Posted in Author Q&A

Author Q&A with Dr. David Meredith

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From Goodreads:

Dr. David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. He received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.

Dr. Meredith reached out to me to review his audiobook The Reflections of Queen Snow White. Now that I have finished listening to the novel, he has been so kind as to answer some questions I have.

What got you interested in retellings of classic fairytales?

The original versions of most fairy tales were pretty brutal, (especially compared to the highly sterilized Disney versions that most people are used to). However, despite the fantastical elements, they invariably contain, they are at their root, very real. They speak to our deepest desires, darkest fears, and greatest flaws, but they are also aspirational. They provide us with examples, regardless of how improbable, of how we might overcome desperate circumstances to achieve greatness and contentment in a world where such things often seem rarified and elusive. They give us hope that everything really will work out in the end. The best of them leave you with a sense, on some level, the story really could have happened. I think it was this that led me to choose a fairytale retelling as the vehicle for this particular story

Now, the other part of the inspiration, the real world part, was personal. In the space of about three or four months back in 2006, both of my grandfathers died unexpectedly. As I observed how hard my grandmothers took their deaths, it led me to wonder on their behalf – “So… Now what?”  They had both had wonderful, loving relationships – many long, happy years together (over 60). Suddenly, it was over. It made me wonder, “When your life has been so closely tied up with one other person for so long, what do you do when they are no longer a part of your life? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward?” That was the original kernel of the idea for The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

Do you think Alice in Wonderland is overrated in the fantasy community or do you think the original author left it open to other authors to take their interpretations of the story?

I think it’s important not to conflate the movies with the book. I’ll admit I haven’t been that impressed with any of the screen adaptations I’ve seen. I think what’s missing is the historical context. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in its day was a scathing piece of political satire. In an era when criticizing the British government was punishable with prison time, Lewis Carroll trashed the major political institutions of his day including the queen. A great part of the brilliance in the work is Carroll’s ability make it obvious what he felt were the farcical, hypocritical, and ridiculous realities of British politics and political figures, while skillfully cloaking it as a harmless children’s story. I don’t know that any of the film adaptations have effectively preserved that aspect of the original novel.

What was it like living in Japan? How does their culture influence your teachings and/or writings?

It was an eye-opening experience to live as a minority among people who believed very different things than I did myself. I’d say it made my world and my understanding of my place in it much broader and nuanced. I lived there for nearly a decade and two of my three children were born there, so yes, I’d say it has definitely had a significant impact. I think I am probably better at presenting an affable public face despite frustrations or irritation because of operating so long under their more stringent norms for appropriate public behavior. I also have come to recognize that the foundational “truths” we hold so dear are strongly a function of culture and experience. In regards to my writing, I specifically have a fantasy series based on medieval Japan and Japanese mythology that has been in the works for quite some time, but I haven’t released yet. I’m in the middle of finishing up a Young Adult Sci-Fi series, but as soon as that’s done, I’m planning on turning my attention back to the Japanese fantasy series.

Is Snow White your favorite Disney Princess? If not then who is?

I don’t know that “favorite” is necessarily the right word, but I did think she had the potential for a great deal of complexity that was not adequately explored in the Disney version. With Snow White, I saw a character who had the potential for some interesting darkness that was at the same time also really relatable. I also noticed, however, that fairy tale princesses, particularly of the Disney variety, despite horrible trauma and tragedy don’t appear to suffer the same lasting impact of those experiences as regular people. I felt like this distanced the character from the reader. One would think, that a character who had experienced as much tragedy as Snow White – the death of both parents at an early age, years of horrible abuse and neglect by a stepparent culminating with her attempted murder not once, but three times – would lead to some pretty serious emotional and psychological baggage. At the very least, I think most people can relate to depression. Most have either experienced it themselves or know someone dear to them who has. My approach I think more accurately examines the likely effects that a life of neglect and abuse, like the one Snow White, was forced to endure, would have in real life. It’s the sort of thing that really has the potential to scar a person, and I wanted to explore that emotional struggle more thoroughly.

Did you do any research regarding mental health for reference?

I did. I specifically looked up information about the effects of early childhood trauma on adult mental health, although as an educator by career, I’ve studied a good deal about it in my formal coursework as well.

Do you have any other plans to write other fairytale retellings in the future? Or do you just write as the stories come to you?

I’ve been asked by several people about that, some even going to far as to suggest a series of After-The-Happily-Ever-After novels or novellas, but I worry that might reduce the impact of the original work. There are certainly plenty of fairy tale princesses who experienced trauma, especially in the original versions of the stories, but I don’t want to just write basically the same story over and over again. I won’t say no, but if I do another fairy tale retelling, I’d want it to have a fresh and compelling approach and/or message. So I guess my answer is maybe, but not right now, although I do currently have a couple of other novels out in paperback and eBook on Amazon. I’m about to release book three of the Aaru Series, and that has been my biggest focus of late. Aaru is a near-future Young Adult Sci-Fi novel. You can read the synopsis here: David Meredith’s Amazon Page.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Mr. Meredith! You can read my review of The Reflections of Queen Snow White here.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Marvel Comics

REVIEW: Daredevil vs. Punisher Means & Ends by David Lapham

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*No Major Spoilers* 

*This is a collection of Daredevil vs. Punisher 1-6*

Daredevil and the Punisher vie for the soul of Hell’s Kitchen as half the East Coast’s underworld – in chaos since Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, was deposed – scramble for a shot at the big chair. And as the city descends into chaos – as murder and intimidation become the staples of the day – Daredevil and the Punisher each seek to restore order in their own unique way. For Daredevil this means dispensing justice at the end of a billy club. But for the Punisher, justice at the end of a billy club isn’t justice at all. For the Punisher, justice for these animals is at the end of a shotgun. Featuring more Marvel villains than you can shake a stick at – including Hammerhead and the return of the nefarious… Jackal!

This graphic novel is a must-read if you’re a fan of either Daredevil or the Punisher. They are both on the side of good, they just go about it in different ways. Daredevil believes in the justice system and locking the bad guys up in prison. Punisher has little to no faith left in society and so he only believes in killing the bad guys.

This story is mainly told from the Punisher’s perspective. So if you don’t know anything about the Punisher, the comic will fill you in. This will definitely make you see the flaws in both Daredevil’s and Punisher’s thinking and methods.

One aspect I like about this story is how we find out that the Punisher killed a prominent D.A. and Daredevil said that Punisher crossed the line. When in fact, the D.A. was taking bribes from one of the bad guys. Even though Daredevil finds out the truth later in the story, this shows a major flaw in Daredevil’s beliefs about the justice system.

Overall, if you’re looking for some superheroes fighting each other, even if it’s on a more low-key scale, then this graphic novel is for you. Fans of Daredevil, the Punisher, and Marvel Comics as a whole will enjoy this graphic novel collection.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

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*No Major Spoilers*

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished, and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

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I was contacted by the author to review his novel and to finally come across a fairytale retelling that isn’t based on Alice in Wonderland. So let’s see how this retelling of Snow White stands up.

This novel starts as we find Queen Snow White lost in a state of despair and depression over the death of Prince/King Charming’s death over a year ago. While wandering around the castle she stumbles upon her stepmother’s room. She then finds the magic mirror and soon is forced to face her past.

Overall, considering everything life has thrown her way I honestly wouldn’t blame her for being in a catatonic state. However, she works through all the pain with the magic mirror. He helps her see things for how they really happened, not through the bias and pain she’s built up as a defense.

The story is primarily told through memories and flashbacks. I thought this was an interesting way of telling the story. Snow White and the magic mirror have a long in-depth conversation about how Snow White is seeing things all wrong.

At first, I was concerned that this whole story was going to make it where Snow White feels better instantly. Sadly that’s not how depression works it takes longer than an intense conversation to cure her of her sadness. However, the author shows that Snow White feels better as she learns to see Prince Charming in their daughter, and thus loving what she already has versus missing all that she has lost.

This novel is well written, and I felt like I was transported to Snow White’s kingdom and reliving her memories with her. The author took his time writing this novel and putting a lot of love and care into this world to tell Snow White’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The Reflections of Queen Snow White is a novel I’d recommend for lovers of fairytales and overcoming mental illnesses. Here’s another one where you better have a box of tissues while you’re reading. Snow White learns to live her life again. No one is going to do it but her, however at least she knows she’s no longer alone in the world.

Read on Kindle Unlimited; or with your Audible Subscription.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Vanishing Girl (Daphne and Velma #1) by Josephine Ruby

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*No Major Spoilers*

Popular Daphne Blake and über-nerd Velma Dinkley are not friends. They aren’t enemies either, but they don’t have any reason to speak to each other, and that’s how they prefer it. The two girls grew up together—they’d been best friends since pre-K—but when they hit middle school, Daphne dropped Velma and never looked back.

These days, Daphne’s deep in the popular crowd, daughter of the richest family in town, while Velma’s an outsider, hiding from the world behind her thick glasses. When they run into each other in the halls of Crystal Cove High, they look the other way.

But then Daphne’s best friend, Marcy—who happens to be Velma’s cousin—goes missing. A century ago, there was a wave of disappearances in Crystal Cove, and many local people believe that supernatural forces were behind it. Now the whole town believes those same forces are back…and up to no good.

Daphne and Velma may be the only ones who can solve the mystery and save Marcy—if they can trust each other enough to try. Especially since the truth might be stranger—and scarier—than either girl can imagine…

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If you are a fan of the Scooby-Doo franchise, the fan service is all here. You have references to fan-favorite characters, as well as characters the author created herself. So let’s see how The Vanishing Girl stands up to the typical Scooby-Doo formula.

This novel handles a lot of difficult topics in a very realistic way. Daphne is dealing with the hurt of her parents being divorced and co-parenting. Velma is dealing with being an outcast to everyone around her while her dad is suffering from crippling depression and her mom is the manager at the local theme park. Not only that, but Velma is also working at the same amusement park just to help her family make ends meet.

I felt the issues were handled as any teenager would handle something they couldn’t see the big picture of. Wounds take time to heal, and this novel shows us this throughout the unraveling mystery. After so many hurtful words and actions between Velma and Daphne, they’re not going to be going back to being BFFs overnight.

The mystery of who or what is haunting Crystal Cove is your typical Scooby mystery, a case that seems complex but actually, once solved and explained, is pretty simple. However, since it’s primarily Velma and Daphne working on the case, Shaggy, Scooby, or Fred make many appearances throughout the story.

Even though I was able to solve the mystery before Velma and Daphne, I felt the emotional ride the author took us on was more important and more valuable than the mystery itself. I had to take small breaks at points in the novel to keep myself from getting upset. So get those tissues ready when you read this one!

Overall, as easy as it is to write this off as glorified fanfiction, I really enjoyed The Vanishing Girl. The mystery is well thought out and the drama feels genuine and realistic. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of the Scooby-Doo franchise, fans of female detectives, and young adult readers alike.

Read more of my Scooby-Doo reviews if you enjoyed this review.

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Posted in Movie/TV Reviews

REVIEW: Blacksad: Under the Skin

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*No Major Spoilers*

**This Game and Series is rated M (Video Game Terms) or R (Movie Terms)**

Blacksad: Under the Skin is set in New York City during the 1950s, and takes place chronologically between Blacksad: Arctic Nation and Red Soul. Its story begins when protagonist John Blacksad is approached by Sonia Dunn, daughter of a boxing club owner who has died suspiciously. She asks Blacksad to investigate the situation and locate the club’s starfighter, who has been missing since her father’s death. So it’s up to Blacksad to solve the case, or the daughter will have to shut down her father’s gym forever.

I love the Blacksad series. I am a huge fan of crime noir and hardboiled detectives. This is the perfect series for those that love mysteries and anthropomorphic animals. Blacksad is a private detective who deals with the scum of the Earth. He likes to help others when he can, especially if they are a helpless female.

This game is a must for mystery lovers and visual novels alike. Just when you think you have solved the case before Blacksad, the game throws a wrench in your theory. There were several theories Blacksad had and I was asking him where he came up with that. Nothing against the character himself, it’s just part of being a detective.

I admire how much joy and care the developers put into this game. I can tell they read and studied the graphic novels and took the material to heart when creating this game. The characters are well written and this case was built in a way where I couldn’t solve it before the Blacksad.

Overall, I love this game and I think it’s worth the money for any fans of Blacksad, crime noir, historical fiction, and hardboiled detectives. This game was well worth the money, although I do recommend waiting for it to go on sale, buy it nonetheless. Blacksad: Under the Skin is a great game for fans of Blacksad or just looking for a new mystery to solve.

Read more about Blacksad here!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Oscawana: A Monster Novel by Frank Martin

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*No Major Spoilers*

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault/Child Molestation*

Located just forty-five miles north of New York City and isolated in the hills of Putnam Valley, Lake Oscawana is the perfect summer getaway. At least, that was what April’s mother told her when she dropped April and her brother off to spend the season at their uncle’s lake house. It wasn’t bad at first. April thought she might’ve finally found someone that made her feel like family and a place she could actually call home. But April grew worried when she found something living in the water. Something strange. Something growing. She wanted to tell someone and sound the alarm, but April would have to learn the hard way that not all monsters lurk beneath the water.

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I found this novel on Twitter, a lot of authors I follow retweet their friends’ works. I thought the premise was unique and I couldn’t wait to jump into Oscawana: A Monster Novel!

I feel that the author did a really good job of making Lake Oscawana seem isolated and far away from civilization even though it is in Upstate New York. I felt like I was in the depths of Canada for as far as April had to travel just to get to the nearest small town.

Early in the novel, April stumbles upon the monster when he’s still small and not threatening. They quickly develop a friendship that grows as the monster, who April named Oscar after the lake he lives in, grows in size.

The build-up to the climax is really slow, we’re mostly following April as she watches Oscar grow into an actual killing machine. Even when April comes to this realization, I found Oscar just as adorable and harmless as when April first found him. Oscar reminded me of a genetically modified dog.

April as a character feels so ingenuine from one moment to the next, more or less for the first half of the novel she is your standard teenager who has been let down by the adults around her. Then after the climax, her motives and reasons flip flop. I can’t go into more detail due to spoilers, but it was frustrating.

Shocked, Brad pulled back from the water and watched in horror as what he assumed to be blood spread out like a blooming flower. The crimson tinge was thick and slimy, bouncing a blinding ray of light in Brad’s eyes. He couldn’t look away, though. Brad stared at the ever-expanding slick of blood as it continued to grow until it completely surrounded the boat. –Oscawana: A Monster Story

I feel the ending to be lackluster, the ending feels like there could have been enough for a sequel or even a short story sequel. The ending left me feeling unsatisfying and left me with a lot of questions. Will April reunite with Oscar? Where did Oscar come from? What will happen to Oscar? Maybe these questions will be answered in some way.

Overall, I have mixed feelings towards Oscawana. I think it’s an alright story. I was expecting more monster action but was disappointed when 80% was about the human characters and their drama. If you’re looking for a quick read, I would recommend this novel. The action was great, and the heart and emotion were as well.

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