Sufficient Ransom: Review and Author Interview

What a mother wouldn’t do for her child. Ann Olson takes her life for granted until her young son, Travis, disappears from the backyard one evening. Searching for her son, Ann throws caution to the wind. Soon, she finds herself enmeshed in the seedy world of Mexican drug dealers who operate just across the border in Tijuana. Does Ann, an atheist, embrace Christianity despite her husband warning that her pastor friend is more interested in converting her than in finding Travis? Does she make it out of the drug tunnel alive, or is her rashness her downfall? And is Travis’s disappearance related to that of other recently missing children in San Diego? A story of a mother’s love, courage in the face of evil, and her unexpected journey of self-discovery along the way.

Sufficient ransom is amazing debut novel by new author Sylvia Sarno. Her story takes you on a journey from San Diego to Tijuana as main character Ann tries desperately to find her kidnapped son. The characters were very well thought out and developed and each person plays a significant role in the story. You won’t know who the good guys and bad guys are until the very end. As the main character Ann was quite annoying at times. She kept jumping to conclusions and being impulsive which lead to her ending up in life threatening situations on multiple occasions. However, as the story progresses she learns a lot about herself and her worth as mother. She leaned to trust herself and grows significantly by the end of the book. The author also injected an internal struggle of faith within Ann. She is torn between sticking to being an atheist or exploring the comfort christianity offers her. Religion and drug trafficking are intricately and brilliantly woven together and build into an amazing and mind blowing ending! This is an amazing suspense novel that will not disappoint and you will not want to put down. The author has been kind enough to grant me an interview and provide some more insight about the book.

 

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1. How did you come up with the title?

Since the story is about a kidnapping, the word “ransom” seemed like a natural choice to include in the title. When a friend suggested I look to Shakespeare for inspiration, I came up with the expression “sufficient ransom” from Two Gentlemen of Verona. In Shakespeare’s context, the term refers to an offer of sorrow for a misdeed. This meaning fit well with Ann’s guilt feelings as a mother. When I discovered that “sufficient ransom” is also a term from the bible, I knew I had a winner. “Sufficient ransom” addressed all the main points of the book: the kidnapping, a mother’s guilt, and the religious theme. And it was only two words, giving me a nice short title.

2. How much of the book is realistic?

Unfortunately, events similar to those in Sufficient Ransom have happened. But I can’t go into detail without giving too much away. A veteran crime investigator I consulted when I was doing research told me that if his child were kidnapped he would have taken matters into his own hands the way Ann did; and he would have gone to Mexico if necessary. Regarding the drug smuggling tunnel that Ann discovers on the border, more than one hundred tunnels have been discovered in recent years both on the San Diego side and the Tijuana side.

3. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would change about the book?

I’m happy with the final product. What I would have changed, which would have saved me a lot of time, is the approach I took to writing it.

4. How did the idea for the cover come about?

The book cover was definitely a collaborative effort. I had read a lot about what makes for a good book cover, but didn’t know what would make my cover good. My website designer, Susan Gilbert, referred me to Alexander von Ness of Nessgraphica. In looking at samples of his work, I knew right away I wanted him to do my cover. With each variant of the cover that Alexander designed for me (he did about 12 different ones) I learned more about what would work for my story. My book club friends—a group of very literary women—were invaluable in this. For most of the mock-ups Alexander did, they told me what they liked and didn’t like. Hearing their astute feedback, I finally honed in on the idea that I wanted a child on the cover with a partially hidden face.

5. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge I faced in writing Sufficient Ransom, was that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started it. But I didn’t know that I didn’t know. In the beginning, I did all the textbook things a writer should do. I researched the world of the story. I wrote journals for each of the characters in their own voices. And I outlined the story in great detail. After I wrote the first draft, I hired a professional novelist, who does editing on the side, to critique the first 100 pages. Her conclusion: I should scrap the story and start over. I agreed with her reasons and took her advice. Keeping the kernel of the idea, I rewrote the entire book. Next, I hired an experienced editor. Her encouragement and interest in the story inspired me to revise the story even more. The more I revised, the more I learned about the craft of writing. After a few more major edits, I felt I was finally on the right track.

6. What inspired you to write your book?

When I was a child living in Italy, there was much talk about kidnapping. A high-profile kidnapping in Rome in 1973 had set the whole country on edge. Years later, those fearful feelings came back to me and gave me the idea for Sufficient Ransom. Something my husband once mentioned about what he’d just read, gave me the specific angle for the story.

7. Were there any qualities that you shared with the main character?

I have to admit, I’m a little compulsive. But not as bad as Ann! Also, my husband tells me I jump to conclusions more than I should. Like Ann I also love classical-style art.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

Learn about the craft of writing before and during the process of working on your book. Take classes. Ask your teachers to critique your work. Never take criticism of your work personally; rather, use it to improve your writing.

 
9. What book do you wish you had written?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I love that book!

10. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do read them. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and has made all the work worthwhile. I responded to only two reviews. In the first case, the reader posted that pages were missing from her ebook. I offered to send her an ebook in place of that. She took me up on the offer, read the book, and posted a wonderful review. In the second case, I responded to a reader who was upset about certain parts of the book. I responded that I was sorry she was upset, explaining that I wrote it that way to get people thinking. I respect what readers have to say—good or bad. And I don’t take any of it personally. Going forward, I will take my husband’s advice and not respond to negative reviews.

 
11. What literary character is most like you?

I had no idea how to answer this question, so I took a quiz on Abebooks.com to see which literary character I am most like. The answer was Galadriel of Lord of the Rings, the one played by Cate Blanchett in the movies.

12. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I especially loved writing the final chapters. First because I was glad to be coming to the end. Second, because they were especially emotional.

13. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Toughest criticism: My main character is “somewhat of an idiot.” Admittedly, Ann doesn’t always show the best judgment, but she is willing to try anything if it means finding her son.

The best compliment: “I couldn’t put your book down.” I’ve heard this a lot. Yea!

 
14. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live a middle class life in Southern California. I’m a mom and a wife. My family is awesome. They’re fun, funny, and interesting. Education and a love of learning are important to me. I encourage my kids to work hard in school so that they will have as many doors open to them as possible when they get older. Before we had kids, my husband and I traveled and ate out a lot. Our focus now is on our family. It’s a good, busy life.

15. Fruit loops or Frosted Flakes?

I’d have to say Fruit Loops. I like all the colors and the pink-blue milk.

16. Where can we find more about you and your book?

http://www.sylviasarno.com

http://www.sylviasarno.com/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-me/

https://www.facebook.com/SylviaSarnoFiction

https://twitter.com/SylviaSarno

Sufficient ransom can be found at amazon.com.

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Zero Alternative by Luca Persaro

Scott Walker is a fugitive from the quicksands of Finance, with one card to play – DeepShare, a silicon oracle coveted by billionaires, hitmen and hackers. As he fights for survival and vengeance, digging deeper into the dark heart of the global economy, one question torments him: what price will the world have to pay?

He didn’t known what to do; this was too outside his universe. He should just go to the police, but there would be so many questions- he would have to talk about DeepOmega and he didn’t have a shred of proof, just two missing computers in a convoluted story.

And powerful enemies working against him as he tried to defend himself in front of the law. You might be truly screwed, Yours.

Zero Alternative was a fast paced thriller. Luca Pesaro takes you on a rollercoaster ride trough the shady and dangerous world of banking. Scott Walker (Yours) and his friend DM have a program with the ability to predict the market. With a resource so accurate and powerful many people want to get their hands on that program by any means. The beginning was a little slow because of the introduction of the banking world and the financial jargon but Pesaro does an excellent job of explaining concepts without making the reader feel as though they are sitting in a classroom. The characters are well thought out and quirky. The things one character does in the story is so twisted and cringe worthy you will be squirming in your seat. Betrayal, murder, sex, and espionage are all served up on a platter and fed to you in a decadent feast! I recommend this with no hesitation. There is zero alternative to buying this 5/5 rated thriller.

Short Stories by William Pettersen

Today the Bookworm brings you two short story reviews from the author William Peterson.

To think that there are no other sentient beings in the universe borders on vanity.
To think that other sentient beings would be any less prone to violence and war than are we, borders on naivety.
Collateral damage is a reality with any conflict.
What if there is undelivered ordinance…stray bullets…from distant, cosmic conflicts floating through space like wandering asteroids or long-period comets?
What if bystander Earth was the victim of one of these…errant shots?

Tim stopped at the corner of the vehicle as all the color drained from his face. He hit a button on the phone, then put it back to his ear to listen to his messages. “Tim, you’ve got to call me. Don’t come here,” Professor Winston began immediately. “It’s not a fossil Tim, it’s something else…something made, or engineered. We think it’s a weapon, some kind d of chemical weapon. The bright side is that it proves there is intelligent life out there and other water worlds, but it also shows they must have the same propensity for destruction as we do, maybe even more so.

This is a creepy, amazing short story! It starts out with a major catastrophe and quickly things start to take an even more disastrous turn. What Tim thinks may be an amazing find that will set him up with his next paycheck turns into something completely horrific and unexpected. The story takes a very dark turn and the ending is amazing and unbelievable. I think the author should take this short story and make it into a full novel because I would love to see how the world turned out after what happens. I feel like he took my cake from me just as I was about to eat a fork full. I want more! I feel like this was just the beginning.

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Marcus is venturing out of his permanent shelter to check the day’s traps and possibly hunt seals on the ice, when he discovers a nearly dead, young female whale researcher out on the ice alone and unconscious. After bringing her back from the frozen brink, she reveals some disturbing details of an armed takeover of her research facility, sounding like the earmarks of a terrorist attack, though nothing up here was of any strategic or political value.

Upon inspecting the scene for himself, Marcus uncovers an ongoing struggle that has lasted for thousands of years, much worse than any terror plot, holding mankind’s future in the balance. With time running out, limited resources and only a frozen stranger to help, he must stop a terrible bloodline of ancient tyrants and evil men bent on world domination and total destruction, before they kill the last magical creatures on Earth.

Maddie sat down and propped herself up against a sheet of ice protruding from the pack, gun in one hand, binoculars in the other, and resigned herself to closing her eyes for just a minute or two. The shivering stopped and she wasn’t even that cold now, she was almost comfortable, and while closing her eyes felt so good she smiled a little, she knew very well she would not be waking up this time.

Mythical was just as amazing as Errant Shot. It was a heart pounding read that clutches onto you and pulls you in from the beginning of the story. You won’t believe the plot twist. There’s fantasy, evil, violence and compassion all brilliantly wrapped in this short story with an unbelievable ending. William Peterson is an incredible story teller and his stories are not to be passed up. For me both stories are a 5/5 and I recommend them greatly. They are available at smashwords and amazon.

Fine Young Gentleman by C.W. Slater

*CONTENT WARNING: coarse language, sexuality, graphic violence including murder, may be disturbing to some readers, mature themes. Not for children. Recommended for 16+* 

The controversial Young Adult suspense-thriller that dares to show how teenage boys REALLY think. Dark, satirical, intense and raw. This is a book you shouldn’t read if you are easily shocked or offended! 

Take a twisted journey inside the heads of three raunchy, impulsive sixteen-year-old boys at the elite Percy College School—where status-hungry moms blackmail students, and self-absorbed administrators will do anything to protect the school’s reputation. Craig is the popular golden boy struggling to hide a terrible secret. Jacob is a creepy emerging psychopath plotting to eliminate his rivals. Sex-obsessed Matt is desperate to lose his virginity at all costs. 

The first book of the upcoming Fine Young Gentlemen series.

Please note the content warning. This is not a Young Adult romance

“I know hate is a strong word and everything, but its okay: we’re teenagers.”

 

This was  an absolute heart stopping read! I advise you definitely heed the warning before reading this book. The title may be called Fine Young Gentleman but the things these guys get into falls no where under the gentleman category. This was a dark and intense look into the minds of three teenage boys. Some things were expected like constantly wanting to get laid but other things will totally blow your mind. For example the psychopathic tendencies one of the characters starts to exhibit and eventually gives into. The point of view changed between each boy as well as some secondary characters and the author was exceptional at capturing and conveying each of their voices. Throughout the story every one of the guys became a bad guy in some way so you won’t know which direction the story will take until the very end. It’s so unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s dark, hilarious, suspenseful, and edgy. It’s a must read and you won’t be disappointed. I give this a 5/5 rating and I absolutely recommend this read. Available at Amazon.com.

I was given a copy from the author for a honest review.

Conduit by Angie Martin

How do you hide from a killer when he’s in your mind?

Emily Monroe conceals her psychic gift from the world, but her abilities are much too strong to keep hidden from an equally gifted killer. A savvy private investigator, she discreetly uses her psychic prowess to solve cases. When the police ask her to assist on a new case, she soon learns the killer they seek is not only psychic, but is targeting her.

The killer wants more than to invade her mind; he wants her. Believing they are destined for each other, he uses his victims as conduits to communicate with her, and she hears their screams while they are tortured. She opens her mind to help the victims, but it gives him a portal that he uses to lure her to him. With the killer taking over her mind, she must somehow stop him before she becomes his next victim.

“Why should I spare you? What do you offer the world that is important?”
Jillian’s eyes widened and her fave came to life. “I really don’t want to die. I’m only twenty one and I have so much to live for. My parents would be devastated if I died. I have a lot of friends and I just started back at school to get my business degree. I know my job at the coffee shop doesn’t seem that important but it is to those who need coffee in the morning. I might even open a coffee shop of my own someday.”
David stopped listening to her spouting out worthless reasons to live and studied the animation in her eyes and face. She believes her pitiful reasons for loving would work with him.

Conduit is a heart pounding suspense novel that will grip you from the first sentence! This was unlike any thriller I have ever read. The plot is killer..literally. The psychic element of the book just boosted the story to a completely new level. It’s not only a suspense and thriller it also packs a supernatural punch. I was so engrossed in the story I actually spooked myself a few times. The author does an incredible job of delving into the mind of David. His story will take you to a place you can’t even imagine. The development of all the characters was amazing. I love strong female characters and Emily and Cassie are a kickass duo. The relationships between Emily, Cassie, and Jake were so authentic and later add a whole new layer to the story when certain things come to light. This is book is just totally captivating and will keep you in its clutches until the last word. This is a 5/5 star book and absolutely recommended for a read. It’s available at Amazon.com.

Donna of the Dead by Alison Kemper

Donna Pierce might hear voices, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Probably.

The voices do serve their purpose, though—whenever Donna hears them, she knows she’s in danger. So when they start yelling at the top of their proverbial lungs, it’s no surprise she and her best friend, Deke, end up narrowly escaping a zombie horde. Alone without their families, they take refuge at their high school with the super-helpful nerds, the bossy head cheerleader, and—best of all?—Liam, hottie extraordinaire and Donna’s long-time crush. When Liam is around, it’s easy to forget about the moaning zombies, her dad’s plight to reach them, and how weird Deke is suddenly acting toward her.

But as the teens’ numbers dwindle and their escape plans fall apart, Donna has to listen to the secrets those voices in her head have been hiding. It seems not all the zombies are shuffling idiots, and the half-undead aren’t really down with kids like Donna…

The zombies swarm, forming a circle around Deke.
“We gotta help him!” Quentin yells. More books sail out of the back doors of the vehicle.”Big ones,” somebody says. “Grab the big ones!”
“Throw Moby Dick. I hated that one.”
“Where’s Twilight?”
“No,” Tara squeals. “Don’t throw Twilight.”

Donna of the Dead was literally a laugh out loud story. Donna was a hilarious main character. What I loved about her was how she approached the zombie apocalypse like a 15 year old girl. Forget the zombie hoard trying to break their way inside to eat her she is completely focused on how she can finally connect with her long time crush Liam. Her strategy for dealing with the zombies is to hide, run, and scream. I also loved how self aware she was especially when she realizes she may be the most useless person left in the world. I really liked Deke and felt sorry for him a lot throughout the book. Mainly because Donna was so absorbed in herself she wasn’t a very good friend to him until the end. He however, never faltered in his friendship with her. He also helped her become a more selfless person by the end of the story. One character I would’ve loved to see more of was Deke’s grandmother. I mean a taser toting old lady zapping zombies on a zombie titanic would be awesome! I really loved the plot and the fresh take on zombies. It’s just amazingly different from any zombie story you would ever read. I was so relieved when the author didn’t turn it into a love story between the hot half dead zombie and Donna. I was really hoping to have more action on the cruise ship though. I mean a giant boat filled with zombies was something the author really could’ve taken advantage of. I was also hoping to find out what happened to the guy that followed them off the ship. This book was just so great and an awesome read. It has zombies, romance, action, and everything else you would want in a story. I give this a 5/5 and definitely recommend this book. It will be available at Amazon.com on March 4th.

Arc provided by Netgalley for a honest review.

Rook by J.C. Andrijeski

Like most humans Allie’s spent her life distancing herself from Seers, a race of human-like beings discovered on Earth in the early 1900s. That changes after catching her boyfriend in the arms of a hot band groupie, and Allie goes from San Francisco artist slacker to the girl wearing the GPS anklet in about sixteen seconds. That’s the least of her problems, though, compared to the shock of discovering who—and what—she really is.

Yanked out of her life by the mysterious Revik, Allie finds out that her blood may not be as indisputably human as she always thought. Through Revik she learns the truth: that Seers are nothing like she thought, that the world is nothing like it appears to be…and that she has far more in common with Seers than she ever wanted to believe.

Now on the run from a group of anti-human, terrorist Seers called Rooks and her own human government, Allie must learn to navigate a secret shadow world behind her own, a world filled with superhuman Seers with their own battles raging…and their own agendas around the fate of humanity. When Allie’s family and friends get dragged into that war, things suddenly get a lot more personal, and Allie learns she may be the only one who can stop it.

My grandmother warned me once that nothing in life is ever secure. No matter how stable, boring or predictable the different components may seem…everything can be gone with a single bad decision.

This is the type of book that people will absolutely love. The world building was absolutely amazing! I have never read a book like this where there is so much detail put into the world building. Considering the author had to show the differences between humans and seers this was no easy task. The seers have their own myths, history, world, and language that is completely beyond humans and what they can comprehend and the author pulled it off magnificently. Andrijeski has taken aspects of different religions and cultures and created a unique ideology for this world. The interwoven lives of these two species is revealed and showcased in amazing plot twists! The concept is so original there is no other book I have read that can be compared to this one. The character development was also off the charts. Each character was  important to the story. For example Revik has such a complex history that he could easily have a story of his own. The dynamics and relationships of the Seers like Vash, Terian, and Gailath is something all together amazing by itself. As for bad guys Terian has to be the creepiest one I have ever read in a story like this. His ability to split himself into different bodies is exciting and crazy at the same time. Allie is one of the most likeable females characters I’ve come across is some time. She is such a smart ass and so clueless about who is she is that her behavior is laugh out loud funny and yet you empathize with her as well. She has been thrown into a world where even though she is a Seer she is still something different. Even within their world. She is trying to navigate being the Bridge and what that means while dealing with Revik and their relationship and lack thereof.

I give this story 3/5 rating. While the world building is great, it is also very confusing. Added with the fact that the point of view switches and it takes a while to get used to it. I was a little more than halfway through the story before I was really able to understand what was going on. There were times in the book where things went on for too long for me and big questions where addressed but never fully explained. Such as the marriage of Allie and Revik. I don’t understand why it happened, how it happened, or why it was a big secret from Allie. Or why it was they got nauseas around each other.

Overall it really was an good story. I will be reading the rest of the series to find out how everything turns out and I would recommend this book.