Saturday, November 26, 2016

Secrets of Worry Dolls by Amy Impellizzeri

  From the author of Lemongrass Hope, Secrets of Worry Dolls takes us on a journey to the fertile orchid fields of Guatemala, through the devastating trials of a mourning family post 9/11, and into the past of a woman whose secrets can only be trusted in the hands of her tiny worry dolls.
  In Amy Impellizzeri's latest inspiring novel, we meet Lu, and are transported through time as she tells her story, and the story of her mother, and why her life has made her mother the way she is; distant and haunted.
  Secrets of Worry Dolls spins a sad tale, lights a spark of hope, and mends our broken hearts with the meaning of family, love, and courage. Together, Lu and her mother Mari will make it through this life, and in the process, inspire us all.
  Since I was so hopelessly in love with Ms Impellizzeri's debut novel Lemongrass Hope (full review here), I was a bit hesitant to jump to conclusions with Secrets of Worry Dolls. I was scared I wouldn't love it as much, and I would be comparing the two throughout the entire read-through. Cautiously going into the story, I slowly warmed to Lu and Mari's narrative, but still, I held off solidifying an opinion of the book until I was finished. I didn't particularly adore Lu or Mari, and although I tried not to compare the two in my mind, and although I loved Lemongrass Hope right off the bat, Secrets of Worry Dolls was not hooking me as quickly as I expected.
  I came to the end of the book, and the story, and the twists, the emotions--everything hit me so hard and so fast, I immediately rated the book five stars. I may not have had a love affair throughout the story as I did with Lemongrass Hope, but as for endings, Amy Impellizzeri's latest book takes the cake. As I said, I wasn't in love with Lu, but her character progression was impeccable. I wasn't too in love with Mari either, but her story...her story. Ms Impellizzeri did a remarkable job of painting a literary portrait of Mari, and why she is the way she is.
  I could honestly talk about this book for hours. I am just stunned at what a 180 degree turn this book took for me, and although I was lukewarm throughout, this story's end was well worth the wait.

Book                               ebook

Thursday, November 3, 2016

An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Darren Dash

An Interview with Darren Dash

I have been a fan of Darren's for quite a while. He was extremely influential in my love of reading as a young adult. So, when he approached me and asked if I would help spread the word about his new adult novel, An Other Place, how could I say no?

So, without further ado...

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello, Darren! Thank you for joining my readers and me here at The Literary Connoisseur! I know we’re all very excited to find out more about your new book, An Other Place, and to hear what you’ve been up to lately! If you’re ready, let’s begin. For readers who have yet to become fans of yours, why don’t you tell us all a little about yourself. 

Darren Dash: I’m best known for my YA books, written under the name of Darren Shan, but I’ve always written for adults too – in fact the first book I ever published, Procession of the Dead, was for adults. I live in Ireland, though I spend a good chunk of time in London too, and I travel frequently.

The Literary Connoisseur: Please tell us about your new novel, An Other Place. 

Darren Dash: A young go-getter chokes on a peanut on a flight to a mystery destination, and when he recovers he finds himself at the start of a journey to… an other place. That’s really the most I want to say about it, as I think this is a book that’s best enjoyed with the minimum of knowledge. All I’ll add is that it’s very dark and twisted, a book which will hopefully unsettle readers and leave them asking questions for a very long time.

The Literary Connoisseur: I’m sure you have plenty of possible plots rattling around your head at all times! What inspired you to write this particular story? Has it been brewing in your head for some time, or has it been recently discovered? 

Darren Dash: I actually wrote the first draft back in 1998, but let it lie fallow for many years while building my Darren Shan career. I have mild OCD, but back in 1998 I was ceding more and more ground to it, letting routines dominate my life to an unhealthy degree. I was in the middle of a frenetic creative streak, knocking out novels one after the other, ideas coming fast and furious. But socially I was in a much darker place, worried that I might end up like Howard Hughes. I wrote An Other Place to try and make more sense of my world and to examine the creative process.

The Literary Connoisseur: How would you say An Other Place is unlike your other Darren Dash novels? 

Darren Dash: It’s very different. I think it’s different to most other types of novels too. It’s a very personal book, but also one that I think will connect with a lot of readers, because it addresses questions that plague and intrigue us all – Where do we come from? How do we make sense of the world? Are there other realms to be explored? But it doesn’t come at these questions in a straightforward way. Instead it sneaks up on them in a way that Franz Kafka or Rod Serling might have approached them.

The Literary Connoisseur: Is there a possibility for more Other Place books in the future? Perhaps one following future Alchemists? 

Darren Dash: I very much doubt it. An Other Place was born out of a very strange, very specific period of my life, and I hopefully won’t ever find myself back in that sort of head space again. Bad news for the variety of my stories, I know, but good news for my own mental health!

The Literary Connoisseur: Newman undergoes some serious trauma, changes, and alterations to the comfortable life he had before his journey to An Other Place. Without spoiling anything for your readers, would you say he grows as a character and as a human being (as I believe)?

Darren Dash: Absolutely. Newman is very self-centred and egocentric when we first meet him. In fact he’s something of an unlikeable character, even though I think many readers will share far more in common with him than they might wish to admit. We don’t really warm to him that much over the course of the novel – he’s not someone who becomes a nicer guy, because the plot of this book doesn’t require niceness – but I think we come to empathise with him, because nobody deserves to endure what he was to go through, and also because I think most of us can’t say for certain that we would behave any differently than he does.

The Literary Connoisseur: What would you like to say to readers who are considering picking up An Other Place? 

Darren Dash: If you want to go on a disturbing, mind-bending horror trip, this is hopefully the novel for you. If you prefer simpler, plot-driven horror novels, this might not float your boat.

The Literary Connoisseur: An Other Place is somewhat of a different book for you. How do you feel, sending this new story on into the world? Nervous? Excited? 

Darren Dash: Very nervous! I genuinely had no idea what the response to this one would be. It covers so much ground, and is so different to anything else out there, that I was afraid that readers would give up on it halfway through in their droves. A general reaction has yet to be determined, but the first couple of reviews have been excellent, so hopefully they’re an indicator of good things to come. Or else those two reviewers are just as warped and rare as myself!

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth from Darren Shan to Darren Dash, considering you write both YA (young adult) and adult fiction? Or is it second nature now that you’re a pro at this? 

Darren Dash: I’ve always found it natural to flip between the two. It helps that my YA books are extremely dark and adult in many ways, but even if I was to write more innocent books for my younger readers, I think it would just seem normal to me to move between worlds. I’m interested in different types of stories, horror, sci-fi, literary, thrillers… and in stories for the young as well as the old. I read both YA and adult books for pleasure, I believe at writers should write the sorts of books they enjoy reading, hence the straddling of the two realms.

The Literary Connoisseur: Again, without spoiling anything for your readers, what symbolism or “point” would you like readers of An Other Place to take from their reading experience? 

Darren Dash: There are lots of different questions I hope they go away asking themselves, but one of the impressions I most hope they take from it is that they should value their family and friends, as they can be far more important to us than we realize, and we never know when we might be cut adrift from them.

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you currently working on any new projects? 

Darren Dash: Yes, I’m working on a new Darren Shan series which is still probably quite a way off being released, and the next Darren Dash book, a light-hearted sexual comedy inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which might well see print in the summer of 2017 if all goes according to plan.

The Literary Connoisseur: Last, but definitely not least, what is your response to, “Where am I?” 

Darren Dash: 
I should say, “Where do you think I am?” But that would only make sense to people who’ve read the book! I’m in a good place, at least in this world, and fighting to cling on in there, despite the call of Alchemists and my OCD.

The Literary Connoisseur: Darren, thank you again SO much for stopping by The Literary Connoisseur! I am beyond honored to say that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing you. I cannot wait to hear what other projects you have in store for your beloved fans and new fans alike! Happy writing!

About the Author

Darren Dash was born in England in 1972, but has spent most of his life in Ireland, where he lives with his wife and son. In his day job, under a different name, he has sold over 25 million books worldwide, mainly in the YA market. But he feels much more at home in the nights of his adult worlds...