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.

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“… 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.

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

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.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds

Cara is a traverser – jumping between worlds by both the mercy of Goddess Nyame and the intentional hands of science. She spends every day with a woman she loves from afar while trying to reconcile the present with the past… That is, until a powerful announcement is made and Cara begins to believe that while she can’t alter destiny, she can still exercise her free will to choose between what’s right right now and what’s right for all.

When I hear “sci-fi” my brain automatically goes to things like The Twilight Zone or intergalactic travel (I grew up in a Star Trek household). The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is sci-fi that feels…. accessible. While not caught up in the technical aspects I usually lose interest in, there’s just enough for it to set the scene without rubbing it in your face. The emotions of the characters also create the drama that keeps me (and hopefully you!) coming. back. for. more.

The Space Between Worlds is also visually enticing. The juxtaposition of the technologically-advanced Wiley City and the left-behind-in-the-dust (literally) Rurals and Ashtown are something I would love to see on the big screen.

The Wiley City skyscrapers complete with gardens and courtyards are probably not far off from what our future holds. A quick Google image search of skyscraper vertical gardening gives you an idea.

It has the futuristic, post-apocalyptic thing going on which I think will never go out of style as long as we are pre-apocalyptic. Think The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, etc. Why are we so drawn to these books? A post-apocalyptic world seems so – forgive me – out of this world but is so full of heroes it’s hard not to be drawn to it.

Other than having a good plot and excellent character development, The Space Between Worlds is DIVERSE. The plot does not center around a cisgender, white protagonist with a few diverse characters sprinkled in to the edges for good measure. The story is about humanity, all of it, pulling back its layers and exposing its deep truths.

With appropriately-timed revelations and the continuous theme of the relationship between science and religion, there is plenty in The Space Between Worlds to spark conversation. It would be a great book club selection.

Have you read The Space Between Worlds? Would you want to world-travel? I would honestly much rather be the world-traveler than the person who is visited by a traveler because I would be INSANELY jealous!

Happy reading, friends!

Beliefs and opinions reflected in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the beliefs and opinions of the author and/or publisher.

About the Writer

A Beautiful Beginning

Welcome to Oak + River Books! I am honored to be a part of your journey. Browse the Q&A below to learn more about what Oak + River Books means to me.

What is Oak + River Books? This blog is a creative space to explore literature with a special emphasis on nature and the outdoors. Through book reviews, interesting articles, photos (and maybe the occasional poem), I will reveal my ideas on the importance of literature and nature.

What do you want to accomplish with this blog? During this journey, I want to explore concepts relating to nature and its effects on individuals, families, and communities; everyone is welcome to enter and interact with an open mind. I hope that readers will take away ideas to ponder or research on their own. I encourage respectful and constructive dialogue.

Who do you want to connect with? Readers of Oak + River will be a combination of bibliophiles and nature-seekers. I am about to start a Master’s program in recreation management and anticipate some of the things I learn will reflect here. With that in mind, I think this community will have an appetite for knowledge and knowledge-sharing, but I also want it to be a space for individuals at any level of interest in these areas.

Why “Oak + River”? I wanted a title that made me feel like I was taking a breath of fresh air. The oak is sturdy and mighty; it is consistency and dedication. The river is fluid and ever-changing; water has the power to soothe. I recently learned of a grounding technique that involves putting your hands under alternating cold and warm water, with the intent of paying attention to the different sensations on your skin. Being near water and being in the woods always brings me a sense of peace; I want to evoke that sense of calm and intention with Oak + River Books.

Anything else? Firstly, I welcome constructive feedback as I begin the blogging process. Secondly, I want everyone to feel like they belong here. We are all connected. The more we learn about ourselves and each other, the more we are able to help one another. The world gets us down sometimes and I will do my best to keep this a place of positivity.