The Endowment of Isaac Frey by Val Wilson is a historical fiction story about a haunted old house in Coventry, England, and the family who occupies the house. The book starts in 1920 with John Weir and his friend, Albert Parry hunting for a legendary priest hole tunnel exit on the grounds of John’s family home, The Old House, a residence filled with tragedy and ghosts. The story spans several decades as the friends grow older and World War II separates them for a time, then brings them back together. Before going off to war to join Albert, John marries Annie Goodwin, a local girl who has returned to Coventry after escaping from an abusive man in London. The first part of the story follows John Weir as a boy and then a man (and later on, his wife, Annie), the current occupants of The Old House. Isaac Frey is introduced into the story after the halfway point. An American G.I. stationed at the base nearby, Captain Isaac Frey begins a relationship with Annie while John is away fighting in the war. But The Old House brings madness to the Weir family… and murder when John learns that he didn’t father Annie’s twins. After the murder of his wife, her children, and her lover, John Weir assumes Isaac Frey’s identity.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The vivid descriptions of supernatural events pulled me into the story. The house isn’t just the setting–it’s like another character, albeit creepy and suspenseful. The element of mystery surrounding the house kept me interested in the story all the way through till the end.
I didn’t like the character of Annie Goodwin. She suffered a lot of adversity, but her reaction to it was anger and taking her feelings out on others. I didn’t find her to be a likable character. She seemed to wallow in her misfortune, instead of finding a way to raise above it. Her affair with Isaac leads to her tragic end.
There were some minor issues with typos. And the point of view shifts between characters from one paragraph to the next were a bit distracting. Sometimes the shifts happened in the middle of a paragraph, which made it difficult to keep track of whose head I was supposed to be in. Some of the time jumps were a bit jarring, when something unexpected happened, but then suddenly it was years later without the author showing the previous moment in time playing out. Otherwise, a very entertaining novel.
The Endowment of Isaac Frey by Val Wilson
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Think of the worst scenario you could possibly imagine. Got one? Chances are Joshua Squire can think of something worse. Angel Virus, Squire’s inaugural novel, paints a nightmarish scenario: all of the world’s children suddenly, inexplicably die. And the rest of world might not be too far behind. The story follows the lives of four people (Dutch: a Wisconsin metal worker, Jin: a small business owner in Beijing, Aletta: a European pediatrician, and Aysi: a teacher at a church in Africa) all of whom are recovering from past demons when the world starts falling apart. The novel wastes little time detailing the titular epidemic that kills the world’s children before zeroing in on the lives of these four protagonists. Squire, a poet by nature, flexes his linguistic muscles best in these personal scenes. At one point I found myself wishing that Squire would show the exposition instead of telling it. But when the narration focuses in on the individual suffering, the scenes cut deep enough to make the reader yearn for the safety of the omniscient narrator.
It’s in these dark, visceral images where Angel Virus shines the brightest. Subtle details such as place names and character backstories invite close reading. But at other times the reader races forward at full speed as characters flee through the jungle, get entombed in the city, or suddenly discover that allies can become one’s worst enemies. In addition to great images, Squire successfully creates realistic characters who inspire empathy within the reader. The dialogue comes off as believable while still maintaining a poetic quality.
Unfortunately, Squire’s excellent descriptions and well written characters also work against him. Angel Virus takes place over a wide variety of settings and includes many secondary characters. All of this helps create a believable disaster on a world-scale. But trying to tackle this much material in a novella length story sometimes becomes disorienting. In addition, while each of the four protagonists add compelling drama to the story, they all follow a similar path. Since the story is relatively short, none of the protagonists are allowed to fully develop.
Overall, Angel Virus is an exciting first novel. While the scope of its story and lack of versatility in the heroes’ narratives threatens to hamper the novel, the writing is strong enough to keep the reader interested. The novel’s conclusion left me wanting more, and that’s exactly what this trilogy plans to offer. But even if you stop at its last page, Angel Virus compels you to consider the link between psychology and spirituality, the nature of good and evil, and why you should cherish your loved ones long after you finish reading it.
Pages: 96 | ASIN: B01JZXY0JY
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In Breaking Worlds we learn about the divide between Lisen and Korin and we witness their daughter’s determination to change the world. What were some driving ideals behind the characters relationships?
Once Rinli died in Protector of Thristas, I knew what had to happen. The death of a child can either bring the parents closer together or rip them apart. I decided to go the latter route and see if I could help them heal eventually. It was difficult to write because I love these characters, but it was necessary to show how two people so closely bound in life and love could respond so diversely to such a tragedy. Now for Rinli, resurrection was not kind. She’s 16 at the time of her death and harbors strong resentment toward the mother who bartered her life for peace. I asked myself how does the psyche of a person who dies and then lives again survive such a painful ordeal? Jon Snow in Game of Thrones remembers nothing past his murder when he’s revived. Jesus Christ reawakened in his tomb a glorified being, but of course he had godhood going for him. But what does resurrection do to a 16-year-old child with deep emotional wounds? And it became clear to me that the rift between Rinli and her mother was only going to widen despite Lisen’s previous efforts to protect her. Sad and tragic as all this was for these three characters, challenging as the work was for me, it was fun to write. Am I wicked for saying that? I doubt any author would feel differently.
This book has clearly been crafted with care and is full of emotion. What were some themes that were important for you to continue in this book, and what were some new ones you wanted to introduce?
The continuing theme of the consequences of decisions remained paramount in my storytelling. I find tales of redemption the most interesting of all, and there can be no redemption if there is no sin. I love breaking characters into pieces and watching how they reassemble themselves and the relationships they’ve broken in the process. In Breaking Worlds, I wanted to explore what it means to be the helpmate to a person with the potential for greatness. I delved into the parallels between Korin and Madlen in their roles as lovers/supporters for their beloveds, and Madlen’s unquestioning (or barely questioning) devotion to Rinli fascinated me. And beyond all of that were the variations of grief and the effect grief has on us as people. I found it both harder and easier to dig into the pain of grief as I wrote because I had just lost my best friend to cancer. Harder for the immediacy of what I’d just been through, but easier because it was so fresh. What it comes down to is what I say on my Facebook page. “I love combining characters with conflict and crisis and then watching as they suffer the consequences of their choices.”
This is the fifth book in the Lisen of Solsta series. Has the series grown beyond what you had originally imagined or are you still following a clearly defined path?
Well, the series has certainly grown. I never expected to write past Blooded, book 3 in the series. But as I’ve noted before, I grew curious about what would happen when “the bill came due.” In other words, what would happen when Lisen had to hand Rinli over to the Thristans in the desert as their “Mantar’s Child”? Then another question emerged after I finished Protector of Thristas (book 4). What would a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like? That led quite neatly into Breaking Worlds.
What can readers expect in the finale of the Lisen of Solsta series, book 6 Pushing Madness?
Breaking Worlds and Pushing Madness were written together. I didn’t know if I had enough material for two separate books, so I kept pushing forward with certain criteria set up for what length would be too much for one book and where I would split the book into two if that became necessary. In terms of the story, my intent is to clear the table, to answer all the questions–in short, to tie up all the lose threads and hopefully leave the reader satisfied while allowing the ending to be a bit messy. I’m not a fan of endings that are too neat. I prefer to be left, as a reader, with a few things to tidy up for myself, and that’s what I strive for in my endings.
Left with the blood of a tragedy on their hands, Lisen and Korin can no longer face one another. Korin heads east towards the desert, while Lisen remains in Avaret with two children in need of comfort Lisen cannot provide. Never has she felt so alone. As war threatens on the horizon, two deserted people must somehow find their way back to life, to each other. Will Lisen and Korin reunite in time? Will the truth of the dead and the living be revealed?
Return to Garla and Thristas where love may not conquer all, but it can serve as an ally in the fight. Where all that seems well doesn’t necessarily end well. Where loyalty can be bought with a nudge. Where all the magic in the world may still fail you. Where, with Garla and Thristas on the edge of destruction, Book V of Lisen of Solsta’s saga drives the story closer to the inevitable conclusion to Lisen’s story.
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The very fabric of her being is coming undone. She has always lived such a sheltered life, she is not ready for the massive shift that is about to take place in her life. The socialite is heiress to a fortune earned through investments and work at a multinational. She is faced with all sorts of questions about life and even touches on the possibility of a world without art. This princess will learn a few things the hard way. She will be bruised and knocked around a few times, but such is life.
The author has skillfully crafted a tale of sour love, questionable characters, jealousy and revenge. The story is told vividly and imaginatively. It is a thrilling literary ride through the protagonist’s experiences as a princess whose castle is falling apart by the brick. On one hand, you feel bad for her but on the other you would rather not bother. This quality leaves the reader so gloriously torn between the characters of the book. Not to mention glued to the pages as the story unfolds.
This story is told in an unusual tone. A tone that is quite indescribable but is quite fitting for the story and characters therein. The grammar is impeccable. The sentences are artfully crafted with relatively simple language. The reader will find themselves quite easily drawn into the story. The unusual tone and a touch of simplicity for the complex plot are welcoming and appealing. They beg the reader to read just one more page. To find out what happens next and then next. The term- page turner- was coined for this book.
The characters are well developed. Each has a quality that the reader will identify with. There is a certain intrinsic quality that just makes the characters quite lovely to dabble with. A certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ so to speak. This quality in the character development is consistent throughout the book, but makes it so hard when the book comes to an end. The trio really did a good job with this.
To the intrigued reader, beware, this book is quite a dirty sex crazed romp. Conservatives better brace themselves, keep a bible handy, and an open mind because you will hate how much you enjoy the erotic quality of this book. Rarely does a book possess so many winning qualities. Humor, drama, erotica, tragedy and much more. All delivered with expert craftsmanship and a generous dose of thrill. The erotica may be a little strong for some but if read with an open and relaxed mind, this is a very enjoyable and entertaining ride.
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The Ghetto Blues by Tammy Campbell Brooks unexpectedly won my heart. The book’s full title is The Ghetto Blues – An Autobiography of Tammy Campbell Brooks’ Trepidation, Tragedy, and Triumph, and it follows the life of Tammy from childhood through adulthood. In the opening pages of the prologue, Tammy’s daughter writes, “In this book, you will go through different stages of emotions from tears, laughter, happiness, and joy of growing up in poverty and impoverished environments, but not letting the circumstances define you.” As I began the book, I was skeptical that I would experience all these emotions, but as I concluded the final chapter, “Bells Will Be Ringing,” I found that Tammy’s daughter had been entirely right all along.
Typically, authors are referred to by their last names in reviews, but after reading Tammy’s story, I feel it only right to call her by her first name. Tammy’s story was incredibly challenging for me to read at the beginning because it is so disparate from my own experience in suburban America. Growing up in the projects of San Antonio, Tammy had an upbringing that is almost unbelievable for most readers – gunshots, emotional and physical abuse, poverty, extreme hunger – but she avoids writing about her experiences in such a way as to say, oh woe is me! Completely the opposite, Tammy describes herself as driven and dedicated. Even though she experiences setbacks and succumbs to vices that will have readers wanting to call her up and say, what were you thinking?!, she does not let her weaknesses or mistakes define her, and she is always striving for the best out of herself.
Tammy’s autobiography is written in an almost spoken format, and not at all how Strunk & White might have preferred. While the typos and grammatical errors irritated me at the beginning on the book, I came to realize that if it had been written like Faulkner, for example, it would not have truly been Tammy’s autobiography. Her story is edgy and uncomfortable, and sometimes painful to read. It is the opposite of polished, but it is honest and eye-opening. That said, the book would have benefitted from some additional editing to correct some of the simple spelling errors and word usage errors. Those glaring errors are the only reason I would give the story four stars instead of five, because Tammy’s story is undeniably a full five stars.
Describing Tammy to someone who hasn’t read her autobiography feels almost as if she must be fictional: how could one woman overcome all those challenges thrown at her? Not only is Tammy an inspiration, but she was also eye-opening to me. I knew nothing of the ghetto lifestyle in the projects that she describes, and her story reiterates the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” At the conclusion of her autobiography, my overwhelming emotion was one of thinking that Tammy’s story would be amazing to share through radio or podcast. The courage and strength that it took Tammy to share her and her family’s story with readers should not be underestimated, and I hope that many readers have the opportunity to learn from her experiences.
Pages: 257 | ASIN: B07BFKCQZ9
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A massive tsunami destroys the island home of a little girl. Left without a family, she is rescued by missionaries who name her ‘Patchula’ or ‘Patches’ and take her to Darwin, Australia. What follows is a story of misfortune and tragedy; adoption, death, abuse, forced prostitution, but also of hope as Patches finds joy and meaning, especially in her talent for photography and singing, in spite of the pain. Spanning Australia, America and Japan The Three Lives of One by Lesley J. Mooney is a sweeping tale which carries us across time and continents in search of love and fulfillment.
The book is written in beautiful yet un-flowery prose which is at times poetic. Mooney conjures up place incredibly well, and I found the movement between different continents particularly fascinating –the depiction of the sights, sounds and geography of these places gave me total wanderlust! The description of the tsunami and the wreckage and devastation that follows is extremely affecting and pulled me into the narrative immediately. Mooney is also skilled at portraying her time periods, which begin in the 1920s and move to the 1980s, and the changing biases and turbulent politics of the times.
There are many themes running through the narrative including womanhood, nature and environment, religion, the importance of family, and the value of keeping faith and resilience in times when despair seems never-ending. Although many terrible events occur in Patchula’s life, the book is ultimately about hope in the face of the unknown and what we can achieve if we have the strength to carry on.
Mooney has written a large and diverse cast of characters, and the world she has developed seems utterly real. Patches in particular leaps off the page as a fully-formed individual. Some of the mistreatment she endures is quite harrowing and difficult to read, but it feels very honest. Her hardships elicit great empathy in the reader; I was constantly rooting for her to overcome all of the tragedy in her life and felt completely invested in her development. The more peripheral characters are also well-drawn and prove to be quite emotive, some invoking feelings of intense anger!
One aspect of the book that bothered me slightly was the pacing. We are introduced to Patchula’s predicament, and the narrative subsequently moves very swiftly through the first part of her life and I would have liked this introduction to the story to be slightly more drawn out. Despite this, the rest of the book has a really good tempo, and because there are so many unexpected twists and turns I was always eager to find out what would happen next in Patches’ story.
This book moved me to tears, but it also gave me a great sense of hope. I finished it feeling as though I had been on a long journey–and an extremely rewarding one at that.
Pages: 361 | ASIN: B074M3LW12
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Room 11 is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a suspense, thriller, and medical drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I must admit that Room 11 came to life in a strange way. The wife’s chapters, a mixture of yearning dreams and angry nightmare-like rants, were written separately, in an attempt to record the disparate strong emotions I felt during the few days just after I miscarried my third child, but which I had to put away at the time as I was attending a family wedding. On their own, though, these chapters were not enough for a novel, and they were almost impossible to fit in any larger narrative because they felt so mad and enraged. This is when, watching one of my favourite movies ‘Talk to Her’ (by Almodovar), I thought of putting the wife in a coma. I had also recently finished reading ‘A Kind of Intimacy’ (Jenn Ashworth), which gave me further ideas for the nurse, a character coming from a very different place to the wife, tender deep inside, but who would allow me to explore a parallel take on obsession and delusion growing in a pained soul.
Room 11 gives two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states; a comatose woman and an increasingly stalker-ish nurse. Why did you choose to tell the story through a dreamlike filter?
I think of my characters as icebergs, living only ten percent of what they dream underwater, which to them feels more real than their everyday lives. My nurse may not get up to much in my novel, neither my wife; but their inner worlds hope to reveal humanity at its most extraordinary.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Most readers abhor the wife, but she was definitely my favourite character because of all her viciousness and flaws, and the easiest to write for. I liked the nurse too but found her much more demanding to get right, as if she was flitting between my fingers resisting to be nailed down.
Room 11 is a fantastic suspense novel. Was there anything that happened organically in the story while you were writing? Did it surprise you?
All along I knew how the wife had ended up in a coma and that she would reveal that by then end of the book. But what would the nurse do? I wanted the wife killed … I wanted to pretend that her cynicism could be silenced and her man could have a new start alongside the other woman. But in the end… I just couldn’t. I wonder why…
After an accident leaves a woman in a coma, her husband sits on a hospital chair day-in day-out singing to her. Nobody can pull him away from her as she threads through the dreams that could save her. Meanwhile, a delusional nurse grows her admiration for him into obsessive desire.
‘I am fascinated by the way mari delves so deeply into the personality of the nurse, showing how she gradually comes to believe the man in Room 11 is in love with her, seeing all sort of small indications that may or may not be real,’ A Woman’s Write.
ROOM 11 is a dual narrative by strong, cynical, broken heroines (the nurse and the wife) winding passionately through hope, anger, delusion, obsession, guilt, sacrifice, resignation and eventually forgiveness, to help them re-emerge from their separate tragedies.
Posted in Interviews
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Girl Unseen is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a romance, paranormal, and mystery as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
It definitely happened organically. I tend to write in the genre’s I enjoy reading the most. I love romance, paranormal and thriller’s, so it was not surprising to discover all three elements come through in my stories.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. What themes did you try to capture while developing your characters?
Thank you! The paranormal investigation team’s motivations and goals tend to naturally conflict with law enforcement, so putting the two together makes some very interesting sparks fly. The paranormal investigators are there to prove and document the existence of the paranormal, and the special ops team are there to solve the crime, catch the criminal, and gain enough evidence for the case to be prosecuted in a court of law. Throw in the conflict of a complicated and seemingly impossible romance, and you end up with a pretty tangled web that needs to be resolved by the end of the book!
Pia works for a television show and tries to debunk mysteries. Did you do research to maintain relevance to real life paranormal events?
Yes. I have a natural curiosity for the paranormal due to unexplained personal experiences that happened to me at a very young age. Those events triggered a lifelong fascination and study in metaphysical subjects.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Thank you for asking! I am currently working on the fourth book in the Beyond the Grave series which is scheduled for release in January, 2018. Daniel’s story is inspired by a real ‘ghostly’ shipwreck on the coast of Western Australia that is shrouded in mystery, tragedy, and of course eerie speculation of the paranormal.
I am also working on something a little different – an edgy and contemporary standalone romantic thriller with no paranormal elements which is scheduled to be released in April, 2018.
When Pia Williams, a gifted psychic medium, is contacted by the traumatized spirit of a young girl, her search to uncover the truth begins. The more Pia learns about the girl’s gruesome fate, the more determined she is to bring those responsible to justice. But is she prepared for the shocking truth of what she’s about to expose?
With more questions than answers, one thing becomes clear to Pia: the girl’s spirit is uniquely powerful, and she’s killing from beyond the grave. Who–or what–is the girl now? A victim, or a demon with murderous intentions? What really happened to her? And how far will Pia go to help her get revenge?
Accused of a murder the spirit commits, Pia reaches out to the only man who can help her: ex-Special Forces detective Nate Ryder. A man who is as dangerous to her heart as the situation she seeks his help with. Nate would move mountains for the woman he loves, but how can he protect her against forces he can’t even see?
As Pia and Nate are swept into an unpredictable situation brimming with dark, evil intent, they soon discover they have more to fear from the living than they ever did from the dead…
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
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