Thursday, December 27, 2012

Humor: The Best Nonexistent Books of 2012

by Hannah E. Sternberg

Soft as a Petal: A History of the World, Told through Handkerchiefs
Jason Smithson
Hannah Sterberg
This elegant little history is an excellent primer for anyone fascinated with the role of textiles in law, love, and literature. Many authors of popular history have hunted for the perfect "frame story" that would inspire general readers to make sense of the long and tangled threads of world civilization. Smithson's Soft as a Petal puts it in your back pocket. From the hankie's humble beginnings as an all-purpose rag and surrender flag for meek craftsmen on ancient trade routes, to its heyday in Victorian parlors, its near-extinction after the disposable tissue revolution, and its triumphant renaissance alongside the return of the handlebar mustache in the 21st century, the common pocket handkerchief has seen virtually every major turning point of history. Smithson weaves the hankie's story in a humorous, readable style that will make this book one to reach for for years to come.

Eating Will Kill You: The definitive diet book of 2012. Don't miss 2013's The "Eating Will Kill You" Cookbook: 415 Recipes That Will Leave You Hungry for Less.

Guiscard's Lists: Famous People Who Aren't Dead Yet: Perhaps the most useful Guiscard list book this year, it will save you from embarrassing mishaps. Sadly, this one only made our runners-up because of our doubts about its enduring relevance.

Continue reading this humorous post at Hannah's own site here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Memories: The Gift

by Ellen Holzman

It’s not unusual for Meredith to get up before me, get the dog out, start the coffee and turn on the heat in our home office. What I didn’t know was that she was also checking emails on my computer to make sure I didn’t see any of the order confirmations or shipment notifications that were coming through for a gift. And I was bringing home so many presents for nieces and nephews from the post office, that I didn’t notice an extra one. I just handed them all over to her for repackaging and reshipping. I had no reason to be suspicious. 
This year, we had agreed not to buy each other gifts. Since we’re both too close for comfort to age 60, and we generally buy what we want for ourselves anyway, it seemed practical to me. I should have known when she agreed so readily and calmly that something was up. And, looking back on it, there were the questions about where the Menorah was, did we have enough candles for all eight nights of the Festival of Lights, where exactly in the house they should be lit. 

But I was completely surprised when, on the first night of Chanukah this year, Dec. 8, she said, “I can’t wait anymore!” And she handed me a gift-wrapped box. It had odd angles and some soft spots. “Go ahead, feel it,” she said, and the light in her eyes was just as bright as any that would be on the Menorah. “What do you think it is?” 

I rubbed and squeezed and shook it up and down. A nightgown? No. A pair of hiking boots? No. A Scrabble game? No. 

“Open it!” If she had had a tail, it would have been wagging ferociously. So I opened it. 

And we spent hours that night enjoying it. She guided me through starting it up, and trying it out. I will long remember the gift she gave me this year. Not because of what it is — an iPad — but because of how much she enjoyed giving it to me. That’s the gift that will keep on giving.

Ellen Holzman is the talented author of the short story "Call of the Riled," a hilarious and complex mystery told entirely in letters to the editor of a small-town newspaper. It appears in volume three of Istoria's Lunch Reads series--short stories you can devour on a lunch hour.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Memory: Lost in the Forest

by Mary Fisherov

When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and it was still the Soviet Union, and the winters in Russia were very cold, I went to stay with my grandmother in a village for the school winter break. The village was surrounded by dense forests stretching far and wide, its spruces and pine trees covered by a thick layer of snow. If, with your ski pole, you hit a branch of a spruce (branches so thick we called them "paws"), you would be covered by a waterfall of snow descending from it – a pastime that gave a lot of pleasure to us children.

One morning, on January 6th, I could not find any companions willing to go cross-country skiing with me, so I went alone. I was confident that I knew the nearby part of the forest quite well and that I could never lose sight of the tracks. A small blizzard started blowing, and at first I did not pay much attention to it. Then I noticed that the tracks were now covered with a layer of snow. I still thought I knew my way around, but then it started dawning on me that one clearing in the woods looked exactly like another clearing in the woods. Suddenly I had no idea in what direction my house was anymore. I realized that I was lost.

Panic seized me. I was running in one direction, then in another. It was getting darker, and the pine trees in the wind made a noise that resembled the howling of wolves. I started crying and thought that maybe I should try to spend the night in the forest and then start searching for my way again in the morning once the sun came up. But the fear kept me going.

Several hours later I finally stumbled on a highway. The highway at that time of night was empty, but after a while, to my great luck, a truck was passing. To my even greater luck, the driver stopped at my frantic waving and agreed to take me to the village I came from, although he was very much puzzled how I'd ended up so far away from it. When we arrived at the village, we were greeted by everybody and the local police who were, in turns, congratulating me on my miraculous return or seriously scolding me for taking off alone into the forest.

A week or two later, when I was back in Moscow, I received a letter. It was written by somebody in the village, yet it was unsigned and I never learned the name of the sender. The letter told me that, unbeknownst to me, I had gotten lost on the Eve of the Orthodox Christmas (January 7th). And that my calamitous disappearance and my miraculous return turned out  to be a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s strenuous and exhausting journey to Bethlehem and the miracle that happened in a manger. 
Istoria Books is proud to publish in print and digitally Mary Fisherov's historical romance, Love's Destiny Foretold, the sweeping tale of a Russian countess on the run in fin de siecle New York. It is her first work of fiction in English. Enter a Goodreads contest to win a free print copy!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Love's Destiny Foretold by Mary Fisherov

Love's Destiny Foretold

by Mary Fisherov

Giveaway ends December 31, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Where faith isn't preachy; it's just not hidden

by Libby Sternberg

I have to admit that I cringe a bit when I see/hear the word "Inspirational," the name given to a specific genre of fiction. These books include faith elements but leave out any cursing or sex or anything else that might offend a faith-filled reader.

And for this, they're put in a special category, often shelved away from regular fiction, sometimes with religious nonfiction books.

What a shame if readers miss out on finding these novels because of this categorization! And what a shame if readers skip over this category if they think inspirationals are preachy, filled with evangelizing and proselytizing. They're not. They're usually just good stories whose characters don't keep their spiritual sides under wraps. They might talk about their belief in God. They might even quote scriptures or pray. What they don't do is offer up a "Believe or you're going to hell" kind of message. They don't even suggest that their characters' way is the only way.

In fact, I think characters in these books are much closer to the reality of most Americans' lives. Gallup, the well-known polling organization, regularly measures how important religion is in our lives. Its 2010 survey found these numbers holding steady throughout the years, with 54 percent expressing the view that religion was very important in their lives, and 26 percent saying it was "fairly important." While the same poll shows that many Americans see religion losing influence in the country, it still clearly plays a large role in individual lives.

Despite the importance of religion in Americans' lives, faith issues are usually not front and center in most fiction. In fact, if you've ever written a book with faith issues in it, you might find it difficult at times to convince an editor it's not necessarily an "inspirational"--as that genre is understood today-- and you might also find your book reviewed as an "inspirational" when it's not. Both experiences have happened to me.

That said, I am the happy author of two bona fide inspirational novels, books that fall within the genre's parameters. Both are historicals and both deal with the same family. Kit Austen's Journey, the tale of a woman on the Oregon trail running away from secrets and toward a new life, was released through Istoria several years ago, hitting Amazon best seller lists for a time. Mending Ruth's Heart, just released, tells the tale of Kit's granddaughter, on the mend after a tragedy in which her fiance was lost, and finding herself in San Francisco right before the fateful earthquake hits the city in 1906.

In both books, the heroines go to church (or church services, in the case of Kit) and both wrestle with their own behavior and outlook on life in the context of what God expects of them. Kit has to learn to forgive herself for past decisions. Ruth has to learn to set aside a judgmental attitude if she wants others not to unfairly judge her.

In Mending Ruth's Heart, the faith elements are whispers on a breeze, not a dominant part of the story but not hidden. And I think that's what I enjoy about writing inspirationals. You don't need to hide the fact that ordinary people do think about God and their relationships with God. In that way, characters in inspirationals are much more like ordinarily Americans than characters in other books where scant--if any--notice of God or prayer or church is mentioned.

Here's hoping more readers discover the world of inspirationals. No matter what your personal faith level is, these are good stories, well-told about real people confronting moral and spiritual issues in their lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A New Title for a Terrific Book:

by Libby Sternberg

Joyce Yarrow is a wonderful mystery writer whose Jo Epstein books featuring a female poetry-writing private investigator remind me of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series with its quirky female protagonist and layered mysteries. Although Joyce's books are fully her own imaginative creation, they should appeal to the same readers of the bestselling alphabet-titled Grafton series.

In other words, Joyce Yarrow's mystery-writing skills deserve a big audience.

The second in Joyce's Jo Epstein series is released through Istoria Books in digital format. In it, PI Jo attempts to clear her Russian emigre stepfather of a murder he didn't commit, an investigation which takes her to New York and ultimately Russia where she unearths secrets about his past. It's as intricate and layered as the Russian nesting dolls in its original title, The Last Matryoshka.

Personally, I loved that title--once I figured out how to pronounce it! (Mah-troo-shkah is close.) But therein lies the rub. Would other readers stumble over its title, too, not bothering to learn more about the book?

We began to wonder if the title's unpronounceability was a barrier to purchasers. Readers browsing mystery titles for ones they might like encounter a compelling cover with some Russian onion domes, a female PI....and...what is that title again?  Hmm...on to the next one...

For some speedy book buyers, an unfamiliar, unpronounceable title might have them skipping quickly to other selections, in other words, before reading more about Joyce's great book.

So....we've done something that would be extremely difficult to impossible in the print world but is fairly easy in the digital world--we've officially retitled the book CODE OF THIEVES, taking the book off digital shelves and reloading it with its new title, but keeping it linked to the hardcover version that carries the other title.

CODE OF THIEVES communicates mystery and the underlying premise of the book, the inner workings of the Russian criminal class, the vory.

We're hoping that this new title -- CODE OF THIEVES (we love it so much, I have to repeat it!) -- will keep mystery lovers on the page to read more about the book, its terrific reviews and Joyce Yarrow.

This is one of the benefits of digital publishing--it allows publishers to be nimble, to experiment, to never give up on a book that deserves as wide an audience as possible.

Now, go on over and pick up a digital copy of CODE OF THIEVES by Joyce Yarrow! Now that you can pronounce the title, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Russian novelist's first book in English: Love's Destiny Foretold

Love’s Destiny Foretold, by Russian native Mary Fisherov, is a sweeping historical love story that brings together an exiled Russian countess, an opera singer, and a world-traveling playboy in the slums and mansions of 1890s New York City as they seek love, fortune and safety. A swirling confection of a story, Love’s Destiny Foretold is a combination of delicious action and witty surprises, for fans of larger-than-life storytelling, epic romance, and some sly observations of “revolutionaries.”

Mary Fisherov is an internationally published writer of literary fiction whose novels have been translated into German, Spanish, and French. She has been awarded several literary prizes in her native Russia. Love’s Destiny Foretold is her first work in English.

Fisherov, who comes from a literary family, is on the Classics faculty of a California state university. Here, she responds to Istoria’s questions about her book and herself:

One of the major characters in your book is an opera star. You describe the music she sings so well that one can almost hear it. Are you an opera fan? If so, what are your favorites?
Fisherov: In my twenties, I discovered opera for myself and became a huge fan for awhile. One of my first discoveries was the ”Ring" cycle at the Met. The seats I could afford were at the very top of the opera house, and the height always made me dizzy. This is how I remember opera: being overwhelmed by music and dizzy from the height. And since Wagner was, in my head, connected with my memory of New York, I made my heroes involved with his music. Wagner, Ellis Island, and Tenement Museum: the triangle of impressions.

Because of the book's operatic feel, it also has a very melodic quality to it. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what? If you could recommend a "play list" for readers to listen to while reading Love’s Destiny Foretold, what would it include?
Fisherov: Unfortunately, I absolutely cannot do two things at once - say, write and listen to music. The only sound I can tolerate while writing is the hum of people's voices in a coffee shop. I think that prose has its own music inspired by the language itself. As a non-native speaker, I was never sure if I got that melodic quality in English. I am very happy that you seem to have perceived it in my text. As a "play" list I would recommend Wagner's The Flying Dutchman and Tristan and Isolde, Rimsky-Korsakov's Sadko (the air of magic and incantation),  Ravel's Bolero (for Raoul's madness in the book); and then you have noticed a Carmen motif!

There is at times an almost surreal character to the novella that reminds one of the same quality in, say, the movie Moulin Rouge. Were you attempting to paint that kind of picture? What experience were you hoping the reader would have?
Fisherov: I suppose it is just me, my signature, I cannot write otherwise. Readers find that my other books have a slightly surreal, dreamlike atmosphere about them. I do not attempt to give this impression on purpose - I suppose it is a reflection of how I perceive the world. My task when writing this book was just to write a romance novel, a completely new genre for me. But, I guess, it was unavoidable that I brought some of my previous writing experience into it.

The character of the opera singer herself, Lilane Ferraro, is brilliantly done. Did you have a particular opera singer in mind when writing her?
Fisherov: In some way I was inspired by Maria Callas, who started out as an overweight and completely unglamorous teenager. There was that divine beauty of her voice - and then, by an almost superhuman effort, she transformed her looks, brought them in accordance with her voice, so that her outer shell would express the vocal beauty: turned herself into a goddess.

You have noted that the Russian agents, Kislin and Gerashchenko, are modeled after Russian leaders Vladmimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev. Tell us a little about what you were parodying here in each of them.
Fisherov: I just needed to model the secret service guy on somebody - and I realized I have one just in front of me, he is actually running my country. I know that Putin, like my Kislin, had that dream of working for the secret service from an early age. The KGB was, of course, a most evil organization. Yet evil has always something of an operetta in it, evil is never great or tragic (the suffering it inflicts is tragic). Thus the secret agents serve as a comic relief in my novella. The cold-hearted one needed a sidekick, someone more human. So I gave him Gerashchenko.

Your book lightly, elegantly pokes a little fun at "revolutionaries" especially when Vera wonders about whether "loving humanity" would allow her to love Gabriel, just "one man." Could you share some thoughts on that, on what you wanted readers to come away with from these and similar scenes?
Fisherov: Vera's prototype was the real Russian 19th century anarchist Vera Zasulich who attempted to assassinate Trepov, the colonel who ordered a young man flogged. Russian revolutionaries - I am talking of highly educated, idealistic young men and women - committed atrocities in the name of that abstract love for humanity. It is obvious for us now that abstractions and ideologies cannot have anything in common with real love. Love must be something very concrete. The heart learns to love during an entire life: one meets sometimes these wise old people who are marvelously in love with the entire creation.

You have written literary fiction, but Love’s Destiny Foretold is a romance novella, a delightful confection of a book. Could you tell us why you decided to explore this genre?
Fisherov: Once, in an airport, I was in a very good mood and picked up a novel by Tessa Dare - I guess I was lucky because she writes really well. I never read romance novels before, and was quite stunned at the possibilities this genre offered. Shortly before that, I finished writing a poem that was quite sad, hard, and I very much wanted to amuse myself. In the airplane, I imagined what I would write if I were a romance novelist, and came up with the Love’s Destiny Foretold story.

That summer I was reading a fascinating book by Jack Finney, Time and Again, about a man who time-travels into the late 19th century New York. I especially loved the descriptions of the Elevated Railroad and the Ladies' Mile! My romance novel was very much inspired by it.

Writing it requited a giant leap of faith for me: I do believe in love, of course, but I do not believe in happy endings. However, I suspended my disbelief for the time I needed to finish it.

How long have you lived in America?
Fisherov: I have spent four years on the East Coast in the Nineties, and five past years in California.

This is your first book in English. Would you tell us a little about the challenges of writing in a language that is not your native tongue? Do you know/speak other languages?
Fisherov: In Russia I am asked sometimes if I would ever write a novel about the U.S. Instead of writing about the U.S., I decided to write an American novel. Not in the sense of the Great American Novel, of course. But American in the sense of musicals and potboilers, written in the way that seems American to us, Russians: plot twists, cliffhangers, a dynamic sequence of events, a happy end. Writing it in Russian seemed counterintuitive to me. But in English it came to me quite naturally.

Since English is not my native language, I aimed first and foremost for clarity and precision, to make myself understood. In general, I love foreign languages, I speak a bunch of them. Right now I am learning Catalan.

It is reported that Chekhov once said if you place a gun on the mantelpiece in Act I, someone needs to fire it by the end of the play. You set many "guns" on the mantelpiece and fire them all by the end of the book -- were you aware of that saying?
Fisherov: Yes, very much so! It is a saying that I remember from the school bench. Our existence may be random, but every detail of a creative work must have a purpose. Maybe art is just that: a stubborn fight of human soul against the aimlessness of physical life.
Mary Fisherov's first English-language book, the romance novella Love's Destiny Foretold, will be available this month (May 2012) for Kindle and for Nook and other ereaders midsummer.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joyce Yarrow: From the Crime-Ridden Bronx to Crime-Ridden Mystery Novels

Istoria Books is thrilled to release Joyce Yarrow's mystery,  Code of Thieves (originally titled The Last Matryoshka in hardcover), this March. Here Joyce talks about her life, her PI brother, her writing, and her thoughts on "place as character":

Tell us about your writing journey -- when you started, if you always wanted to write mystery, what led you to mystery writing.

Joyce: Ah, my writing journey. Most writers start as readers. The public library was just a few blocks from our apartment in the Bronx and was definitely the safest place in our crime-ridden neighborhood, where gangs rumbled every night and even walking to school could prove perilous.

My own writing juices began to flow when I discovered the music hidden within words. I set William Blake’s poem, “Infant Sorrow” to a melody with guitar accompaniment and went on to become a full-fledged singer-songwriter, with many side journeys into poetry published in short-lived magazines. Wonderful days!  When I moved to Los Angeles, I got caught up in the film world and was hired to script narration for a documentary (my first gig as a professional writer). This meant sitting in the editing room and “writing to picture,” a great discipline for a writer—you have to let the visuals speak for themselves and use words merely to enrich the viewer’s experience. 
I loved writing for film and TV, but the cleaner my prose grew the more I wanted to try my hand at writing a book in which words would be allowed to breathe. The gap between writing scripts and short stories to authoring novels seemed impossibly wide and I wondered if I could close the distance by writing a mystery novel. The mystery genre is highly structured and requires strong characters, a tight plot that builds suspense, and a satisfying solution at the end—at least I would not get lost in the wilderness of literary fiction (that came later). An avid mystery reader, I was a total neophyte when it came to mystery categories. So when my first book, Ask the Dead, was published and hailed as Bronx Noir, I had to look up noir to make sure I knew what that meant. 

You are a Bronx native. Can you tell me a little about what growing up there was like? How'd you land in Seattle?

Joyce: I vividly remember reading The Little Princess at the age of eight. Growing up in the Southeast Bronx, it was easy to relate to a heroine who survived by living entirely in her imagination. We lived on a street that had the highest crime rate in New York (no kidding!). Being observant was also a prerequisite for survival. I think this vigilance on my part gave me some foundational skills as a writer – I became a people watcher at an early age out of necessity.

I’ve sampled life in places all around the country and settled in Seattle because of the supportive scene here for artists of all kinds. The Northwest has much natural beauty and is also a great place to raise a family. Not to mention the plentiful micro-breweries…

A matryoshka
(pronounced ma-TROO-shkah)
You have a brother who was a P.I. Your protagonist, Jo Epstein, is a P.I. Did you rely on your brother heavily for background? 

Joyce: My brother Rick has carefully reviewed my books for accuracy about the P.I. lifestyle. It irks him that in so many books the P.I.’s end up not being paid. I was only 14 when Rick finished criminology school and was hired to conduct his first surveillance—a warehouse in New Jersey. I begged him to take me with him and we still laugh about that. Maybe that night was the genesis for my becoming a mystery writer – I wanted to find out what I had missed!

Can you tell us any funny/interesting stories your brother shared with you about being a P.I.?

Joyce: My brother is the soul of discretion – a prerequisite for staying employed as a P.I.  However, Rick did share the following story with me recently:

Many years ago, in Los Angeles, an elderly Italian man came to see me. He said he thought his wife was cheating on him. She was always late coming home from work and wouldn’t tell him where she’d been. He handed me a photo I assumed would show off his ‘trophy wife,’ some kind of blonde bombshell. Instead I saw a swarthy, short, very plump woman dressed in black.

The next evening, I waited at the sewing factory for end of the shift. When the doors opened, out came what seemed like hundreds of short, plump women, all dressed in black. It was impossible to pick out his wife.

The next day, I bought a box of chocolates and asked the security guard to give it to Mrs. __ when she came out. The strategy worked and I followed her out the gate. She went to a church where a bingo game was in progress. And as it turned out, she went to a different church every night to play bingo. Her husband disapproved of gambling but was immensely relieved to find out that bingo, rather than infidelity, was the reason for his wife’s strange behavior.

Code of Thieves takes place in Russia, as well as New York. Tell me a little about your trip to Russia for research, how much of it made its way into the book.

Joyce: I have been accused of becoming a novelist simply to justify my wanderlust.  The trip to Russia with my teenage son was the epitome of mind-expanding adventure. We stayed in what was once a communal apartment in Moscow and Ian never complained about the lumpy bed or the bland food. But when we entered Vladimir Central Prison and the doors clanged shut behind us , he turned to me and said, “Mom, this is not the usual tourist experience, is it?”

In addition to the prison, almost every place we visited in Russia made its way into Code of Thieves. Lena’s apartment in Moscow, the Monastery of St. Euthimius and the Matryoshka factory in Suzdal, the headquarters of the Moscow Criminal Police at 38 Petrovka Street, the chaos at Sheremetyevo International Airport, even the disco of the Vladimir Hotel. The trip was invaluable . So was Google Earth, which I used to explore many settings in Code of Thieves that I did not visit personally. 

The settings in Code of Thieves -- both Russia and New York, but especially Russia -- are so strongly portrayed you can almost hear balalaika music in the background! Tell me a little about why such strong settings are important to you as a writer, how they almost become a separate character in your books.

Joyce: Like a bass player in a band, a story’s setting plays an essential role that is often not fully appreciated. How can one tell a credible tale without including geographical and cultural details that reveal personality and create atmosphere?  

Scandals, the New York nightclub where Jo Epstein exchanges security services for rent, is a “person” as much as a place. As Jo puts it:

Scandal’s was like a woman who dressed down every night, progressively shedding her layers of respectability. For dinner she wore her business clothes—hosting those who were out to impress a client with trendy insider dining and phony “I bumped into so-and-so” stories. The poetry slam loosened things up—definitely casual—but some basic coherence was still required to deliver words from the stage. It was after hours when Scandal’s jettisoned her inhibitions and stripped to her undies, sleek lingerie, thongs, whatever was handy. At that point it was my job to prevent bad things from happening—to keep an eye on what went on in the bathrooms that wasn’t related to hygiene, to listen for voices that crossed the boundary from boisterous to confrontational, and to make sure it was the drinks, and not the police, that kept coming.

Why did you decide to make Jo a poet? It's such an unusual combination -- poet and P.I. Were you tipping your hat to other famous investigators with unusual hobbies (Sherlock Holmes and the violin, for example)?

Joyce: I had no idea I was going to write about a poet/detective. Until one night at the Sit ‘n Spin (a bar in Seattle that shared space with a Laundromat), the Slam MC started ad-libbing on stage. Her street-smart wisecracks, mixed with erudite comments on performance poetry and rabble-rousing quips, got me to thinking. What if she were actually a private investigator moonlighting as a poet? I got out my notebook and Jo Epstein was born.

Who are your favorite mystery writers/series?

Joyce: I teach workshops on The Place of Place in Mystery Writing, and some of the mystery writers I feature who consistently create memorable settings are Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, and Kate Atkinson. And of course Georges Simenon—Inspector Maigret is Paris. I also read a lot of non-genre fiction and lately many Indian authors, such as Kiran Desai, whose sense of place is so palpable you can touch, taste and smell the atmosphere in every paragraph.

Will readers be seeing more of Jo Epstein?

Joyce: Maybe.
Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow (Istoria Books, March 2012)
Full-time private investigator/part-time poet Jo Epstein travels to New York and eventually to Russia to help clear her emigre stepfather of a murder rap and to discover who is sending him threatening messages in the form of Russian nesting dolls (mastryoshkas). Her journey takes her to dark places in her stepfather's background and in Russia's history as it shrugged off the weight of communism and embraced a frightening new freedom. Hear Joyce read a snippet from the book here.
  • "Intricately layered like the Russian nested doll..."  Library Journal
  • "You'll want to discover the secrets buried in (Code of Thieves)..." Lesa Holstine, Lesa's Book Critiques
  • "Joyce Yarrow....may very well prove herself to be the Mickey Spillane of the 21st century...." Seattle Post Intelligencer

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two Russian-Themed Novels Acquired!

January 31, 2012
Joyce Yarrow’s mystery: The Last Matryoshka
Russian native Mary Fisherov's historical love story: Love’s Destiny Foretold

Istoria Books, a digital publisher dedicated to releasing “eBooks You Want to Read at Prices You Want to Pay” ™ has recently acquired digital rights to two novels, both with Russian elements.

Istoria will publish Joyce Yarrow’s mystery, The Last Matryoshka, in early March 2012. The Last Matryoshka was released in hardcover by Five Star/Cengage in December 2010. A mystery as layered as the Russian nesting doll of its title, The Last Matryoshka follows a poetry-writing P.I. as she attempts to keep her Russian √©migr√© stepfather from being fingered for murder. Action in the book takes place in both Brooklyn and Moscow. Library Journal has praised The Last Matryoshka, calling it an “intricately layered tale of vengeance and hatred flavored with a Russian cultural backdrop…”

Yarrow is a Pushcart nominee, whose stories and poems have been widely published. Her first book, Ask the Dead (Martin Brown 2005) was selected by The Poisoned Pen as a Recommended First Novel and hailed as “Bronx noir.” A Bronx native, she now lives in Seattle and gives regular workshops on the use of place in novels. Yarrow is represented by Stephanie Rostan of Levine and Greenberg Literary Agency. 

In May 2012, Istoria will release Love’s Destiny Foretold by Russian native Mary Fisherov. A sweeping historical love story that brings together an exiled Russian countess, an opera singer, and a world-traveling playboy in the slums and mansions of late nineteenth-century New York City, Love’s Destiny Foretold is a combination of delicious action and witty surprises, for fans of larger-than-life storytelling, epic romance, and some sly satires of contemporary Russian government. Fisherov lampoons Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev through two Russian agents in her novel.

Fisherov is an internationally published writer of literary fiction whose novels have been translated into German, Spanish, and French. She has been awarded several literary prizes in her native Russia. Love’s Destiny Foretold is her first work in English.

Fisherov, who comes from a literary family, is on the Classics faculty of a California state university.


Istoria Books, founded in 2010, publishes fiction in a variety of genres: romance, women’s fiction, historical, literary, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, young adult. Submission guidelines are available at their

Istoria Books releases are available on all major ebook etailers, most notably Amazon’s Kindle store, and, in addition to others.

A humorous piece by Istoria Editor-in-Chief Libby Sternberg about the evolution to the Kindle (“From Papyrus to Gutenberg to Kindle”) was published by the Wall Street Journal on January 5, 2011.

Reviewers interested in Istoria Books offerings should contact Libby Sternberg at or