough to read the book easily in the original, alas.

It’s a kind Nordic-Noir-meets-Carl Hiaasen, if you can imagine such a thing. I’m only about halfway through right now, but I’m riveted in expectation of the inevitable showdown between the sleazy hitman, the undercover police officer, and the various people who have decided to investigate the mysterious murder on their own.

So that’s what I’ve been reading! What about you?

And now for this week’s selection of giveaways!

Ice Cold Vengeance

It’s cold out there! Warm up with a little vengeance in the Ice Cold Vengeance giveaway.

Crime Filled Christmas

Celebrate the season with the Crime Filled Christmas giveaway.

Snowed In

Enjoy the wintry weather with the Snowed In giveaway.

New Year's Noir Banner

Ring in the New Year with the New Year’s Noir giveaway.