Book Reviews

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

The Truth About Melody Browne is the first novel I read by Lisa Jewell. I thought it was going to be more of a murder mystery/thriller, but it had a quieter suspense.

Melody Browne goes to a hypnotist’s performance, and while there is selected to go on stage and is hypnotized to perform as a 5 year old. Afterwards, Melody is haunted by snippets and whispers of her unremembered childhood. Since she has previously been unable to remember anything in her life prior to the age of 9, Melody takes the surfacing of her memories as an opportunity to hunt down the truth.

“The memories didn’t come in a neat, chronological stream, however. They came in fits and bursts, unconnected to each other, as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to her life, thrown the pieces in the air, and let them float slowly back down to earth, scrap by scrap.”

As a mother, I liked the emotion and relatable content, however I was not prepared for some of the heavier topics in this book. (trigger/content warning: post-partum depression, substance abuse, kidnapping, bullies)

Also, it took me awhile to realize that the “flashbacks” were not actually Melody’s complete memories, rather those sections were for the reader’s knowledge. What Melody remembers is actually in much smaller detail.

Most of the chapters were relatively short and efficient; there were a few sections that were slower but not enough to deter me. Overall, I liked that the writing didn’t have a lot of fluff and tended to get to the heart of the story.

Learn more about Lisa Jewell on Goodreads and her official publisher page.

Spoilers related to review: While post-partum depression plays a prominent theme in the story, another theme is how we view acceptable sources of love. Not all families exist in the nuclear family category. Some have a single parent (I’m a single parent), or no children, or more than two parents (of any kinds: polyamorous, divorced and remarried, etc). The story speaks to the issue that sometimes a child is not placed with the person who loves them the most because they are either not related by blood or by contract. Is the “best” home really the one that can provide the most things, or is it the one that is the most full of love? If it can be the latter, what systems are in place to support those families? How do we measure love and sustenance?

If you need support: This blog does not offer medical treatments, diagnoses, or advice. If you or anyone you know is struggling or has concerns about their mental health, check out these resources listed on the National Institute of Mental Health website. An internet search of resources will also yield results specific to your local area.

Book Reviews

Hooked by Emily McIntire

(content warning for Hooked: 18+ content, kidnapping, death)

While I’m getting more into romance in general, dark romance is not a wagon I have hitched myself to in the past.

Emily McIntire’s Hooked may have me… intrigued.

You thought I was going to write “hooked” didn’t you?

In Emily McIntire’s retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, James Hook and Wendy Michaels become lovers under two opposing circumstances: Wendy is attracted to James’ persistence and bad boy demeanor, and the way he draws her out of her shell of innocence, while James is using Wendy to get close to her father, Peter Michaels. However, things don’t always go as planned.

When unforeseen events force the characters to see the worst in each other, how can they overcome that and remember the person they fell in love with? Does knowing someone’s deepest darkest secrets change how you love them, or how you want to love them?

In this novel, steam and captivating plot, setting, and character development vie for being the best part of the story. For me, it was the characters. Hooked has a cast of characters with individual personalities who all help drive the plot forward.

It’s special to feel like someone wants you for just being you, so the fact that James wants Wendy just how she is – despite his efforts not to – is appealing. And their passion is intoxicating. And he actually gratifies her in the way she wants, not just what he thinks she will like.

I love the idea of being protected and wanted at the same time, viewed as precious but not as weak.

If you have a praise kink, this book is definitely for you. (I do not, but I didn’t let that take away from the story.)

Dark romance is not a subgenre that I am familiar with. If you’re like me, the following definition from Tailored Book Recommendations may help: “Dark romance is a lot like how it sounds–romance novels with darker themes, with mature content for adult readers. Dark romance novels often come with content warnings, and they can explore BDSM, role playing, abduction, rape fantasies, and kidnapping and captivity. Some dark romances do explore lack of consent. Readers who enjoy these books are often looking for sexy and steamy romances with a helping of emotional catharsis, and dark romances deliver!”

While I don’t want a partner or lover who commits the acts of violence that James does, I recognize that this is a book, and some things that happen in books – or movies, songs, etc – are okay that would not be in real life. One unexpected outcome of reading this book is an increased comfort level in the way I think of intimate encounters. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s comfort levels are different, and something that is okay for someone in a media format might not be okay for them in real life.

But if you’re curious, like me, a familiar story retold as a dark romance could help you ease into it and see the world in a new way. While I may not be 100% addicted to the dark romance genre yet, I found this book easy to read with a quick pace and I’m definitely going to read the next book in the Never After series.

Next book release: Scarred, the second novel in the Never After series, will be available 4 January 2022.

Learn more about Emily McIntire and her other works at www.emilymcintire.com

Book Reviews

The Woman in the Window/ The Art vs The Artist

Can you separate the art from the artist? I can. We all can. But it’s a conscious choice, and we don’t always do it. Below I provide a review of the book, followed by some information about the author. The rest is up to you.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is a suspenseful thriller/murder mystery/psychological thriller about a woman who doesn’t leave her home. Instead, the outside world comes to her in the forms of her physical therapist, her psychiatrist, the tenant who rents her basement, and the neighbors she spies on through the windows.

(Trigger warnings for this novel: agoraphobia, depression, death, alcohol and substance abuse)

Anna Fox experienced a traumatic event that has left her housebound. Her most constant company is her cat, Punch. Separated from her husband and daughter, Anna copes as best she can – with black and white films, wine, and the suppressed ghosts of her past.

After Anna witnesses a murder in one of the homes that she can see from her window, her world is turned upside down. What is real? What if the truth is worse than you imagined?

I really felt like anybody could have been the culprit – including poor Anna herself.

The writing has an easy flow and once I started reading, I honestly could not put it down. The combination of suspenseful writing with lyricism has great appeal.

One of my favorite quotes is bolded below (beginning added for context): “He’s a cellist; in the warm months, he rehearses with the parlor windows thrown open, so Ed used to hoist ours in turn. We danced one night in some long-gone June, Ed and I, to the strains of a Bach suite: swaying in the kitchen, my head on his shoulder, his fingers knotted behind me, as the boy across the street played on. This past summer, his music wandered toward the house, approached my living room, knocked politely on the glass: Let me in. I didn’t, couldn’t – I never open the windows, never – but still I could hear it murmuring, pleading: Let me in. Let me in!

My heart sang at this – music described anthropomorphically.

I was moved by Anna’s story and believe we can all relate – at least a little bit – to her desire to see what the neighbors are up to. But sometimes, something as seemingly innocuous as that can lead to much more than we bargained for.

A. J. Finn is Dan Mallory’s pen name. As much as I enjoyed this book, I would not have read it had I first read this article by the New Yorker. The following description (combined with the rest of the piece) reminds me of a personal experience I have had with someone who lied, schemed, and manipulated their way through my life:

“Mallory was amusing, well read, and ebullient, and could make a memorable first impression, over lunch, on literary agents and authors. He tended to speak almost without pause. He’d begin with rapturous flattery—he told Louise Penny, the Canadian mystery writer, that he’d read her manuscript three times, once “just for fun”—and then shift to self-regard. He wittily skewered acquaintances and seemed always conscious of his physical allure. He’d say, in passing, that he’d modelled for Guess jeans—“runway only”—or that he’d appeared on the cover of Russian Vogue. He mentioned a friendship with Ricky Martin.”

For the art vs the artist perspective, read this article by The Washington Post. “Surely, it must be unnerving to discover that a colleague has lied repeatedly, elaborately and lucratively about his life. But should that matter to us, his readers? If James Frey taught us anything with his infamous memoir, it’s that autobiographical claims can collapse into a million little pieces of exaggeration and deception. Mallory’s situation is different, though, if more bizarre. How do we reconsider a work of fiction — or any work of art — when confronted with troubling information about its creator?”

The book itself? Great. Everything else? I’ll pass.

While perhaps not the first time it’s happened (nor the last), his actions are egregious enough and hit too close to home for me to want to continue with any future books, and I will not be watching the film.

The New Yorker article is a reminder that the things I experienced at the hands of a psychopath are real – they happen to people all the time, and we may not know until it’s too late. In this instance, the truth is once again worse than I imagined.

I can forgive some things, but not this.

Book Reviews

The Demon of Yodok – Adria Carmichael

The Demon of Yodok tells the story of Areum and her family as they are taken from their home and brought to live in a re-education facility far removed from the society they are used to in the capital city. At this facility, they are put to work to enforce the core values that they have been led to believe allow their nation to function and prosper.

Areum’s point of view is quite bitter; she has cause to feel discord with her sister and parents and this fuels much of her determination to join the national gymnastics team and move away from her family. The author definitely conveys Areum’s brainwashed attitude, which is at once both self-centered and subservient to the Great General, but her thoughts can be quite childish and whiny.

I think alternating another character’s point of view with Areum’s would help break up the tension and make sticking with her story easier. However, readers frustrated and potentially put off reading the rest of the series because of her attitude are assured by Carmichael that Areum’s character development does happen, it just takes it time.

The beginning is a little slow but it picks up; once they arrived at the re-education camp, I became more invested in the story. I am interested in seeing what happens with Areum, her family, and the other “members” (read: prisoners) of their re-education facility.

That said, some of the language could be tightened up; there were some things that I didn’t think added to the plot and were repetitive, and the excessive use of ellipses, exclamation points, and all caps lettering is distracting.

Additionally, I am not familiar with the Korean language and its dialects, but including some words would help immerse readers (for example, using a Korean word for “mom” or the equivalent of calling someone “sweetheart”).

I appreciate the level of detail and thought the author put into this story. Juche is not a concept I remember learning about prior to reading The Demon of Yodok. I don’t feel comfortable providing an informative source since I have no familiarity with this, so I encourage readers interested in learning more to do a little research.

The Demon of Yodok is Part 1 of Adria Carmichael’s Juche series. I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

To learn more about Adria Carmichael and her works, visit her socials on Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. Carmichael has also shared this Q+A she did with Bonnie Reads and Writes, which provides great insight and I highly recommend.

books, Music

“Black Like Me” – Mickey Guyton and John Howard Griffin

While watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my son, a new episode came on featuring country music star Mickey Guyton as the Wanderin’ Warbler.

I remember seeing on social media that Mickey Gutyon was going to be a new character, and was excited to see it for myself! Mickey Guyton’s voice is so beautiful and she is a true storyteller.

With her well-earned success, I am surprised to have never heard her songs on any country radio station – and I’ve traveled up and down the United States so I’ve listened to quite a few.

In this interview on NPR, Mickey talks about a lot of things (including why she hasn’t been played on radio) and says that her song “Black Like Me” is named after the book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

I remember reading Black Like Me when I was a kid – Griffin had darkened his skin to appear black so that he could see firsthand what it was like to be treated as a black person in the segregated south of the U.S.

A 2011 Smithsonian article says, “Black Like Me remains important for several reasons,” says Robert Bonazzi, author of Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin and the Story of Black Like Me. “It’s a useful historical document about the segregated era, which is still shocking to younger readers. It’s also a truthful journal in which Griffin admits to his own racism, with which white readers can identify and perhaps begin to face their own denial of prejudice. Finally, it’s a well-written literary text that predates the ‘nonfiction novel’ of Mailer, Capote, Tom Wolfe and others.”

While an important document, it speaks to the larger issue that we need to believe others – people’s experiences aren’t just stories. When a group of people is telling us about an experience, who are we to say those stories aren’t valid? Instead, let’s trust, learn more, and help change the narrative.

This Billboard article shares that: On the eve of unprecedented visibility for Guyton (the first Black female country artist to receive a Grammy nomination in 45 years since The Pointer Sisters received a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group), Watson’s 20-page report, released today (March 12) notes that even including crossover artists, only 2.7% of country radio airplay over the past two decades were for songs by BIPOC women.

Despite the radio success of male black artists such as Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and more recently Jimmie Allen, female black artists are not getting the same representation. The Billboard article goes on to share that “BIPOC artists — in terms of percentage of songs played, of airplay, of charting songs, of artists signed to major labels, and award nominations — still comprise less than 4.0% of the commercial country music industry.”

Why am I sharing this on a blog mainly about books? It’s all connected. Art feeds art and experience feeds art. The media we consume matters a great deal, whether it’s books, music, magazines, tv shows, etc.

As I browse what I’ve read so far in 2021, what I see is a need for more diversity in authorship and topic. An unexpected consequence of keeping track of what I’m reading (using sites such as Goodreads) is that I can go back and look at the titles all together.

Learn more about Mickey Guyton at her website and check out her music on the streaming platforms. My personal favorie song is “Somebody Else Will”.

Happy listening and learning, friends ❤

Book Reviews, books, Special Guests

Ricochet Day & Q+A with Noel Silvia

Everything we do, even the smallest of things, matters.”

With Ricochet Day, author Noel Silvia delivers another sweeping tale of the interconnectedness of humankind.

The stories we tell, the memories we collect, and the encounters we share with others reach farther than we can imagine.

The further you delve into Ricochet Day, the more the characters become intertwined. In this regard, it is similar to Silvia’s first novel Where Light Enters: A Novel of Hope.

Fans of Where Light Enters can look forward to another story of characters searching for optimism among less-than-ideal circumstances, and ultimately maintaining hope through it all.

How often do we think about what is coincidence and what is fate? Does it make a difference in how you treat yourself and those around you? Ricochet Day allows us to explore this through the lens of its various characters throughout a 24-hour period on a fateful San Francisco day.

Thanks in part to the flow and variety of characters, I found Ricochet Day to be a relatively quick read. I like to compare novels by the same author – what is similar, is there a new theme? (Stay tuned for my next review about two of Ruth Ware’s novels where I discuss exactly this.)

Read on for a Q+A with Noel Silvia to learn more about his writing process and new novel, Ricochet Day.

Author Links
Goodreads
Amazon

“… I’m saying that it’s all connected. Everything builds from what came before it. Everyone inspires those around them.”

Q+A

Q. As with your first novel Where Light Enters, your sophomore release has been a labor of love. What inspired you to write about this particular day?

A. After the first book, which deals with some pretty heavy themes, I wanted to write a more joyful book, and for me, San Francisco is a city that holds so many happy memories. It’s the biggest little city in the country, with so much history and culture, that it was hard for me to not fall in love with it when I moved there in the late ‘90s. 

Having grown up in California during the ‘80s, what happened on this day was one of those “Where were you when…” big events that stands out. It isn’t the event of the day that inspired me to pick this day so much as it is the people who lived there then and now. The Bay Area has seen so much tragedy throughout its history, but it is such a resilient place because of the people who make it their own. I love themes of contrast, such as light versus dark in the first book, and here, I wanted to really explore the choices people made on that day to choose hope in the face of adversity and disaster.

Q. The primary theme that everyone is connected by even the smallest actions is apparent throughout. Can you talk a little more about the secondary themes, such as truth in the chapter “Mokita”?

A. The second major theme is temptation and what we do when tempted. Do we choose the right thing or the easy thing? Do we choose the simple path or the path of honesty? This theme goes back to the old expression that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. The truth is so subjective, as everyone’s “story” is true from their POV. We often only see things how we want to see them, rather than how they actually are.

“Mokita” gets its title from the word in Kivila (spoken in Papua New Guinea) that roughly translates to “the truth we all know, but don’t talk about” .The closest idiom we have in English would be “the elephant in the room”. [Learn more here.] As a chapter, I wanted to explore what happens when we dance around the things we feel, and how not being honest about those things can lead to disaster. It’s easy for us to brush the truth aside, or expect others to “clean up our messes”, but at the end of the day, we need to be honest with ourselves and each other, as we never know how much time we have on this planet. “The truth will set us free”, and I tried to show that message thematically with various characters throughout the novel.

Q. You utilized hour-by-hour and person-by-person chapters while still presenting quite the cohort of secondary characters. How did the process of developing these characters compare to the characters of Where Light Enters?

A. The process was the complete opposite to Where Light Enters. In that book, I started with the characters and grew the stories out from there. I knew where I wanted them to end up, but I let their personalities lead the way. With Ricochet Day, it was a challenge because I knew that I only had a limited amount of time (a chapter or two) with each character to nail their characterizations, motivations, and unique quirks.

I started by making a list of the different themes and messages I wanted to explore in individual chapters, and from there, I thought about what types of characters would inhabit these spaces and scenes. Many of the characters are amalgamations of real-life people that I’ve known, and actual events pulled from my life, so that made it easier to give them a voice and context.

The fun part came when I got to arrange them in order, figuring out which theme best led into the other in a way that would make sense narratively and was still fun and engaging to read. There were some struggles, but once it clicked, I knew it was right and had to trust my instinct.

Q. What have you learned about the writing, publishing, and marketing processes that you’d like to share with other writers?

A. On writing – Know how to take feedback when it’s constructive, and don’t be afraid to scrap what isn’t working. Chapters like “Mokita” and “Ode to Emily” went through numerous versions (not just drafts) before I was able to settle on something that made sense.

On publishing – No matter how many times you write and review the same chapter over and over again, you’ll always miss things (comma here, quotation mark there). It’s stressful but trust that if you tell a good story, the reader will understand because it’s an independent thing and you don’t have the resources of a big publishing house. Plus, you can always re-upload corrected versions and tell those who bought the earlier version of the books with the typos that they now own a limited first-print edition!

On marketing – I’m still trying to figure this out. Going through Amazon KDP, there are avenues to explore, so do what I haven’t done yet and take the time to figure these out.

Q. It’s evident that you really enjoyed writing the chapter about Gabriela and Sprinkles. Have you given any thoughts to writing a children’s story? 

A. Absolutely. I have several ideas for children’s books, and I foresee more adventures for Gabriela, Sprinkles, Horatio, and Gregory in the future. The Feathered Council [you’ll learn what that is when you read!] has plans for the children in their futures.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. I am currently reading Parenting Your LGBTQ+ Teen by Allan Sadac, as it is a great resource for things I never thought about when writing about non-hetero-normative individuals. My next book, Your Pretty Self, deals with themes of beauty and how it affects women. As a CIS male, it is incombant upon me to learn as much as I can about the issues surrounding this topic so that I can be as accurate and responsible as I can. It’s no different than when I was writing about the Battle of Monte Cassino; I start with research and find the stories buried in the history and issues.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Thank you to Noel Silvia for contributing to today’s post.

About the Writer, My Life, Writing

What’s new?

Hello friends!

Aren’t these mushrooms so woodsy and adorable?

It has been a couple months since my last post.

This past summer, I separated from the military, sold my house, and moved across the country.

In September, I began a new job that I was excited for – perhaps too excited. The organization itself ended up not being a good fit. My mental health was suffering. After I chose to leave the position, I learned from my parents that they had been very worried about me.

When I love something, I throw myself into it. And I loved the skills and opportunities that job had – creativity, planning, communication, working with other businesses.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. What we need and what we want are not always the same. This has been a difficult lesson for me.

Autumn leaves make me happy

So what else is new? I have been reading more and even got new library cards for my son and I.

This October, I have been working on a new story.

This project is an entirely new one. I wanted to write something with a fantasy/magical element that takes place in the story-world that I’ve had in my head since I was a teenager. Now, I finally feel comfortable enough to start world building.

The premise of my new story The Pomander is that two women must go on a journey and along the way they learn and reveal truths about themselves. The consequences of their ability or inability to accept their truths could have life changing and potentially lethal consequences.

It’s what I’m calling more of a soft fantasy – it’s in a fantasy world but there’s not a ton of gallant dueling or dragons or things like that. In the first draft, I am aiming more for the emotional than the action. Plus, this world is connected to earth.

I have more stories that will take place here – Museum of Halfwood Things and eventually a story about the original heroine, Cadwyn – but for now I am enjoying the writing process (I use Scrivener) and crafting the characters.

Sharing this side of me has always been difficult because I thought it made me feel too different. At some point during my childhood – or more accurately, over the course of it – it was instilled in me that being different was not good. I only wanted to be good. I never wanted to be “bad”.

The stress of disappointing others has held me back from so much when I should be focusing on myself.

As an adult, I’ve met and been inspired by so many amazing people who are not afraid to be “different”. To them, I am eternally grateful.

Now, I don’t want to be good or bad – I just want to be myself.

I hope you do something for yourself today, friends!

Book Reviews

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Fifty Words for Rain is at once achingly sad and poetically beautiful. I love a heart-wrenching plot and complex characters, and Asha Lemmie delivers in one sweep with her debut novel. Prepare to get lost in the range of emotions you’ll feel at every turn. Whether it’s friendship, siblinghood, parenthood, hope, or survival, there is a theme in Fifty Words for Rain that will speak to your heart.

Fifty Words for Rain tells the tale of a young girl named Nori who goes to live with her grandparents – only to be forced into the attic and punished for things beyond her control.

In a world where she is to be neither seen nor heard to save face for her highly esteemed family, Nori eventually finds an ally in her brother Akira.

Akira shows Nori new possibilities that Nori had previously been denied. As Nori learns more from her brother about the outside world, it becomes harder and harder to return to the isolation of the attic.

Throughout many ups and downs, Nori’s adoration for Akira blossoms into a love that transcends both of their circumstances and leads to daring and courageous acts.

After a lifetime of suffering, Nori feels like a shell of her former self. Although the siren call of death can be disguised as an endearing temptress, Nori must persevere to protect herself and her loved ones. When motherhood presents itself, Nori’s harsh reality becomes even more evident.

Throughout life we make many choices, some big and others small, but all can have lasting impacts on other people. Nori must eventually come to terms with her choices, especially when it comes to love. Will she have room in her heart for more than one person?

As a single mother, I think about this issue sometimes. One day if “true love” presents itself again, how will I balance it with the love of my child? Can’t the love of your sibling or your child or your parent also be true love, just in a different way? Love is multi-faceted.

Nori’s journey is deep and devoted. There were times when I was overcome with sadness or anger and literally had to put this book down to compose myself.

Asha Lemmie has proven herself an expert at eliciting emotion. The only thing you could regret is not reading this book!

Learn more about Asha Lemmie and Fifty Words for Rain at her website.

Book Reviews

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

CW/TW: depression, suicide, death

Nora Seed is trapped – in the Midnight Library.

Matt Haig’s latest novel The Midnight Library tells the story of a woman named Nora, who finds herself in the ultimate position between choice and fear of the unknown.

After a series of events leaves Nora feeling despondent, unwanted, and more alone than ever, she finds herself in the Midnight Library.

This library is like limbo, the place between your physical existence and your final resting place.

Its librarian is none other than Nora’s former school librarian, Mrs. Elm. Some of Nora’s most memorable childhood moments occurred with Mrs. Elm.

I purchased The Midnight Library at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport and absolutely devoured it. This phrase is old hat but it’s true: I could not put it down!

In the Library, each book represents a different life Nora could have led. There are infinite possibilities.

All you have to do is pick one and it pulls you into the story of What Might Have Been. And you can try out more than one.

The smallest decision have deep consequences. How would you feel if you found yourself in such a library? How do you even begin to choose or guess what life would make you the happiest?

Will Nora find happiness? Will she even make it out alive? Will she pick a new life to live?

No spoilers here!

Stylistically, this book is easy to read. The language is straightforward while remaining engaging and the chapters are short. I’ve found the older I get, shorter chapters are better for keeping my attention span – they seem to keep the flow going better.

The supporting characters have unique personalities and all serve the story well.

Very importantly, The Midnight Library is emotional. Nora’s feelings of aloneness and despair are very real. My desire for Nora’s situation to improve was compounded by the fact that I so badly wanted her to feel better.

I connect easily to books that are tinged – or in some cases, saturated – with sadness. If you’re like me, you may cry at least once while reading this story.

Don’t get me wrong. This book is more than sadness.

The Midnight Library represents hope and overcoming the dark places our minds can take us. Happiness doesn’t just magically appear because we think we did everything right or everything that we were supposed to. It is cultivated. It is crafted. It is built piece by piece from all the ways that we give ourselves grace and love and extend them to others.

Have you read The Midnight Library or any of Matt Haig’s other works? Drop a comment below!

A master of inciting emotion, if the rest of Matt Haig’s books are like this one, I can’t wait to read more. Learn more about Matt and his other works at his website.

If you or anyone you know is struggling or has concerns about their mental health, check out these resources listed on the National Institute of Mental Health website. Domestic violence resources can be found at the Hotline. An internet search of resources will also yield results specific to your local area.

Book Reviews

Viaticum by Patrick Morgan

“Paradise has a price.

It isn’t just a job, it’s his dream job. This is everything he’s worked for and everything he deserves. One job offer, and Ethan Birch’s life changes forever.

Given immense creative control, power, and perks, Ethan falls deeply under the company’s spell. His Beverly Hills office is a modern mecca, complete with every imaginable convenience and delight. Employees walk around barefoot on floors of summer grass while flowering cornucopias bloom from the ceiling; a utopian fantasyland the likes of which he’s never imagined.

But beneath this paradise, a dark conspiracy breathes. Ethan soon begins to realize that to have everything he’s ever wanted, he’ll have to sacrifice everything he’s ever loved.”

Cover photo of Patrick Morgan's novel Viaticum

Patrick Morgan’s latest novel Viaticum is a poignant tale of the consequences of maintaining a lavish lifestyle and choosing your own reality.

How do you define success? Is it accomplishing goals or building wealth? Somehow both?

Is there a threshold as you move up the chain where building wealth and status becomes the goal?

Is work success worth your home life falling apart?

What if it was going to fall apart anyway?

Viaticum is also an intriguing character study:

First is Ethan – a man who seems to have difficulty taking full responsibility for his actions, instead choosing to blame everyong and anyone else.

Second is Dr. Charon – one half of the husband and wife team that owns Olympus – who seems to revel in playing god to those around him, pushing them to the brink until he’s the last thing they can rely on.

From Ethan’s point of view at his new work place, Olympus: “Platinum-blue Los Angeles skies stretch out in every direction, and beneath them, a full nine stories down, I can gaze out over the urban sprawl of civilization in much the same way that God must look down upon us.”

There is tension between Ethan and his wife, Allie, and the more you learn about their history, you begin to see how certain actions have come to be.

Having read other reviews, I’m feeling alone in that I have little sympathy for Ethan’s predicaments. I don’t know if the author meant this to be ambiguous but I got the impression that Ethan was chosen by his new company precisely because things were going to implode for him anyway – if Olympus hadn’t been involved, how would his life have been different in the end?

Viaticum would be an interesting book club selection because there’s plenty to dissect.

Patrick Morgan excels at presenting the what-ifs.

What if you risked the consequences of doing whatever you wanted because the world was ending anyway? (Apparent Horizon)

What if your soul got lost in the ether and entered another person’s body while you were unconscious? (Realms)

And now, with his latest novel Viaticum, what if there’s a chance for you to have everything you wanted? What price would you pay to get it?

Patrick Morgan’s latest release Viaticum is available via e-book and in print and releases TOMORROW, 6 July 2021. Preorder your copy today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Learn more about Patrick Morgan and his other works at his website.