The Windfall App by Teresa Richards
Many stories I’ve read have main characters who come from either one culture or another, and they often don’t navigate the in-between areas of our multi-ethnic and diverse world. Or if they do, the stories sometimes treat it as the be-all and end-all of the narrative – diversity for the sake of diversity. Where I come from, it was just another aspect of growing up, and this is how The Windfall App by Teresa Richards treats the main character Marina’s background. Her mother is Chinese, her father American, and she’s caught in the middle between both of their expectations. Since I was once a half-Asian teen growing up in the Bay Area just like Marina, I was especially thrilled to read about a main character my long-ago teenage self could identify with.
This is a book that has all the elements of a really fun story. It starts out with some common YA premises: Marina’s at the end of her senior year, trying to get into colleges, win academic competitions, hang out with her best friends and avoid her frenemies. And then it turns into a gripping novel with plenty of mystery and suspense, romance and betrayal, and a close look at the importance of family and friends.
Here's more info about the story:
Marina Berghman is a classical piano prodigy with parents who’ve had her life mapped out since she was in diapers. But their plan leaves no room for her secret love of alternative rock, or Sean, the edgy guitarist who recently moved to town.
When Marina buys a lottery ticket on her eighteenth birthday via the new Windfall app, she expects it to be nothing more than a rite of passage. But she wins – the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day, for life. Suddenly given the means to break free from a life she never felt in control of, she’s quick to cut her family ties and turn her back on everything she knows.
But her lottery win was no lucky break. Her prize comes with strings attached, and Marina soon finds herself at the center of someone else’s life or death game. When she discovers evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But he’s harboring secrets of his own.
Now Marina must sort out who to trust and who’s pulling the strings, before her prize turns into a noose.
I’d definitely recommend it to YA fans, young and old alike. A full review of The Windfall App can be found at Bewildering Stories HERE.
Teresa is also doing a Rafflecopter giveaway, and you can win this great prize:
But there isn't much time left to enter - only until the end of day today! So head on over to the link HERE and enter to win.
I also was able to have a quick chat with Teresa about her book and writing in general.
What inspired you to write this book?
I actually got inspired by an ad I heard on the radio for the Connecticut Lucky-For-Life lottery game in which you win a thousand dollars a day for life. I remember thinking, "What if someone won who was really young—would the lottery really shell out a grand a day for the rest of that person's natural life? Or would they *somehow* get out of paying." And the story snowballed from there.
Who would you be if you were a character in your own book (and why)?
Honestly, there is a lot of me in the main character, Marina. I channeled my love of music--all kinds of music--into her. The scenes where she's playing the piano, or thinking about playing the piano, all come directly from my own experience, although I'm nowhere near as good as she is. Also, in another life, I am the bass player in a rock band, so I hold the same secret love of alternative rock that she does. Marina's love of hiking, and of exploring the city of San Francisco, also comes from me, as do the deep feelings she has for her family members by the end of the book.
What's next on the horizon?
I have another YA contemporary book, called Flippin' Skaters, near completion. It's about a girl who reinvents herself by starting a roller skating gymnastics team after a scandalous pictures of her goes viral and destroys her reputation. After that I'll be working on the third book in my Altered Stones series, Daughter of Pearl [Book 1 is Emerald Bound, Book 2 is Topaz Reign].
Peek by Paul Beckman
When I find an author I love to read, I will follow their writing from their first release to their latest. I recently reviewed Paul Beckman's most recent collection of short stories, Kiss Kiss, and it had me laughing out loud.
His earlier collection of short stories, Peek, is also well worth the read. It's funny and dark, literary and absurd, full of vignettes as well as touching flash fiction stories. It's full of the taboo and what people tend not to say - not out loud, at least.
For a full review of the book, check it out here at Bewildering Stories. While the stories are probably not for the faint of heart or readers who find themselves easily offended, it's a great read for the rest of us. I'd definitely recommend it!
Now I Accuse by Gary Beck
I had the pleasure recently to return to the work of Gary Beck. I've read a number of his collections of poetry, and I was happy to dive into his recently released book of short stories, Now I Accuse.
The stories in this collection contain the same breadth of theme and tone as his poetry, and also a wide variety of topics and characters. The descriptions arelovely and often heartbreaking, with a few lighter, humorous stories thrown in to balance out the tone.
For a full review of the book, including a detailed look at some of my favorite stories from the collection, please feel free to visit the latest issue of Bewildering Stories and read my review here.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Kiss Kiss by Paul Beckman
I recently read Paul Beckman’s flash fiction collection Kiss Kiss. Many of his stories are written in a literary style, although most of them also contain comedic elements, with one or two chuckle-out-loud moments of humor. Very serious problems are at the heart of almost every story, and it’s interesting how Mr. Beckman can turn these situations on their head.
Flash fiction has always been one of my favorite forms to write, and the difficulty in creating effective flash stories is that so much has to be left out to meet that word count goal. It’s what’s not said, more than what is. And Paul Beckman is a master at making silence speak loudly.
For a full review of Kiss Kiss, check it out here at Bewildering Stories. I hope you enjoy reading it!
When the Tree is Dry by Alice S. Hill
For those of you who know me, you'll know that I'm a history buff. I'm always happy to read nonfiction books, and I absolutely love very detailed fictional stories set during pivotal moments in time. I especially enjoy reading history from around the world.
Alice S Hill's debut novel, When the Tree is Dry is set in fairly recent times, but it is filled with life and death struggles for basic human and political rights in Zimbabwe. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for a fast-paced story filled with sympathetic characters, mostly female protagonists, who must do what they think is right - for themselves, their families, and their country.
A full review of the book has been published at Bewildering Stories - you can check it out here. Happy reading!
Silencing the Blues Man by Sherman Smith
I grew up in the Bay Area listening to the stories from my Japanese grandmother about our family's internment during World War II. So it was with great interest that I picked up Sherman Smith's book, Silencing the Blues Man. It is the third in a trilogy, following Poets Can't Sing and The Honeysuckle Rose Hotel. The book focuses on the perspective of several characters who have survived the atrocities of WWII, and it explores how Americans from different races and cultural backgrounds cope with the aftermath of war once they return to civilian life.
There is a full review at Bewildering Stories magazine. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Writer's Retweet by Piers Anthony
I was interested in reading Piers Anthony’s new book, Writer’s Retweet, for several reasons. He was one of the authors I grew up with, and I’m always curious to come back to a writer that I’ve read years ago and see if my understanding of their work offers anything new. I’m also always looking for work that expands my understanding of the creative form, and the concept of this book was intriguing. Every author hears over and over that social media is a key component of today’s writer’s platform, and Mr. Anthony came up with the idea of doing a story in tweets, which would run over the course of many months. Writer's Retweet is a compilation of five of these Twitter stories.
There's a full review over at Bewildering Stories - I hope you find it informative!
Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman
There are some books that are hard to put down, and Piece of Mind, by Michelle Adelman, is on that list for me. Written in a conversational style, the prose is simple, yet filled with touches of humor. If I can't go to sleep because I have to turn the page and find out what happens next, I'd call the book a success.
I've written a full review at Bewildering Stories. I hope you pick up the book and enjoy it as much as I did!
The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True
I picked up The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True, interested to find a series of characters who were somewhat different and very easy to relate to. The story revolves around a group of women who start attending a support group because they are the wives of sex addicts. So, right off, this is a story about troubled relationships and women who have issues with their self-confidence because of them. But the story doesn't veer into the maudlin - it really tells the stories of these women, who are at times angry, often confused, and still hopeful that things can work out for the better.
It was very easy to get involved in this book and hard to put it down. While I don't know much about sex addiction, one statistic that keeps coming up in the book (although I don't know how accurate it is) is that only one in five people who are married to sex addicts are able to stay married. So out of five women in the group, this doesn't bode well for four of them, which adds extra tension for the reader - Who's going to make it? Who won't? Will they beat the odds?
The writing is straightforward and I would call this a mainstream novel, although there are parts of it that veer into literary style. However, there are one or two small parts that I thought detracted from the whole - they were small enough not to take away my overall enjoyment of the book, although I will mention them here.
First off, one of the women in the group decides in the middle of the novel to move out of the country. This might be fine, except that this seems to be the end of her role in the book. While the other characters might think about her idly afterwards, her presence in the book has little to no impact on the final story or on the other characters. I kept waiting for the other characters to stay in contact with her, perhaps by email, or at least think more about her, but she basically disappears and that's the end of her role. I feel that having an unfinished story line is okay - as long as the reason behind it makes the reader think more about the character/other characters. But just disappearing for no reason - that doesn't make me think about them at all. Instead, it bothered me as a reader.
The same with the ending of the book. While I don't want to give the ending away, the final story line feels somewhat unfinished to me. The book ends too soon. There WAS an ending beyond where the book actually ended, so the fact that the story concluded where it did felt a little off to me. Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a neat little package, but I really wanted more to the story, even if it was inconclusive. It was too abrupt for me, since the characters talk about planning future actions which are not then carried out in the action of the book. So the fact that we see them sitting around talking as the final scene of the book feels very inactive to me and somewhat anticlimactic.
The last problem I had was just something small I noticed, and I probably only noticed because I'm a writer myself. Since there are several different women who are main characters in the story, the chapters are labeled with the women's names when telling their stories - so, for example, the first chapter is labeled, "Lizzy," the second chapter is labeled, "Hannah," etc. The only difference is when all the women get together at the therapist's office, where the chapters are titled by how many sessions they've come together, for example, "Session Four." The only time this varies is the last chapter, where they get together for a session and instead of labeling the chapter "Session #," it is labeled with the name of one of the characters. Probably another reason that I felt that the story was unfinished - I felt that the continuity of the format was broken (most probably intentionally, but it still struck me as off). I would have also liked to have the story begin and end with the same character OR with none of them, but that's just a tiny personal nitpick and 100% my opinion.
I do feel that it is a wonderful debut novel for Ms. True, and I'd definitely recommend this book and read future work by her.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.