“Motherless,” Erin Healy

Motherless-small-196x300

Photo courtesy of Erin Healy

“This is truth: we all tell the stories that we want to believe. We tell them for so long that we forget what we really know. Occasionally we convince others to believe them too.”

Motherless is the story of brother and sister, Marina and Dylan, who are coming to terms with the anticipated death of their father (he’s in an induced coma) having lost their mother many years earlier from an apparent suicide.

Marina, even though only a few years older than 16-year-old Dylan, has taken on many of the responsibilities of being a mother. She is especially protective of him as he suffers from agoraphobia, which can be tremendously debilitating.

Their story is told through the eyes of a first person narrator who has a particular interest in their welfare. This individual takes on a far greater role in their story and especially the key themes as it unfolds.

Healy uses vivid imagery in describing her characters, the Californian coast and the delicacies created by Sara, another key character. At any moment Healy is able to transport the reader into being a cocktail party guest, harvesting grapes in a vineyard or sitting on a surfboard waiting for the next set to roll in.

I particularly appreciated how Healy took me into Dylan’s mind, the young poet who was at his happiest surfing the break outside his home even though stepping out the front door to pop down to the shops crippled him with fear. I know what that feels like.

Lies, deception, grace and forgiveness. Key themes at the heart of most families as they reflect the darkness and light we all must navigate through life.

This is what makes this story so compelling: it could be any of our families that Healy has captured on the page.

Highly recommended.

“Stranger Things”, Erin Healy

Stranger Things

Photo courtesy of Thomas Nelson website

This is my new favourite Erin Healy novel. It has all the hallmarks of what we’ve come to expect from Healy: gripping suspense, characters grappling with their external world but also with what’s in their heart, and an insider’s perspective of the “thin places” where the natural and supernatural intersect. However, added to this novel is an especially powerful story line drawing the reader into the dark sinister world of human trafficking.

The novel starts fast and doesn’t let up. Healy’s descriptive powers make this novel a highly visual experience. We get multiple points of view which I enjoyed as it enlightened the experience in my mind.

The story demonstrates how human trafficking is able to proliferate due to systematic abuse, deceit and corruption. For much of the novel we’re not exactly sure whether the heroes are actually villains and vice-versa. As the story unfolds the layers gradually peel away to reveal some very courageous people and sinister bad guys.

Serena Diaz and Amber Larsen are two very gutsy women, both survivors of this heinous industry, and marvelously crafted. They are drawn together, coincidentally, by Amber’s brother, Christopher. Embedded in both ladies is his passion and energy to rescue those in need and shine light in the darkness of the industry that has played such a role in their lives since their youth.

The bad guys are creepy in their arrogance, abuse of power and complete disregard for the lives of the many they destroy. Healy reveals the far-reaching tentacles of structured corruption that pervades the industry.

This is an effortless read that was hard to put down and I was sad it ended.

Favourite Books of 2013

As you are likely to be aware I do read a lot of books and I thought a good way of wrapping up 2013 was to highlight some of my favourites.

Before I do that I thought I’d share some of my reading stats. (I borrowed this idea from Katie Weiland, one of my favourite writing instructors).

Books Read –  93 (2012 – 75)

Fiction to Non-fiction ratio – 27: 66

Paper to ebook ratio –  48: 45

(this surprised me. Majority of the ebooks fall into the non-fiction category)

Top Categories – Christian self-development (23 books), Christian fiction (20), Devotional (12), Secular non-fiction (12), Writing & Marketing (9), Bible commentary (9).

Read more

My Best Books of 2012

One aspect of the end of year wrap-ups I love is reading all the “Best of…” lists. So I reviewed the 75 books I’ve read in the past 12 months to determine my own Best Books of 2012.

In fact, I’ve got two lists: A Top 5 Fiction and a Top 10 Non-fiction.

Let’s start with the novels.

Top 5 Fiction

I was a little disappointed in myself this year that I didn’t read from a more diverse range of novels. So many of my favourite authors released new material that I tended to stick to a lot of tried and true authors, both in the Christian and secular markets.

As I spent a decent part of the year editing Angelguard, I also adhered to one of the common recommendations for budding authors: read in your genre. So lots of supernatural suspense type books made up my reading list.

I want to change that in 2013 by reading more widely. In particular, I’d like to read more of the classics.

Read more

5 Favourite Secular Thriller Writers

This is the third post in this series on some of my favourite books. You can find the first 2 posts on these links: Favourite Classics and Favourite Christian novels.

“Secular” reflects the market these novelists address and in no way is meant to be any assessment of their spiritual leaning.

At a young age I read a lot of Agatha Christie WhoDunnits plus a bunch of action adventure books, which likely fuelled a passion for thrillers.

Thrillers are my preferred genre to read. I use the term “Thrillers” fairly loosely as in my mind it can relate to suspense, action adventure, mystery, speculative and even fantasy.

It was much harder for me to decide on actual novels due to the large volumes produced by some of my favourite thriller authors. So I’m actually going to focus on the author.

Read more

5 Favourite Christian Novels

Continuing the series on my favourite books, I thought I’d share my favourite Christian novels. It’s possible the authors may not like me categorising their novels in such a way. However, I’d suggest the majority of the readers of these novels are Christians and hence, I am using the “market” as the method of categorisation.

As an aside it’s an interesting question. Am I a Christian author or an author who writes with a Christian viewpoint? I really don’t mind how I am classified. First and foremost, I consider myself a Christian who is an author. Could I write a novel without a strong Christian viewpoint? I’m not sure and at this time I don’t have any plans to write anything that doesn’t have such a message.

Read more

5 Favourite Classic Novels

I thought I’d start a series outlining some of my all time favourite novels. There are so many and to do any justice to the series, I need to create separate categories.

I thought I’d start with the classics. Generally, the purists will classify these as literary fiction. This is a term I prefer not to use but they are typified by their complex characters and multilayered themes.

I read on average about 60-70 books a year. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction nor classics. However, I do try to ensure I read at least one. At the moment I’m tossing up “The Great Gatsby” or “Les Miserables” as they both have movies coming out soon.

I studied English Literature at university as a sub-major to my Economics degree, having fallen in love with the classics at high school. I am reader who likes to read everything that an author writes, so my Top 5 reflects the status of the author in my estimation as the particular novel. The selected novel below is in effect, my favourite of that particular author.

A Top 5 of anything is really only good for today as there is a very strong likelihood that it would change next week. Trying to limit to five is extremely difficult. So here goes.