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The Aqua Human

The Aqua Human by [J. Elizaga]

The Aqua Human by J. Elizaga is a beautiful short story about a young teenager in the Pacific during World War II. The protagonist, young Amaya, is thrust into a dangerous situation and must escape when she goes through a mysterious and unknown transformation. From here she discoveries fantastical new physical abilities underwater and must find her own way to survive.

There are many aspects of this short story that I loved from the very first page. The Aqua Human starts strong with an intense scene that immediately catches the reader’s attention. Even the very first paragraph hooks you as you are thrown into a confronting scene amid World War II. These first few pages introduce you to the protagonist’s father, Bayani, and the actions he takes here gives you a strong image of who he is and what he values above everything and everyone, which added a lot of urgency to this opening scene.

Even though this is an engaging read right up to the very end, I felt that the last quarter felt a bit desultory. Perhaps this was due to the nature of the short story format, if The Aqua Human had ten more pages the ending would be much more satisfying to me, otherwise I did enjoy the ending as it is.

The emotional intensity of this short story doesn’t decline from here but the pace does slow down and gives you time with the protagonist, Amaya, as she undergoes a mysterious and fantastical transformation. Personally, my favorite part of the story is right before the halfway point when Elizaga describes an absolutely beautiful setting of what seems like an entirely new and different world. It was during these parts of The Aqua Human that left me in awe and with an ongoing admiration for the author.

Pages: 60 | ASIN: B07W3DX48L

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When Life Was like a Cucumber

When Life Was like a Cucumber by [Greg Wyss]

At a young age, Jeffrey Hese was coming off a divorce and could not wait to explore his true self. At a time when the human race was getting introduced to the 70s after the tumultuous 60s, Jeffrey was in for a ride. He found himself thrust in different cultures and cities from Amsterdam to Boston. He goes through the paces of experiencing the underbelly of life with the help of Isadora. And how different it was from his apartment in Oneonta. So much to see. So much to do. So much to experience. His journey will be one of enlightenment and perhaps a second meeting with God.

Greg Wyss has crafted an engrossing tale of one man’s journey through life in the wake of the wild 60s. He has written a story so intriguing and appropriately sculpted that a reader of any age will relate and enjoy the book. The scenes are described in vivid detail leaving the reader thrust deep into the vortex of Jeffrey’s life at that time as well as the general lifestyle back then. The story teeters on the edge of humorous and poignant. It is a brilliant mix of serious and casual. With alternating moments of sympathy and loud belly laughs.

The characters in this book are well developed. Although the dimensions of character development may seem a bit foggy at times. This does not get in the way of recognition of common qualities. Jeffrey is doing something that many people would want to do before they are too old or too busy to do it. He is as new to this journey as most of us are. This may therefore either inspire you to go on your own journey of self-discovery. Or it may allow you to live vicariously through him. There is so much depth to this book. It will take the utmost attention and focus to peel through all the layers and get to the bottom of the true meaning of the story. Laden with thematic consistency and careful handling of the reader, this book is exactly what you need when you find yourself angling for an enjoyable escape. What better place to escape than a different time you may not have lived in? Those who did live in this era will enjoy the various references to music and popular behaviors of that time.

You will enjoy the plot. You will enjoy the characters. You will enjoy the flurry of activity. It may not be crass but this book will have you red-faced on occasion. Nothing like a good trip back in time.

Pages: 557 | ASIN: B07QN1VK36

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Spenser: On The River of Time

Carl Hare brings fresh purpose to epic poetry in the book Spenser (On the River of Time). Just like book 1, the author is exceptional with narration, description of events, and the direction the characters are taking. Everything from the arrangement of the cantos, the breaking down of the story, the construction of sentences, and the simplicity of lines is ideal. Carl Hare makes the reading experience fun and even more enjoyable for readers that are new to this genre. The length of the cantos is inviting for readers that appreciate short verses. The introduction of characters and how the narrative unfolds encourage one to read more.

In this book, the main story is focused on the life of poet Edmund Spenser. The poet worked for Queen Elizabeth I of England. The book touches on different aspects of Spenser’s life, his convictions, the journeys he took, and the many challenges he had to face. Through this man, we also see how service to authority and how respecting the powers that be affect one’s life. One notable element in this book is the use of a real historical figure in a work of fiction. The author blends every part of the book to elevate a real character in a fictitious work and in doing so creates an engaging story that is hard to put down.

The characters are emotive and easy to empathize with. Each Canto has a unique feeling. The author’s words are clear and I was able to understands the content in the lines without having to repeat the reading, a struggle for me with other works, but Carl Hare’s story is easy to approach. Spenser (On the River of Time) is everything historical fiction fans could want in an adventure story from a gilded age. I enjoyed the style of narration, and loved the edifying effect the book has on literature enthusiasts.

Pages: 435 | ASIN: B0852QN65G

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Some Kind of Grotesque Thriller/Parody

Victoria Ray Author Interview

Victoria Ray Author Interview

Sophia von X follows Sabina, who goes on vacation when things quickly go awry, and she’s caught in the middle of an archaeological conspiracy. What was the inspiration for the setup of this thrilling story?

The icon of Christ Pantocrator inspired me. I remember, I bought a history journal, and there it was – an article about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, describing in detail a famous mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. I thought it would be fun to write a story about this place. I have never been to Istanbul, but other members of my family have visited it, so it was beneficial. I sketched the plot in one day.

Also, I rarely work on big pieces of fiction, but decided to try it, and write a full-length novel, some kind of grotesque thriller/parody on different books and movies. I wanted it to be ‘fast’ like a John Wick movie, but also packed with a lot of female heroes like in Charlie’s Angels, and with a sprinkle of religious conspiracy like in Dan Brown’s books. A taste of everything in one story.

Sabina is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some ideas that drove her character development?

At first, I tried to write a story about the robbery, but I changed my mind. I created a Sicilian woman who takes a paid leave from her job at university and goes on a vacation with the purpose of visiting a newly discovered tomb of Christianity. The idea was to make the reader wonder, all the time, who she really is. We should remember that life is a mystery, and absolutely anything can happen to us along the road, at any moment… Maybe now?

Of course, Sabina changes because of unusual circumstances, but she is also the one who makes decisions. She is (both) a good guy and a villain. She is broken and the one who breaks. She is the woman and the boss. She is the lover and the hater. She is strong and weak. She is a complex character, but I’m not focusing on her feelings or problems. This is not a psychological thriller; this book is about action and fun.

The word that describes my writing the best is the word random. I do not explain much; I prefer readers to make the necessary connections by themselves, and most important – to think and imagine. I believe this is the primary purpose of reading. If I tell you everything, then what is the point?

I enjoyed the mysteries embedded in the story. Did you plan these, or did they develop organically while writing?

I planned the birthmark story, the twelfth page, and Sabina’s stop at the dig. I needed Thomas von Essen as the ‘slide-character,’ who is involving her in the illegal criminal activity.

I changed the ending a week before publishing, by killing more people. I saved the protagonist’s life, though.

I planted a couple of hooks because I have a ‘hidden’ villain in the team of four. The identity of this person will be revealed at the end of the story.

What is the next novel that you are working on, and when will it be available?

I’m usually writing short stories; that’s why my next book is a collection of surreal humor, mystery, and satirical stories. It will be available in June 2020: as ebook and paperback.

At the end of this year, I’ll focus on Book 2 in my young adult absurdist fantasy series Child of Illusion.

My next big novel is a psychological thriller, Almost Faithful. Hopefully, it will be published in 2021. Here’s the blurb of the story:

  • Perth, Australia.
  • Two ordinary families.
  • Three different women.
  • One obsessive man.

Margo and Barry are living the perfect life. They’re happily married (or so it seems), working great jobs, and traveling the world. Ellen and David have it all – the looks, the big house by the beach, a successful business, a grown-up daughter, Marie. But underneath, each couple is in crisis, and there is only one cause. His name is Charlie…

Charlie is a widower with an autistic son. A man with exceptional acting skills, struggling to forget his painful past. A man who is not ready to let go, who is breaking two families and destroying their trust.
Out of options and with their backs against the wall, Margo, Ellen and Marie discover that murder isn’t a tool reserved only for criminals.

Author Links: GoodreadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Sophia von X by [Victoria Ray, H. M. Belsve]

It was supposed to be a vacation, the trip to a newly discovered tomb of Jesus…

When Sabina Ferrara was driving to Bingerbruck, Germany, she was hoping to put a painful marriage behind her. Certain unforeseen events turned against her and during a visit to Christ’s tomb, she is meeting Thomas von Essen – a dangerous thief, who is hiding behind the name of a decent family, pretending that he is a famous archaeologist. Against her will, Sabina is dragged into the middle of the stealing of biblical artifacts, killings, and shootings. She ended up attracting the attention of an unknown enemy from Jerusalem, a wicked man called Papa Zen. A powerful mogul who knows too much about Sabina and her mysterious birthmark. She is the one he was looking for so long…

12 lost pages from the Bible
Car chasing, guns, and fights
Yakuza and Ndrangheta families
Palermo, Istanbul, Jerusalem
Deaths, tears, broken hearts

Sophia von X is a story of violence and obsession, secrets and tragedy, lies, hate, and love.

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The Gold Rush Girls

The Gold Rush Girls by Craig Moody is a tell of women who aspire for adventure and a better life by going west along with the wave of gold seekers in the 1840’s. But the life they find instead is grim, painful, and will test the limits of their will to live. The Gold Rush Girls is about survival, not of man vs nature, but of man vs man.

I was pulled into The Gold Rush Girls from the first paragraph. I enjoyed reading about the rough and tumble details about the trail, the heat, sickness, and other harshness endured on the trail. I love how the author was able to take me to that time and take me on this journey with the Ten women as they struggled to survive against loss, starvation, broken hearts, humiliation, and anger. When they were free I even felt relieved for them even though I knew it would be short lived.

The Gold Rush Girls is an emotionally draining novel, in the same way that The Handmaid’s Tale or Outlander is. The novel is riveting from the beginning but there are relationships and motivations that I think needed a more in depth explanation or exploration. I would have really liked to understand why Z loved Meideth. I wanted a deeper exploration of the relationship between Paco and Caroline’s somewhat stockholm like relationship. The characters were intriguing, but I wanted a fuller explanation of their motivations and how and why they change throughout the novel.

Meredith is a stirring main character that tackles an unbelievable amount of hardships. She is able to rebuild herself after repeated disaster and come out intact. She makes friends, loses friends, has several jobs and seeks a better life. She’s definitely a multifaceted woman that is super human in her ability to endure inhuman torture and come out the other side much the same. She is repeatedly assaulted but never loses her desire for a handsome man or portrays the mental or emotional scars someone might have.

The Gold Rush Girls is an emotional adventure that uses the known story of the search for gold out west and adds provocative new twists that will keep readers constantly thinking and empathizing.

Pages: 302 | ASIN: B0885BVNX7

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Amelia’s Gold

Even in the midst of the Civil War, the Beaches stood as one of the richest and preeminent families in Savannah. As the oldest daughter, Amelia enjoyed all the luxury this provided, without being haughty about it. When her father entrusts her with the chance to save the family’s fortune, Amelia is thrilled at the prospect of serving her family. Her trip to the Bahamas opens her eyes to a world of new experiences, full of adventure, deceit, and a taste of freedom. As the fate of the Confederacy begins to decline, so does Amelia’s, eventually leading her to a life she would never have imagined.

Amelia’s Gold, by James Snyder follows Amelia Beach over the course of a year as she navigates the road paved by her father. The Civil War, the exotic allure of island life, and recovered pirate gold all combine to create an environment that completely unends Amelia’s world and what she always assumed would be her place in it. Nassau itself is a far cry from her home in Savannah in almost every way imaginable, but she navigates it, and its inhabitants, extremely well. Snyder does well to create an accurate snapshot of the world at that time with his meticulous research while still writing in a way that is both interesting and engaging. Although the pacing isn’t always solid, with some passages that just don’t do much to advance the story, it nonetheless never seems stuffy or tedious. Amelia, as well as every one of the supporting characters that filter in and out of her life, are all well written and compliment each other as necessary throughout the course of events.

Over the course of the book, Amelia deals time and time again with the theme of personal growth, both as an idea and an experience. The events play out over the course of only one year, and yet she faces an incredible amount of hardships, each one providing an opportunity to become a better and stronger person. She also achieves the balance of treating others with empathy and kindness without being played for a fool. Overall, Amelia is written as smart, capable, and still distinctly human. She almost serves as an anomaly of how women are typically considered during that time period, instead representing how many of them likely were. 

Amelia’s Gold kept me invested, always curious about what would come next. The character of Felix was especially interesting to me and I wish there were more of him. Snyder carved a path for Amelia that proved to be unpredictable all the way to the very end, and left enough mystery for a reader to ultimately create their own ideas about the rest of her life.

Pages: 376 | ASIN: B086HWJ1XR

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They Had a Common Enemy

Kathryn Gauci Author Interview

Kathryn Gauci Author Interview

The Poseidon Network follows SOE agent Hadley who must root out a traitor in the network before their cover is blown. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

I wanted to show that for SOE agents working on behalf of the Allies, the situation in Greece was not easy. The political situation in Europe prior to and during WWII was very much one of division, and nowhere more so than Greece which had experienced great upheavals in their country in the early 20th century. However the Greek Resistance did pull together while they had a common enemy and their part in defeating first the Italians and then the Germans was to be admired. Women also played an important role too, as they had done in every war since The Greek War of Independence in 1821.

I also wanted to write the novel that was more a thriller in the style of Film Noir and the old classics, rather than another resistance story. The melting pot that Cairo was at that time was an ideal starting point. Characters in Rick’s Bar in “Casablanca” along with Harry Lime and his Viennese Nazi sympathizers in “The Third Man” were an inspiration too.

Larry is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

Again taking inspiration from Film Noir I wanted Larry to be a larger than life figure; a man’s man who loved women, yet was caught off-guard when he met Alexis. I tried to imagine the physiology behind such a man. He was, first and foremost, an adventurer, but all of us have a vulnerable human side – a soft spot. Alexis was his. I also wanted to show how he respected the men he worked with. The classic thriller writers and such authors as Steinbeck were a great influence for developing his character.

I enjoyed the historic details used throughout the book. What kind of research did you undertake to get things right?

I always try to get to know the places I write about. In this case, I lived in Greece for six years and heard stories from those who experienced the war firsthand. I have also visited Turkey and Egypt several time. I think this is vital as the atmosphere of a place gets into your blood. It is the sights, sounds and smells that touch the senses and give the novel light and shade.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?

My current WIP is another WWII story set in the Jura/Franche-Comté region of France in 1944. I was there for two and a half months 2019-2020, researching the Maquis, Resistance, and smuggler routes into Switzerland. It is a beautiful area of lakes, forests and mountains, and rich with stories of heroes and heroines in almost every village. Unfortunately, the Germans – particularly the Gestapo – could not have infiltrated the area so successfully had not been for the many collaborators, who were paid a huge sum of money for denouncing someone, particularly the head of a network. This time the protagonist is a woman. I expect to have it out by September this year.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitter | FacebookWebsite

The Poseidon Network by [Kathryn Gauci]

1943. SOE agent Larry Hadley leaves Cairo for German and Italian occupied Greece. His mission is to liaise with the Poseidon network under the leadership of the White Rose.

It’s not long before he finds himself involved with a beautiful and intriguing woman whose past is shrouded in mystery.
In a country where hardship, destruction and political instability threaten to split the Resistance, and terror and moral ambiguity live side by side, Larry’s instincts tell him something is wrong.

After the devastating massacre in a small mountain village by the Wehrmacht, combined with new intelligence concerning the escape networks, he is forced to confront the likelihood of a traitor in their midst. But who is it?

Time is running out and he must act before the network is blown. The stakes are high.

From the shadowy souks and cocktail parties of Cairo’s elite to the mountains of Greece, Athens, the Aegean Islands, and Turkey, The Poseidon Network, is an unforgettable cat-and-mouse portrait of wartime that you will not want to put down.

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A Gangland Problem

Gerry Mullins Author Interview

Gerry Mullins Author Interview

Testosterone Dublin 8 follows a man that uses testosterone to escape his unhappy life and in the process gets caught up with Dublin’s criminals. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

A doctor suggested I start taking testosterone, and that prompted my interest in the hormone. As I observed changes in my own mind and body, and read more about it, I realized it could provide the foundation for a very interesting book.

Most people associate the hormone with sex and athletics, but it influences so much more, particularly mood, ambition, drive and confidence. That makes it a very interesting issue to write about, but I could find no other novel about it.

There was a time when only elite athletes took anabolic steroids (which means testosterone), but now millions of ordinary men (and some women) around the world are juicing. There are myriad advantages and dangers to this.

In addition, I live in a part of the Irish capital called Dublin 8, which is going through the gentrification process – just like other cities throughout the world such as San Francisco where I used to live.

Gentrification provides a very interesting energy in a place as ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents live side-by-side, usually together, but separate. Occasionally hostile. I wanted to comment on this in a book. A law-abiding man who suddenly becomes a drug dealer was the vehicle to do this. He had felt a little superior to his new neighborhood, but as time goes by, it’s clear he isn’t that much different from the people he lives among.

Jimmy is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that drove his character development?

He is disappointed in his life. He was from a middle-class family and middle-class community, but didn’t achieve this in his adult life. Losing his job is confirmation of this. Frequently he feels the judgement of his late father, who reminds him of his failings during his lowest points. He is ashamed, angry and suicidal.

Jimmy’s enhanced manliness leads to a drug-dealing business, and his pride is gradually restored. But when the money starts rolling in, what is his ambition for it? To move to a middle-class area; to finally be the person his late father wanted him to be.

The story takes place in Dublin. Why was this time and place important to your story?

Dublin has a gangland problem and there have been many murders in the Dublin 8 area that is described in the book.

In addition, this area is changing as new people who have middle-class aspirations arrive, displacing lower-class families who have been there for generations.

So the time and the place are important because they generate a natural environment for stories like mine to emerge. The reason Jimmy is living there is because of gentrification. The reason he can get involved in the drugs business is because that business is all around him.

More generally, Dublin is celebrated in many novels, and is most famously linked to works that were published 100 years ago. Nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to describe the Dublin of here and now.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am not working any but have several in mind involving the characters of Testosterone, Dublin 8.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Website

Testosterone, Dublin 8 by [Gerry Mulins]

TV producer Jimmy Fyffe starts taking anabolic steroids to restore the ‘manliness’ he has lost in a high-pressure career and unhappy marriage. His plan works – a little too well. Soon he is a cocaine dealer, carving out a market in Dublin’s more affluent suburbs. This draws him into conflict with two established drugs gangs. He is kidnapped, beaten and terrorised, and is linked to the killing of a drugs-lord and two Gardaí.

Is Jimmy next to die, or will the same newfound machismo that landed him in trouble also help him escape it? Things get worse before they get better. The extra testosterone in his system hardens him both mentally and physically, but he also becomes reckless and arrogant. Ultimately, redemption is found during an ayahuasca ceremony in the Wicklow mountains, when Jimmy confronts his past through a conversation with his dead father.

Testosterone, Dublin 8 describes the effect of the ‘male hormone’ on an individual, and on wider society. It is told against the backdrop of a gentrifying Dublin, where the two main tribes – locals and blow-ins – live side by side. It is a moral tale wrapped in a classic thriller that gets to the heart – and veins – of modern Ireland.

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