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.

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.

Book Reviews

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Things The Sanatorium has: murder, mystery, history, anticipation, and an unforgettable ending.

I finished this book on a cold, grey, drizzly night. Definitely spent the next hour or two feeling like there was someone watching me. Thanks a lot, Sarah! *accusatory but secretly thrilled stare in her direction*

One of the reasons I like this book is that Sarah Pearse did such a good job of making anyone seem like a suspect that I had to get to the end to find out who did it.

I even suspected the main character a few times!

And while along the way I had plenty of speculations, Pearse provides a few surprises to keep us on our toes.

And that ending! I can’t give too much away but let’s just say, it made me want to go back and immediately re-read the whole book to look for clues!

On a personal note, finishing a book lately has been a mental struggle for me. We are all exhausted with many things and I was so happy when I finished this. Starting to feel back in my groove!

Have you read The Sanatorium? Let me know in the comments what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!

Learn more about Sarah Pearse at her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is not your typical suspense novel.

The best way to describe Leave the World Behind is that it is somehow both subtle and specific.

Human nature + the unknown + what we do when we are put to the test are themes throughout.

I will not lie – while it picked up at the end, I struggled with a good chunk of this book. Leave the World Behind is certainly not an edge-of-your-seat thriller. It is at times (purposefully?) slow.

The writing style is also in stark contrast to the books I normally read. One thing specifically is that I had a hard time connecting to the characters.

After I finished reading, I watched a couple short videos of Rumaan Alam talking about Leave the World Behind and I think if I had watched them while I was having Motivation Difficulties, it would have helped – must remember this tip for future reading!

What kept me going were the overall themes and that I was intrigued by the concept itself. Plus this line specifically I really enjoyed: “if they weren’t human, in this moment, then they were nothing.”

This book was hard to read while I was reading it, but I’ve been thinking about the concepts ever since. Maybe that’s just as important, if not more so. That almost makes me want to read it again – so I can see what I missed the first time.

The mystery of the emergency in the city also compelled me to keep reading because I wanted to find out what actually happened.

In summary, I’m glad I read it. It was easy to put down but impossible to forget about so I kept coming back to it. I think it’ s important to explore texts outside of our “reading comfort zone”.

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam sounds more my speed – it’s about two best friends who grow up and have to find out if they can still be best friends. That’s definitely a concept I’m familiar with. I think I’ll give that one a shot next 🙂

Read more about Rumaan Alam and his other projects here.

Successful reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Vicious tells the story of Victor and Eli: college buddies, roommates, handsome and intelligent, and striving for excellence.

And it presents an ultimate question – What will you do to be a hero?

Victor and Eli are ambitious. Their experiments in near-death experiences lead them down a path of no return. Will they go beyond the brink or will it be too late to stop each other?

I like to read on the back patio while my son plays outside.

This story was a fast read. The science-made-relative aspect reminded me a little of Michael Crichton and I liked that the chapters alternated storylines so we got to learn about each of the primary characters.

This book makes you think about what it means to be a hero or an anti-hero. Good vs evil and wrong vs right have a lot of grey area. Something that starts with the best intentions can still turn sour, and the worst situations can prevent interesting opportunities.

I am not a huge “superhero” fan. I like the old Superman movies and the Batman ones with Christian Bale, but I don’t own any comic books. Vicious was still a comfortable read to dip a toe into the proverbial waters of that world.

Learn more about V. E. Schwab and her other works – including Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious – on her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

My first audiobook! Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I first heard of Matthew McConaughey’s memoir a few months ago and mentioned it in my post of anticipated releases of late 2020/early 2021. Looking for something different to listen to on my morning commute, I recently downloaded Audible. Greenlights was my first audiobook choice.

Audiobooks have quickly become a godsend, and Greenlights was a reminder to live my life. My life. Explore my passions and seek my truths.

One theme I enjoyed that particularly resonated with me was being involved in your success. What does this mean to me? Am I putting in enough effort? More importantly, am I putting effort into the things that actually matter the most? What does success mean to me?

McConaughey welcomes us into his life, sharing stories from all ages and imparting how to be our most authentic selves.

Have you read or listened to Greenlights? Let me know what you thought!

Learn more about McConaughey’s current role as a faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin here.

Happy reading – and listening – dear friends!

Book Reviews

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

“One more hour until I prove to Visidia that I’m meant to be their heir… Two more hours until I’m engaged to a man I’ll never love… Three more hours until I give the command to ready a ship to set sail tomorrow, and demand to know every secret about this kingdom that’s ever been kept from me.”

In what I can only describe as a magical turn of fate, I happen to work with one of Adalyn Grace’s brothers. Upon learning of my obsession passion for books, he informed me that his sister was the author of All the Stars and Teeth. Within the past year I have been developing an appreciation for young adult/fantasy books so I decided to add it to my list.

I ended up forsaking everything else I was reading to finish this one first.

All the Stars and Teeth is a high fantasy novel that explores the very real boundaries of curiosity and corruption, and the choices we make when caught between power and the desire to do what’s right.

(What is high fantasy, you ask? Click here for Goodreads’ description.)

I was captivated by the mystical Kingdom of Visidia and at least a little jealous of the adventure that Amora, Princess of Visidia, embarks upon as she sets sail to save herself and her kingdom – and not just because she finds herself in the company of the handsome rogue Bastian! Who hasn’t daydreamed about going on a heroic and life-changing quest?

Amora’s character really resonated with me. She has so many qualities I wish I could see in myself: brave and adventurous with a self-confidence I fail to muster on a regular basis. She is unafraid to go after what she wants most.

In this interview, Grace describes Amora’s character as “morally grey”. I liked this about Amora; it made her realistic and relatable. No heroine should be pristine; I would argue that our “flaws” are often what make us the most human.

The story itself was fresh yet comforting because it reminded me of things that I already liked. While reading, I got vibes of Children of Blood and Bone, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Hunger Games. But don’t be misled – this story stands alone, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters continue to develop in the next installment, All the Tides of Fate, set to release in February of 2021.

Have you read All the Stars and Teeth? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about Adalyn Grace at her website and on her Instagram.

Happy reading, friends! ❤

Book Reviews

The Maiden of the Storm – My First Adult Romance Review

The Maiden of the StormThe Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a fast read full of depth, developed characters, and researched content. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this story really delivers with the historical details, such as clothing, vocabulary, and scenery. As someone who isn’t normally a romance reader, I can say this story has me hooked on Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple. She has taken tremendous care to put the best in her books and her words stirred something within me. The tale of Riana, daughter of the village chieftain, and Horatio, captive Roman solder, combines passion, pleasure, and pride – and I will be reading it again!

*I received a free copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

View all my reviews