My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“They may use my body but my mind is free. In my mind I escape.”
----Gladys Lawson, an author, a microbiologist in pathology management and also volunteers as an inspirational mentor.
Lola Smirnova, an Ukrainian author, pens her debut book, Twisted that revolves around the horrifying truth and pain behind flesh trade. Written from her own experience, Smirnova spins her story in such a way that it'll grip you with the vivid and raw details about the sex trade.
Back in the 90’s, the corrupt post-Soviet Ukraine with its faltering economy, is thrown into a devastating depression. Times are hard. Opportunities are scarce.
Three eager young sisters – Natalia, Lena and Julia - dream of a better life and weigh their options: do they stay and struggle like their parents, or join scores of their compatriots in the sex trade in glittering western European cities, who earn in a night what they’d take several months to earn at home? Naive and tempted by the allure of 'quick' money, the girls set off on an adventure that changes their lives forever...
For sensible, resilient and calculating Lena and Natalia, the transition to the underworld of Luxembourg’s deceptive champagne bars is eye-opening, but smooth. But for fragile, brittle Julia, haunted by a childhood assault, the change is more than just vocational. Struggling to adapt, she turns to alcohol and drugs, exposing herself to increasing danger and depravity; and, ultimately, betrayal, when a deceitful client, who claims to love her, drugs her and cleans her out.
Despite her sisters’ best efforts to intervene, she finds herself in Istanbul – culturally a world apart – in an attempt to make back the money and self-respect she’s lost. Vulnerable without the protection of Luxembourg’s champagne bars, she descends into a hell of drugs and high-risk sex until, at the novel’s terrible climax, a kidnapping, brutal assault and one-sided justice system lead to her imprisonment and a threat of deportation.
How will Natalia and Lena save Julia?
This story is a complete eye-opener, in short, the details are so intricate that you are bound to call it explicit, but that's the truth what Smirnova has written. Based on real-life experiences, the author follows the journey of a young and naive Ukrainian girl, Julia and her elder sisters, Natalia and Lena, who leave their poverty-stricken life to lead a comfortable lifestyle by joining the sex trade. But the greed for easy money lures Julia into the deepest, darkest part of this trade where she finally stumbles upon and where only drug use can take her away from the filthy and disgusting lifestyle that she led.
This book is like a window to the back-stage or behind-the-scenes activities in flesh trade in the European part of the world. Through Julia, we see the grim and horrifying activities happening in the life of a professional prostitute just for a few quids. Moreover, her living condition to the her lifestyle to her demeanor and those around her, especially agents, are filthy and poor. In short, the prostitutes are treated like slaves by the sex-starved men and whatever money they earn, they spend it on drugs and other harmful intoxicants.
The writing is articulate with a fast moving pace. The coarse and harsh words are used to express the emotions. The author have strikingly depicted the painful and sad emotions in her plot, thus making us contemplate with the storyline. Some sex-scenes are way too graphic, explicit and vulgar, but unfortunately, that author have portrayed the hard-core truth behind this business with her book. The narration is so edgy and free-flowing, that it keeps us hooked on to the storyline. But what I liked the most is the way the author have put up each piece of this sad and shocking story with proper emotion and depth.
Since this is a trilogy, I'm definitely waiting to read the second book in the series, which I believe will be equally captivating to read and see.
Verdict: A must-read book for every women but for a mature audience.
Courtesy: Thanks to Kelsey from Book Publicity Services for a review copy of this book.
Now let's chat with this incredible author to know more about her and her book, Twisted:
Me: Hello and welcome to my blog, Lola. Congratulations on your debut book, Twisted. Can you please share with us the story behind, Twisted?
Lola: Thank you, Aditi!
I had a story to tell that maybe could help to change peoples' often ignorant attitude to the problems of sex industry, victims of which usually are young inexperienced women. I wanted the reader to realize that those working girls are humans... They dream, love or suffer the same way as anyone's girlfriend, sister or daughter.
Me: What was your source of inspiration for the book, Twisted?
Lola: My source of inspiration was my life experience.
Me: How did you research for your novel, Twisted?
Lola: Mostly interviews with people in the trade and some online research.
Me: How will you describe your journey so far as an author? Was it always your one true dream to be an author?
Lola: I am not one of those authors who were born and knew they would become a writer one day. A few years ago the idea of writing a book appeared to me.
You see, there are numerous novels written on the subject of sex industry, but unfortunately they are either well written but lack the author expertise or they have all the experience, but the book is so poorly written, making it impossible to enjoy the read. I wanted to create a novel that would combine both: well crafted riveting plot and deepness of the subject.
Me: What other passions do you have apart from spinning thrilling stories?
Lola: My family and friends, animals and my journey through life.
Me: Your book, Twisted, was placed as Honorable Mention in General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition. How did you feel when you first heard the news?
Lola: HONORED to say the least. It means a lot to me, cause it helps to stay motivated, realizing I'm moving towards the right direction.
Me: Tell us one trait of your protagonists, Natalia, Lena, and Julia, that intrigues you the most?
Lola: The three sisters live the life that many people would consider as extreme. They perceive this extreme life as normal. It's due to the natural human reaction of denial in order to survive. Amazingly, notwithstanding their denial, they see things positive.
Me: How will you describe your normal writing day. And how do you get away from the stress of a long day's work?
Lola: My biggest enemy is procrastination. Every day begins with an internal fight. I find "important" things to do around the house instead of writing. In contrast, my mind is constantly racing with "Let's do it, people want to hear my story."
Me: What's next up on your writing sleeves? Please tell us briefly about it.
Lola: I just finished writing a sequel to Twisted – Craved and it’s in the process of editing now. If everything goes well, it should be released some time next month…
Me: Thank you so much Lola, for sparing time to have this interview with me. I wish you luck in all your future endeavors.
Lola: Thanks a lot, Aditi!
Aspiring author from Ukraine, Lola Smirnova loves twisting a suspenseful tale through the dark lens of realism around the sexual underworld, so clocked in secrecy and shame. Lola’s work is inspired by real-life events and is meant for the open-minded readers who are not afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen.
Her debut novel Twisted was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.
Whether you prefer to slide your finger across a touchscreen or turn a paper page, Lola’s thrilling tales will surely shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value.
Now living in South Africa, Lola is about to release her second novel – a sequel to Twisted – Craved, which proves just how many fascinating stories she has to share about the ordinary women in the global sex industry.
Praise for Twisted:
"A gripping and mature story deftly woven by Lola Smirnova, "Twisted" is the kind of suspense novel that will linger in the mind and imagination long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf... "Twisted" introduces an extraordinarily gifted author to an appreciative readership looking eagerly toward her next literary effort." - Midwest Book Review
"Charged with some disturbing sexual scenes (including rape), the book manages a steady, readable flow as it shines a light on the multifaceted world of the European sex trade." - Kirkus Reviews
"Smirnova takes us on a philosophical and pseudo-psychological pilgrimage through the sexual underworld as Julia, in first person narrative, describes her struggling introduction into a profession where she can ply the only skills currently marketable." - 5 star review from Readers' Favorite
"I highly recommend 'Twisted' to open-minded readers who aren't afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen. It's sure to shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value." - 5 star review from Red City Review
"In the meantime, Smirnova hopes that Twisted will raise awareness to the problems of the sex industry... Kudos to Smirnova for an outstanding job achieving that goal!" - 5 star review from Pacific Book Review
"While the subject matter does not make for a light read, a breezy writing style and Julia's willingness to fully and shamelessly lift the veil on her controversial lifestyle makes an irresistible combination."------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now get a chance to read the first two chapters of Twisted, and I assure you that these two chapters are enough to grip you to the storyline.
‘Sag es!’ he screams at me.
The heavy motorcycle helmet is so tightly strapped to my head that I can hear the blood rushing through my ears. The smell of stale sweat reeks from the worn padding inside it. I struggle to swallow. A drop of spit runs down the ball gag that has been shoved into my mouth, then down my chin, and drips onto the couch beneath my knees. My shoulders are screaming from the pull of the handcuffs, which force my hands together behind my back.
He stands in the middle of the small and gloomy room and I can see the outline of his large body. Two bloodshot eyes are firmly fixed on my exposed nipples. A fleshy tongue slides backwards and forwards through the gap in his teeth. He licks the sweat off his lips, moans, and starts rubbing his groin, rocking his wide hips back and forth. He increases the pace, while his moans get louder and louder. Next, he stops abruptly, moving his eyes from my chest to my face, scowls, and takes a few menacing steps towards me. I shrink instinctively, tensing my body …
‘I know him. Don’t be scared Jul. He’s a bit strange, but a harmless motherfucker.’ That is what my sister, Natalia, managed to whisper in my ear half an hour ago, before I followed this freak, with the brain bucket in his hand, upstairs.
Natalia and I were sitting at the bar counter when he walked in. He didn’t even have a drink; just stepped in the door, looked around, stopped his stare at me, and mumbled, ‘I want you. Let’s go.’
‘It’s time to work!’ teased Natalia. Her naughty look followed us all the way up the stairs.
‘Sag es!’ the crack-head screams again, which I think means ‘say it’ in Luxembourgish or German.
He grunts, and with a wild thrust shoves his hips right into my face. He doesn’t even bother to take his jeans off. A quick unzip and he pulls out a flaccid penis, puts one foot up on the couch and starts violently pumping it, so close that his clenched palm is punching the helmet. Lucky for me the visor is shut.
I sigh deeply and try to shift on the couch to get rid of the cramps, which start crawling up my legs and back.
A bit strange? Come on, Natalia! You could call him anything – cracked, insane, alien on Earth – but hardly ‘a bit strange’!
I glance at the half-empty bottle of champagne seductively chilling in the ice bucket. If I’d known what Natalia had meant by ‘a bit strange’, I would have finished it before he handcuffed me and shoved the damn ball into my jaws.
‘Sag es!’ brings me out of my thoughts again.
I peep at his red face … What the hell does this crack-head think he is doing? I wouldn’t even call it masturbation! He tortures his penis in a spasmodic exertion. The awful tongue tossing in his distorted mouth, the dark brown hair stuck to the film of sweat on his broad brow, and the whimpering noises coming out of his fat body make a disgusting spectacle.
According to the instructions he gave me before we started this session, I was supposed to say ‘I love you, I forgive you’ through the gag.
I wonder what my seventh-grade teacher would say if she walked in the door right now? She always believed in me and encouraged: ‘You are going to come out on top, Julia …’ Good shot, Anna Ivanovna. You were pretty close!
He shuts his eyes and wrinkles his forehead in concentration. Frustrated, he drops his limp penis and squats next to the small table in the centre of the room. He pauses only to wipe the trickle of sweat from his forehead. Then he quickly snorts the line of blow on the glass table, and doesn’t get up for a while, staring deadpan at the wall.
Hey, fat boy, get on with it so we can have some together after this. I think I deserve a little pick-me-up for my efforts here.
I wonder what could possibly have happened to turn his grey matter inside out like this. A few hours later, when I kick my ‘labour hour’ around with the girls, they will tell me some rumours about him having had a motorbike accident. Apparently, he was riding ‘under the influence’ with his fiancée in tow. She died there on the street, in his arms, in a puddle of mud. With the last beats of her heart, he stared at her wide-open eyes, full of terror, and at her bleeding lips that breathed in agony: ‘Please, baby, I don’t want to die.’
I shudder. I don’t know if he was injured in the accident, but after this short time we’ve spent together I can assure you that his brain was nowhere to be found after that crash.
Yeah, whatever …
He finally comes back to the couch, pulling and beating his poor half-dead cock in front of my plastic shield. I try to say what he demands – anything to get this over and done with, and me out of here – but ‘I love you’, that forms beautifully in my throat, dissolves into an incoherent mumble as it hits the ball.
His small eyes devour every inch of my naked body, which is truly just skin and bone with boyish nipples where there are supposed to be breasts. The only reason why any man would choose to fuck me (aside from being a paedophile, of course) would be my big blue eyes and long blonde hair.
His whole face is scrunched up in an ugly leer and his bottom lip is quivering as he makes a weird whining noise.
Oh please! Don’t tell me you are going to cry now! Pathetic, sick, even disturbing, but not just ‘a bit strange’, Natalia?!
He keeps on yanking and jerking and thrusting like a maniac – harder and harder. He’s going to pull that thing off if he doesn’t stop!
‘Sag es! Sag es!’ he whines over and over, then forcefully flips the visor up and pulls the bottom of the helmet so close that his soft crotch hits my face. I shut my eyes a second before the first squirt of semen hits them.
‘It’s over’ slips with warmth and ease into my head, then streams down through my body, echoing the semen on my face. My eyes are closed but I can still hear him sobbing, sniffling and mumbling.
I can’t believe this fucker just ruined my make-up!
All I’ve got from this pathetic episode is an experience I will never be able to share with my grandchildren and €60 with no promise of a tip.
My name is Julia. I am from Ukraine. I work as an entertainer in one of the many cabarets in Luxembourg City. In other words … I am a prostitute.
Luxembourg City is the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the pint-sized, landlocked country in the heart of Western Europe. By Shanghai, London or New York’s standards, it wouldn’t be strange to have sixty champagne bars in one city, but it does sound quirky when you consider that Luxembourg City is twice as small as Orlando Disney World.
This sleepy and conservative locale, the world’s eighth-largest banking and financial centre, motherland of prioress Yolanda and the 100-watt radio transmitter, is stuffed with sex-orientated ‘establishments’, like the one where I work. What’s more, they are jam-packed with able-to-eat-a-horse-for-the-dough girls from different countries – mostly, of course, Eastern Europeans, who would do anything to make an extra buck.
Champagne bar, whorehouse, brothel, house of assignation, bordello, den of vice; call them what you like, it does not change the core of these places. Although they are often called cabarets, and occasionally there is even strip-dancing involved, you shouldn’t associate them with merrymaking or extravaganza. ‘Trade’, ‘sex’, ‘transactions’, ‘carnal’, ‘barter’ or ‘perversion’ would be the better words to portray this type of nightery.
This is a place where one man can spend thousands of euro in an hour or sip only Coke all night long; where the currency is not money but champagne; where often nobody is really interested in the champagne’s quality or taste, but rather finds its value in the size and quantity of the bottles; where the sanctity of the sparkling drink of the gods and the missionary position are lost in the blue confusion of fake orgasms and sex noises.
It works as simply as a jukebox – to get music, you have to stick in a coin. If you want a girl to lavish attention on you, pay for her champagne.
The cheapest option is a €25 glass of bubbly, which gives you 15 minutes of an affectionate and solicitous bond with a girl at the bar. Pay twice that price and your ‘date’ drinks piccolo, the 250 ml bottle. In this case, the time you spend with her is doubled, but the storyline stays the same. Next: the demi-bouteille, a 375 ml bottle that costs about €180 for half an hour. This ‘denomination’ grants a little bit of comfort, because both of you can move to a dim semi-private lounge, as well as the confidence that physical manipulation will be involved. And last, but not least, is the ‘full house’ for the standard bottle, the price for which varies. It kicks off at €250 for questionable swill, which is reasonable damage considering that in addition to a drink, you get screwed for an hour in the séparé – a private room, most commonly upstairs. You could be asked to pay up to €650 for Cristal or Dom Perignon, where, of course, you cough up not only for sex but also for the champagne’s snobbish name, fine finish in the mouth, and the supplementary fondness and devotion. Sad to say, these pricey bottles – and the one-and-a-half litre magnums that go for €1,000 or more – are a rare occurrence in these clubs.
The uniqueness of such places is that while you, the customer, are having leisure time with your ‘pick’, her mind is constantly dividing the amount that you’ve already spent by five (this is how much commission the house pays her), adding her €60 daily salary and planning how to badger you to buy another bottle, all that while smiling or laughing hard enough to make sure that all of these calculations in her head are not reflected on her pretty face.
Most of the clubs open at one in the afternoon and cease their trading at about four in the morning. Of course, the run has to be split – there are day and night shifts. Even though, practically, there is no big difference between the two spells, the contrast in the clientele is huge.
The day shift – fuck, I hate it! – is all about the married and the perverts, but more often the married perverts. As a rule, they drop by to use their lunch break for a dull, uncomplicated quickie, or for depraved ‘activities’ they have never had the guts to share with their wives and girlfriends. They don’t drink much and have limited time. That is why the club is usually boring and full of freaks, but in the end, who cares if you can get the bottle?
On the other hand, the night transforms the club and fills it with a party flavor – the music is louder, the customers are drunker and the laughter gets more sincere. Even the girls’ sweat looks like a piece of cake. The problem is that the boys often get carried away by the alcohol and the thundering crowd, so their brains switch out of sex mode. If there is no sex, there is probably going to be no bottle either.
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