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The GOLD TRAIN Blog Tour is over and I wanted to thank all my wonderful blog hosts and reviewers for their hospitality, time and valuable opinions.

As a wrap up of the tour, I decided to feature some of the coolest, most original and controversial of the GOLD TRAIN review questions and interviews. I wanted to mention that I never met any of my reviewers before they read/reviewed my book. Some asked me to review GOLD TRAIN, others I approached myself, and some bought the book, read it and were gracious enough to write a review. Eventually, I became very good friends with some of my reviewers, sometimes despite differences, or because we had so much in common – or both!

I am immensely grateful to all those who took the time to read and review my books! The feedback I received has helped me not only understand better my own writing, but also aided me in shaping up the future world of my heroine, Jade Snow.

This interview is so different and fun, so stand alone, that I call it The Centerpiece of the GOLD TRAIN Blog Tour.” Author and blogger Jason Sullivan of DIFFERENT OUTCOMES blog interviewed me on May 1st, or May Day, as it is called and celebrated around the world. And we wanted to make this interview very, very special! It came out quite yummy, all thanks to Jason’s amazing questions: cool, in-depth and very unusual!

The interview includes a fun history primer of the Russian Civil War and a candid discussion about the fates of the descendants of Russia’s noble houses; a Russian/Soviet movie and book list; a chat about Jade Snow and what went into the creation of this unusual character; what it was like growing up in the Soviet Union and how May Day was celebrated in the USSR, as well as today’s Russia.

Included are also some awesome pics from another world – another era, and the story of my own thrilling Russian train adventure when my mother put me on the wrong train as a child.

Says Jason: “Luckily, the story has a happy ending due to the fact that the child in question was an intrepid thriller writer in the making.”

This is such a great interview, it is so chock-full of interesting, one-of-a-kind information – all thanks to Jason’s talent for asking terrific questions and for making his subject feel comfortable answering them! I HIGHLY recommend that you read it on Jason Sullivan’s blog DIFFERENT OUTCOMES! And I promise, you are gonna love it!

Review: 5 Stars – Solid Gold Thriller, February 18, 2012, by Jason Sullivan, Author, The Dark Yergall

This is an excerpt from Jason’s review of GOLD TRAIN. Read the entire review on his blog!

“If you enjoyed the charming young detective, Jade Snow, in Stepford, USA, you will absolutely love her next adventure in Gold Train… This thriller has it all! It has the two romantic locations of Moscow and St. Petersburg for its backdrop. It has real princes and princesses, who may or may not be undercover agents and spies. It has the whisperings of revolution, deepening international intrigue, plus beautiful trains and huge piles of gold!

Jade, however, is the real treat. She does not have super powers, nor even any formal training in the spy business, but she is daring, and clever, and her heart is always in the right place. She must rely on her intution to make choices her life, and world peace, depend on. Read Gold Train and be transfixed as Jade stays one step ahead of her adversaries through quick thinking and bold actions. This book is so believable it reads like a true story. Lada Ray takes you inside the grand houses of Russia to witness an unfolding mystery you will not soon forget.”

Next, a brand new review and May 4 blog tour stop by M.G. Edwards, Author of the new adventure book, Kilimanjaro.

This review is especially notable because Mike is a fellow writer residing in Thailand. What’s more, he is a former U.S. State Department official and American diplomat. I believe we both had started our careers well after the end of the Cold War, but if it happened earlier, we conceivably could have found ourselves on the opposite sides of the trenches, figuratively speaking of course. But no, not really. When I grew up in the Soviet Union, I was very far from politics, my interests lie abroad and I was very much critical of the direction the country was taking in the late 1980s – beginning of 1990s. For more on that, read my interview with Jason Sullivan at Different Outcomes Blog.

In today’s globalized world, Mike and I met on Twitter and became good friends, our “ideological differences” notwithstanding ;), once again demonstrating the fallacy of fighting instead of working together. And so, Mike’s review, bringing up a certain controversy, is very interesting. Below is an excerpt.

Review: 5 Stars -Gold Train is Golden, May 3, 2012.

Read the entire review and my guest post, Russia and I, at the WORLD ADVENTURERS blog.

“From the very first chapter, Lada weaves vivid descriptions of Russia and Russian culture into a story filled with thrilling suspense.

As someone with a keen interest in international affairs, I was happy to read the author’s unique portrayal of Russia, and in particular, Russian intelligence. So many western novels since the days of the Soviet Union have painted Mother Russia and the “Russians” as a nemesis, a stereotype that has continued, albeit muted, since the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Her account is a refreshing look at Russia today and a rare positive portrayal of the Russian authorities. While the truth may be different than her depiction, I give her high marks for originality. For Western audiences, it’s a new take on an old storyline usually reserved for Russia’s former Cold War foes. Her deep appreciation of Russian culture is apparent in her writing and translates well to readers. Lada does an excellent job navigating a subject that can be easily politicized — Russian politics – in a disarming way. Those with an eye for fashion will enjoy the exquisite descriptions of the trappings of European royalty.

I give Gold Train 5 stars overall. The novel includes all the elements of a novice spy-thriller masterpiece, from smart writing to a crisp plot that moves along with action and ties up loose ends, great plot twists, memorable characters, good dialogue, and fabulous descriptions. That said, it doesn’t achieve the threshold of greatness reserved for classic spy thrillers written by John LeCarré, Frederick Forsyth, and others. Perhaps, in time and another book, Jade will rise to the level of a Kay Scarpetta or Kinsey Millhone.”

I want to thank Mike for mentioning me in the same paragraph with John LeCarré, even if it was in a somewhat critical sense. In DRAGON GATE and the following books, Jade and I will strive to achieve the level of greatness of this Master of the genre. 😉 Although perhaps it should be considered that I am not trying to emulate past writers and that Jade is a new and original character with her own ideas of how to act and develop as her destiny unfolds.

On my end, I have to give Mike high marks too, for bringing up the point about Western novels painting Russia and the “Russians” as a nemesis. I felt that the field had gotten way too lopsided and that someone had to even it out, even if just a little bit. Might as well be me… The distortion has gotten so disproportionate in fact, that it fails to resemble the truth even remotely. Watching some of the Western movies, or attempting to read some of the Western books relating to Russia makes me cringe.

And I want to ask my readers this: do you even remember those negative movies or books you were fed by the US media? Do you recall their titles? Did they do well in the box office? Probably not. Because the truth has a very funny way of sorting itself out. But everyone will always remember the classics, for instance: Gorky Park, The Russians Are Coming, Read Heat, The Russia House, and a few others. Why? Because these authors/movie makers didn’t take an easy way out, and because they told the TRUTH.

Review: 5 Stars – Brilliantly Written – A MUST Read December 20, 2011: Hayley Sale, The  Kindle Book Review.

Hayley was Gold Train’s very first reviewer and I just loved how she managed to express so much – and so many thoughts that immediately resonated with me – in a relatively short review. I think her review speaks for itself! Below are a few excerpts:

“The plot lines… were brilliantly written and the story is just fantastic – there are layers that go deeper and deeper as we go along. I found that the way the author described the scenery and landmarks of Russia was just amazing – it made me want to go and visit myself. I was as interested in reading about the landmarks as I was about the actual storyline! This book had it all, not only a great mystery, and action but a little romance and even some humour. It really was superb, fast paced and well written. For me it was also one of those books that gets you thinking about things – even after you finish reading. I really hope that we get to hear more from Jade Snow and also Alexi.”

Hayley’s blog, MY LOVE OF READING was also a GOLD TRAIN Blog Tour stop on 4/29/12.  Here are a few excerpts that I especially liked:

How do you go about making the setting come alive for the reader?

I call creating the right setting: anchoring the story in the here and now. As such, I am a big believer in creating a beautiful, vibrant setting, which comes alive for the reader. It is extremely important to anchor the story in both the time and space, so that the reader can be actively present every moment inside the story and participate directly in everything that happens. A beautiful, stand out setting can sometimes make or break the story.

I certainly put a lot of effort into creating a setting that speaks to the reader, one that fascinates, entertains – and absolutely does not let you go. I usually visualize the place, as well as what is happening in the scene, as if in a movie. I play the movie in my head, until it translates into words. Sometimes I need to feel the texture, touch the scene, so to speak.

Since GOLD TRAIN is action adventure thriller, it has lots of action scenes. To make such action scenes come alive within the particular setting, I would usually re-enact them. Besides making the scene crisp and believable, this game is also lots of fun!

What’s next for Jade Snow?

Jade Snow adventures continue! There are many more mysteries to solve, conspiracies to uncover and wrongs to right. There is also much happiness to find.

The next Jade Snow adventure, DRAGON GATE, will take her to the mystical lands of Asia where Jade has to solve another mystery, uncover another conspiracy and avert yet another global disaster. DRAGON GATE will be released later this year. Incidentally, you can read exclusive description and excerpt from DRAGON GATE in GOLD TRAIN Paperback (release 4/25/12). For a limited time, GOLD TRAIN paperback is available on Amazon for $9.99 (reg. $14.95)

Will we see Alexei, the mystery man who captures Jade’s heart in Gold Train, in the future Jade Snow Adventures?

Absolutely! The relationship between Jade and Alexei is the kind both men and women dream about their entire lives. A match made in Heaven – literally. Yet seemingly, it’s not meant to be, or at least, it’s not going to be easy…

But I’ll let you in on my secret. I have big plans for both Jade and Alexei. They can’t help but keep bumping into each other, first in Asia (DRAGON GATE), and later in Siberia, Russia, where Jade will be traveling after her Asia adventure. I have hinted in Gold Train that there is more treasure to be found. That was done for a reason, as Jade and Alexei will head to the legendary Lake Baikal in Siberia for the continuation of the Tsar’s gold saga. And their relationship will continue developing throughout the series with heart-stopping twists and turns throughout.

Dear reader, please join us for the future Jade Snow adventures, where Jade and I promise you a non-stop thrill ride with heart!

What other books are you working on right now?

I am also working on THE EARTH SHIFTER, a new YA fantasy/thriller, set in Russia, USA and China. It will also be released in 2012.

All up-to-date information about my present and future books may be found at my official author site: http://www.LadaRay.com.

Read Hayley’s review of Gold Train and the entire interview here!

5 Stars – Jade Snow is to journalism, what Jason Bourne is to action and espionage. December 29, 2011.  J.J. Collins, Author, Famine to Freedom, Irish in the American Civil War. 

I initially approached Jason Collins – now my favorite Irishman residing in London – regarding a review because he wrote about the history of the American Civil War. And there is a lot about the Russian Civil War in Gold Train. I thought it would be great to get his perspective. And his review totally exceeded my expectations! When he mentioned Jason Bourne, one of my great favorites in the contemporary thriller literature and film, I was blown away! It never occurred to me to compare Jade to Jason Bourne, but it made perfect sense!

And his comparison brought home an important point. Don’t try to tell your readers what other books yours resonates with; let them decide for themselves. So I removed a reference to The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure from the GOLD TRAIN’s product description. Since then, the reviewers took it upon themselves to compare Jade and GOLD TRAIN to Jason Bourne, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew (the adult version), and even to Twilight (with a pulse and a Vodka twist)!

Jason Collins’ review makes a lot of great points. Here are some of them:

“The author has managed to develop a character with a fascinating thoughtful purpose. “Gold Train” is an absolute must read, the author goes beyond the obvious and whisks us along into the heart-stopping world of Jade Snow with breath-taking appeal for the next paragraph and page. The author’s knowledge and comprehension of the Russian political scene brings a very credible and believable level of authenticity to the plot.”

Read this terrific review, along with Jason’s review of the Jade Snow Prequel, Stepford USA here!

5 Stars – A Race for Gold! December 30, 2011, Kate’s Reads

A review excerpt by the lovely Kate:

“Gold Train is a fast paced thrill ride filled with great characters you will love and villains you will hate. And maybe a few you won’t know whether to love or hate. This is definitely one to read!”

Kate’s stop along the GOLD TRAIN Blog Tour route was on 4/28. Read the entire interview and review here. Here is an excerpt:

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you decided to be a writer.
When I decided to start writing, I wrote My Manifesto, in which I pretty much summarized the answer to this question:
For years, I was afraid to take a risk. As we all grow up being conditioned by our society and parents, so did I.
And this was my conditioning: I broke through the Iron Curtain, moved across oceans and continents, traveled to exotic countries, translated foreign languages, worked for major companies and mastered new professions… but in all that time I was utterly terrified to do something totally unchartered and intimidating – sitting down and writing a book.
My fear is gone. I’ve done my share of the same-old-same-old routine! It’s time to explore that which is aching to be explored – the murky waters of the human psyche, the dangerous landscapes of what was, and the fascinating, undiscovered world of what can be. As I make the most crucial and courageous step of my life, I am finally sitting down at my desk to write these words. I am officially the explorer of the ultimate frontier, located right here, at my computer.
I am ready for new adventures! Are you?
March, 2011

5 StarsReview for Rachel’s Book Reviews, February 18, 2012

Check out this cool and witty review from one super-talented teenager:

“Based on actual events, I found it an amazing book. I felt like it was true to Russia, like I was actually there, spying on uprising monarchists. If I were to make a comparison, I would say it reminded me of Nancy Drew, always in the right place at just the wrong time. Except this is an adult version. On top of breakneck action, the ending blew my socks off. I really wasn’t expecting that to happen! It was 100% an original book. It’s even inspired me to learn Russian (that’ll be an adventure in itself!) Like Jade I think it’ll give me new insight to people in my family I never knew. (although, here’s to hoping it won’t involve a murder!)”

A few more review excerpts from the Gold Train readers:

5 Stars – by Madeline Walsh, New York, December 21, 2011: “In Gold Train, I think everyone will find mystery, suspense, action, passion, romance… and an amazing timeless story!”

5 star spy thriller, grips you to the end! March 17, 2012: “The protagonist, Jade Snow is a strong, independent journalist with international appeal. Her intuition, ability to reason and deductive prowess rivals the great Sherlock Holmes. This has got to be one of the coolest, most explosive and passionate novels I read in a very long time! The novel is very well written. I can’t say enough about it… has you hanging on the edge of your seat! Read it and you’ll see what I mean!”

5 Stars – Extreme Journalism to the MAX, totally original mystery adventure,  May 3, 2012: “I’ve learned a ton about the real treasures of Russia… it’s people and it’s vision… Absolutely love it!!”

Check out these and other reviews on Amazon.

4 Stars – Suspense thriller with Russia as its backdrop, March 8, 2012, Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This review stirred up a bit of controversy:

“Jade is a bright likeable character. She is educated and good at connecting the dots. While she has no training as a detective, her inquisitive mind and investigative reporting skills find her entwined in the mystery. I loved Jade the detective, but struggled to like Jade the person. While on this adventure she strays and breaks her marriage vows. Call me old fashioned, but this doesn’t sit well with me; even though the romance was passionate and Jade felt he was her soul mate. I realize this won’t affect everyone, so do not let this deter you from a great adventure. For more delicate readers, I must warn you that while most is implied, the romance does get pretty hot and heavy. The plot developed at a good pace, and the tale kept me captivated.”

I’ve addressed the controversy in question in one of my previous posts: Jade Snow: Savior or Seductress. Check it out!

Kimba also was gracious enough to host my blog tour on 5/3 as well as the Giveaway for 1 Gold Train paperback and 1 ebook. Check out both at Kimba The Caffeinated Blog.

Kimba asks some really COOL questions and here is an excerpt from our interview:

Your novels take place all over the world. Do you travel or do you research all of these places?

I traveled all my life, for as long as I can remember. I am fluent in several languages and have been to over twenty six countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America, as well as Africa. I worked in Havana, Cuba as an interpreter for the Russian educational exchange delegations, including a couple of interviews with the man himself – Fidel Castro.
I rely heavily on my memory and knowledge of a particular place and period. But in addition, I always do a lot of research to verify and clarify the smallest details. That’s what makes every scene come alive, and that’s what makes the book believable.
Tell us about your protagonist, Jade Snow.
My books are very international and I am a big believer in capturing life in all its complexity and facets. Jade Snow is a very strong, independent, smart and sexy heroine. She is also a citizen of the world and her heart is always in the right place, as one reviewer pointed out. She has to go through a lot and get tested to the limit during her adventures.
I can’t emphasize enough how much our contemporary literature needs the smart and strong female characters and role models who are also real, genuine people. And how much we need more people with intelligence, courage and heart in our everyday lives! In the new world of the 21 century, we have to learn to live and work together, regardless of prejudices and borders, to understand each other and help those in need, whether it is by saving a stranger’s life, averting global disaster, or by a simple act of random kindness.
Where do you like to write? Do you have a writing schedule?
I prefer to write at my large and comfortable writing table at home, in my room full of books and inspiring pictures. Sometimes I write at a café.
I don’t keep to a certain schedule, but if I don’t write for a while, I feel as if something is missing in my life.
What actress would you choose to portray Jade Snow?
Several years ago I’d say: Nicole Kidman. But today… she’d be too old. Jade is a very youthful 30 in Gold Train and she’s 28 in Stepford USA.
I would choose Keira Knightley. She has the right character and personality and can play someone smart, witty, sexy, independent, courageous, a dash tricky and a little vulnerable, too. Of course, she’d have to become a redhead. 😉

Coffee or tea?

Great question! Both actually. Love the coffee aroma, especially Turkish or authentic Italian. Tea: I have a great collection of authentic green teas from China, India and Japan at home. Every writer needs a boost! Inspiration and caffeine are practically siblings!

If you had to be an animal for twenty-four hours, what would you be and why?

Ahhh… I’d be an Ussurian Tiger. The largest cat in existence, the most beautiful and the most rare. Found only in one spot on the planet: Ussurian Taiga, the Russian Far East. Was on the brink of extinction with only 29 tigers left just ten years ago, but now the population is up to 500. Like all cats, has an amazing night vision.

Or, I’d be a white eagle. Love the color, plus the ability to soar high and see everything from above. Both of these magnificent creatures take part in my upcoming YA fantasy/thriller, THE EARTH SHIFTER, to be released in 2012.

What kind of reader would like your novel?

Gold Train is for the fun loving, dynamic, adventurous people, who have open minds and are interested in the world around them, as well as foreign lands.

For those who love a fast-paced thrill ride with a purpose. For those who love history, sleuthing and mysteries, who are naturally curious, who want to immerse themselves in the story line and feel, like they are part of the action. And it is for those, who expect more from a story.

It’s also for those who love animals and mystical, psychic stuff, yet, are firmly grounded in this world. And for those, who care what happens in our world and who want to improve it.

Although the thriller side of the story dominates, let’s not forget that Gold Train, along with the other Jade Snow Adventures, has a strong romantic undercurrent. Therefore, those who are interested in romantic suspense, will also find Gold Train a compelling read. My way of writing romance is anything but traditional. The relationship between Jade and Alexei is marked by destiny, and I hope the reader enjoys it.

I again want to thank all my reviewers and interviewers for their wonderful and thoughtful reviews and interviews! I enjoyed them tremendously!

Check out the complete GOLD TRAIN BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE!

Check out GOLD TRAIN Ebook and Paperback on Amazon.

GOLD TRAIN is also available on Amazon UK, DE, FR, IT and ES, as well as Smashords, B&N, Sony, Kobo and Apple.

Please check out Lada Ray Book Store for direct links.

For those readers, who inquired about purchasing my books directly, or those who don’t have access to Amazon, I will soon have a book store on my website, where you’ll be able to acquire my books in both ebook and print format via Paypal.
Happy reading and see you on pages of my books!
Lada Ray