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Interview: Marilyn Horowitz

[ 1 ] November 20, 2014

the book of zev book coverPlease welcome Marilyn Horowitz, author of The Book of Zev, as she answers a few of our questions!

Book Synopsis

The Book of Zev is a political thriller that tells the story of two gentle people who change the course of history. Zev Bronfman, a strapping 32-year old-virgin, angry atheist, refugee from a religious Jewish life, and former engineer for the U.S. Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia, drives a cab and sleeps around in New York City. After a bitter divorce, Sarah Hirshbaum, a beautiful, redheaded, depressed, God-hating kosher chef, seesaws between yoga and too much red wine. Independently, the two consult the same psychic who inadvertently sends Sarah Zev’s session tape. When Sarah contacts Zev to pick up the recording, a series of events forces them to connect with a powerful terrorist in order to thwart his plans to destroy the UN and Israel.

Click here to read an Excerpt of The Book of Zev

Interview with Marilyn

Q:  Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

A:  The opening quote is what inspired me to want to write this story: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

Q:  Was there a person that was your inspiration for this book? 

A:  I was returning on a train from a screenwriting conference where I’d conducted a workshop on creating great characters using my trademarked writing system, and met a man, a religious Jew, who was having a crisis of faith. We talked for three hours and the next thing I knew, I was writing a book.

Q:  Who would you like to thank for getting you where you are today? 

A:  I would have to start with God, followed by my maternal grandparents, who wrote a book together, Faith through Reason, an attempt to reconcile Judaism and Christianity. I would thank the real person that the character of Sylvie is based on. Then there were my parents, who had a vast library, which I read almost in its entirety. I also thank my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rank, who produced my first play when I was in first grade, and Lou Stanek, a writing teacher who guided me through my first attempts at writing fiction. And finally, I must thank Mrs. Wallace, my third grade teacher, who published my short stories in the school magazine. Then there’s my ex, who helped me develop my writing system, and Michael Zam, who inspired me to write my first nonfiction book on my writing method.

If I had to thank one person above others, it would be my mother, who helped me put together that first play and even made my costume for the play. My mother also edited part of The Book of Zev before she died, and was always my toughest critic.

Q:  Tell us how you got yourself to where you are today?

A:  I wrote my first play at six, my first “book” when I was eight, and kept going until I went to film school, where I began to write films.  A friend asked me to take over her screenwriting class, and after that I began working as a script doctor, producer, and a private writing coach. Years went by and then one day I realized I’d forgotten my dream. My mother was terminally ill, and I suddenly became aware that life is very short. Soon after, I met the man on the train, and three years later, here I am, a soon-to-be- published novelist!

Q:  What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

A:  Writers, write! Write about everything, write all the time, scribble notes, and be patient with the process. When you are writing and start to stress out, remember that you can’t read the label when you are inside the jar.

The motto of my trademarked writing system is: Don’t Get It Right, Get It Written, and I live by that.

Q:  How do you see yourself in ten years?

A:  Prolific, happy, healthy, successful, respected and financially secure.

marilyn horowitz photoAbout Marilyn Horowitz

Marilyn Ida Horowitz is a producer, writing coach, and award-winning professor of screenwriting at New York University. From her books on her trademarked writing system—now standard reading at NYU—to her appearances at Screenwriters World and The Great American Screenwriting Conference & PitchFest, Marilyn has guided the careers of literally hundreds of writers. She is currently featured in the Now Write! Screenwriting Anthology (Tarcher/Penguin) and in the upcoming The Expert Success Solution (Morgan James). Her production credits include And Then Came Love (2007), starring Vanessa Williams.

Follow Marilyn at her website, www.marilynhorowitz.com and connect with Marilyn on Facebook

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Review: 31 Days by Marcia Gloster

[ 1 ] November 20, 2014

31 days book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction by Marcia Gloster is a true story of the author’s life in Salzburg, Austria during the summer of 1963. She traveled Europe with a friend, ending up at an art school, and succumbed to the pedantic sexual love affair with one of her instructors. The scenes of the love affair are graphic but tastefully written at all times. The scenes are loving and never anything other than a beautiful experience for the reader to enjoy.

At the beginning of the affair, Marcia (the student) is told by her beau (well, he wasn’t really) that she has to follow his rules and never question him on their relationship. The relationship does develop, intricately and slowly, from a puppy dog type of school-girl crush on the teacher to a full on blown out affair with a much older man.

Marcia is definitely the weaker party in the relationship and is unable to resist the charms of this man. And I hate to spoil it for you, but the affair never becomes a truly eclipsing life event for the author since – dare I say it – all she really is to the guy is a booty call. Her lover disappears for days at a time, shows jealousy if she forms other relationships or becomes involved with men her age, sleeps with her shamelessly and never ever becomes her man, boyfriend or fiancé.

Does she see him years later? Or does their relationship survive? I’ll let you read it and be the judge to the worthiness of the tryst. The book is recommended for adults – although the sexual scenes are tastefully written, this is not a book for children or teens. The book is also recommended for anyone moving in or out of a relationship since there are some interesting lessons to be gleaned from these pages.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Story Plant. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Household Gods by Ted & Kristin Kluck

[ 3 ] November 19, 2014

household gods book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Household Gods begins with the premise that in our modern 21st century lives, we have idols…in our homes. They may not look like a golden calf or a statue of some foreign god, but indeed these idols may look like our dreams, our careers and all the trappings of a successful evangelical family. These idols may look like ideas…a set of ideals that we adhere to and find necessary for happiness and joy.

This book is written in a very conversational style–almost like you are chatting while hanging out in their living room. The stories flow freely and sometimes run down rabbit trails like a conversation among friends. From the beginning, I found myself laughing out loud at the author’s characterizations of different groups of people typically found in evangelical circles: sport’s dads, homeschool families (we homeschool and have a big family so his over generalizations were funny..and true), Christian high school and college life, women’s  Bible studies and many more. I could identify with so many of their experiences.

Some books are written to teach and some are written to tell. This one falls in the latter camp. The authors share many of their own personal struggles in an effort to highlight problems of idolatry.  Some of the stories ranged from funny to deeply personal. However, at times I felt almost bogged down by their style of writing one example after another because the idols they struggle with are not the same as mine. The concepts they were sharing were so tied to the images of sports, a writing career or other very specific struggles that at times I could not easily correlate them to my life. They are clearly very passionate and on a spiritual journey that is NOT tied up in a neat bow by the end of the book. In that sense I did enjoy it. They are wrestling and invite the reader to do the same.

After reading through the whole book, I think the overall message can be summarized by two words: identity and idolatry. Where we find our identity determines what we worship. If we find our value and worth reflected out of the image of Almighty God, we find our completeness regardless of our personal circumstances. If however, we look to those good things in our lives (family, career, dreams, ideals) to determine our identity, we are giving them a job they cannot do. We are giving them the place of God, and in this way, we worship or idolize them.

So who does this book target or seek to benefit?  Because it discusses household idolatry and centers much of the topic on family, I think those currently raising children would most enjoy many of the ideas discussed. More specifically, those who grew up in the evangelical church, have a strong affinity for athletics and find themselves struggling with identity and purpose will likely relate to many of the specific struggles shared by this couple. It is not a prescriptive “self help” book nor a heavier theology type book and can be enjoyed as an easier read on a significant Biblical topic.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NavPress. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Weapon of Vengeance by Mukul Deva

[ 2 ] November 19, 2014

weapon of vengeance book coverReviewed by Cal Cleary

Peace between Israel and Palestine hinges on a secret conference to be held in India in just ten short days. Ravinder Gill, a hyper-competent security agent who hates the political games you have to play to rise higher in government, has been put in charge of securing the event. He has no lead time, a meddling superior, an incompetent but politically connected lackey constantly trying to go over his head, and a long-lost daughter from his first marriage who has only recently reappeared in his life. Who appears to have some ties to MI6. Whose mother and uncles were all Palestinian extremists. Who just might be the woman spearheading the expected terror attack on the Peace Summit.

Weapon of Vengeance author Mukul Deva, an Indian counterterrorism professional, has imbued this book with a lot of specificity that helps sell some of its more outlandish elements. There has been a lot of press surrounding the book highlighting its technical specificity – the tactics, the weapons, the bureaucracy – and that will definitely help it stand out. But I also appreciated its cultural specificity. Weapon of Vengeance tackles terrorism and the Middle East from an Indian perspective, and whether Deva is talking about the way marriage works among Indians of royal descent or the dangers of working security in an environment like this, the book manages to feel considerably different from similarly-themed British and American thrillers.

But Deva is not a writer by trade, and it shows. The plot is incredibly thin, which hampers a bit of the ‘thrill’ you’d expect from a thriller – everything plays pretty much straight, with every lead taking Ravinder in the right direction and every decision further damning would-be terrorist Ruby. The female characters are pretty roundly awful – Ruby is a nervous extremist constantly pining for daddy to hold her, her mother is shrill and deceitful, and the American CIA agent is almost staggeringly incompetent, too busy preening for the attention of her hunky British counterpart to notice when she literally stumbles into the middle of an active terror plot. And Ravinder is idealized to an absurd degree; no character is more competent, more morally pure, smarter, or quicker, all of which takes a little bit of the wind out of the sails here.

Authenticity is nice, but it has to be paired with solid, basic storytelling in order to be effective (see: The Battle of Algiers), and that’s where Weapon of Vengeance falls perilously flat. There is a lot of neat cultural specificity that lends the book a considerable charm, and the detailed nature of the thriller plot (when the thriller plot is actually doing anything) will likely win over strategy-nuts, but there are far, far better terrorism thrillers available. A far-too-thin plot and a gaggle of spectacularly insipid female characters mar an otherwise interesting (and incredibly timely!) thriller with a decent hook and enough emotional realism to help offset the expected genre conventions.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Cal Cleary is a librarian, critic and writer in rural Ohio. You can find more of his work at read/RANT and Comics Crux.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

[ 6 ] November 18, 2014

liar temptress soldier spy book cover 201410-omag-read-7-949x1356Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Unlike a traditional war novel, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott seeks to uncover the important although unusual role of women during the Civil War. It tells the four unique stories of women who chose to serve their respective sides of the war as spies.

On the Union front, we meet Emma Edmondson and Elizabeth Van Lew. For the Confederacy, Belle Boyd and Rose O’ Neal work to advance their efforts and undermine the Union. The methods each of these women employed to advance her cause took advantage of each ones unique feminine abilities. Whether posing as a man and fighting in the ranks, using feminine “charms”, simple social connections or the help of a child, each woman took dangerous risks. I did think it was interesting that women made excellent spies, because the culture of the day dictated that women were the more genteel species and somewhat incapable of treason. As such, they were able to slip across enemy lines, convey encrypted messages and enlist the sympathy of men in a way that was easily unnoticed. Sadly their efforts have been generally ignored in the historical accounts of that time.

This book was as exciting as it was unusual. Some parts of the stories had an air of fiction, but, the author does tell us that she uses factual documents as much as possible to assemble the pieces of each of these accounts. Each one lived an exciting life and took dangerous risks on behalf of her cause. It did make me wonder why this was the first I had heard of their efforts and why our history books give greater weight to the effort of men than women. That said, both novice and expert historians will appreciate the unique perspective offered in this book as it gives further nuance to the struggle of the War Between the States.

At times I did find the storyline difficult to follow as each woman’s story is told in pieces with the author jumping back and forth between each one. In the audio version, this is a bigger issue as it is more difficult to back track if the details become confused between each storyline. Overall the book was very interesting and well worth the read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Audible.com. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Most Creative/Prolific Contributor Award!

[ 4 ] November 18, 2014

As promised, on the 10th of every month, I give away a prize of their choice to the most creative/prolific contributor to Luxury Reading!

This month, our fearless contender is…

Colleen Turner!

Kudos to everyone for your great comments! Colleen, p
lease post a comment here with your selection!

The contest started over on November 10th, and I will pick a new winner on the 10th of December. There is no limit to how many times you can win.

Remember, frequency of commenting counts, but so does the quality – a creative and relevant comment will get you more points than something like “sounds great”. Every month, I will pick a winner and post their name, as well as send them an e-mail. The winner can pick any item that is available on Amazon.com.

Get commenting!
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