A Beautifully Rendered Novel that Operates on Multiple Levels: Papala Skies by Stephen Geez

papalaskiescoverI’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii and I must say this book was like having a personalized grand tour. The descriptions were vivid and conjured up outstanding imagery that virtually took you there, the prose as refreshing as a frozen pina colada on a hot afternoon. Don’t let the somewhat enigmatic title and cover fool you. This story was beautifully rendered as implied, but it comprises far more than lush tropical scenery.  Thus I can easily grant it 5-stars.

This complex and compelling story is as unique as its setting. While it has numerous elements of a coming of age story and dealing with tragedy, it went much deeper and at times much darker. The main character, Rochelle, has a troubling secret which she’s carried since she was thirteen when her mother died. She blames herself for her mother’s death, something children are prone to do whether justified or not when there’s a divorce, illness or other trouble that descends upon a family. While some teens might turn to drugs or alcohol, Rochelle instead becomes an over-achiever.

Many cultures and locales come into play in this multi-faceted novel. Her deceased mother is from France, which she longs to visit; she lives in Chicago, which she loves; and her father’s business interests are centered in Hilo, Hawaii. After her mother’s death her father brings her to Hawaii where she’s introduced to her soon to be Hawaiian step-mother, Lalani, and her children, one her natural-born son, Pocamea, and another blond boy, Mikalu, from San Diego who was abandoned to Lalani’s care by his father when his mother died giving birth to him. These kids live with Lalani’s father in an ancient stone house occupied by their ancestors for centuries. Running water is provided by a stream beset with waterfalls, the beach is within view below an inviting cliff with the orange glow of a volcano completing the picture. But the tropical, idyllic beauty is not without its shadows.

Native burial traditions by which the children of the land are returned to Pele are described in fascinating detail as their earthly remains are taken into the bowels of the land referred to as lava tubes. Rochelle, while so much an ambitious city girl, bonds with her step-brothers and falls in love with Coulee Makai as their homestead is called. But just as one major story element is resolved and you think the story is about to end, a swell of intrigue bursts upon the scene like a tsunami, pushing the story in an entirely different direction. Even in this primitive, idyllic land there are those who conspire to destroy it through development and commercialization through whatever means necessary. Death and crippling diseases fall upon some of the characters, Rochelle at the center where her loyalties are put on virtual trial in such a way that her life is on the line when she chooses sides.

Far more is confronted in this brilliant novel than the challenge of overcoming the death of a loved one, the complexities of family loyalty, or friendships stronger than blood ties. There is a well-sustained sense of mystery throughout as Rochelle’s life unfolds amid an initially alien culture of which she gradually becomes a part, driving choices which eventually deliver her to the last place she expected to be. Not only are the characters real but their lives and interactions as well. The level of detail makes you feel as if you know these individuals personally. You cry when they pass on and and will miss the others as you would a close friend when the story ends.

The one thing I found a bit disconcerting at first was how in the first third or so of the story it kept jumping back and forth between when Rochelle was in her teens to when she was a young college graduate from MIT with an engineering degree. Eventually, however, it all fit together like a Chinese puzzle, somehow “working” very effectively in a literary sense by creating a sense of depth reminiscent of how one might remember parts of his or her life as they had relevance, which rendered an entirely different texture than if the story had proceeded in linear fashion chronologically.

This story was chock full of themes, subplots, human nature and complicated relationships that bordered on being epic or perhaps one huge chunk of a family saga. The ending was satisfying enough to serve as a conclusion but there’s a tremendous amount of material begging for prequels and delving into the backgrounds of the different characters. I highly recommend this story as a great read to anyone looking for an intriguing, well-written story that will undoubtedly take you places you’ve never been before, even if you’ve been to Hawaii.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

Interview with Up and Coming Author, Elle Klass

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Elle Klass quickly made it onto my list of favorite authors with her masterful ability to spin a suspense-laden tale with endearing real-life protagonists. “As Snow Falls,” a touching fictitious memoir is one of my all time favorite; her “Baby Girl” series is an enjoyable, suspenseful tale of a girl who was abandoned as a young adolescent and left to fend for herself; and her new series, “Eye of the Storm”, is a dark, sinister, paranormal thriller with tremendous potential you’ll definitely be hearing more about soon.

I’d read the “Baby Girl” stories as they were released and was delighted to read them again in their re-release format as a box set. Elle has added a few bonuses to this version including additional scenes which round out the story even more and awesome new covers. What I enjoyed the most about having the four episodes together was being able to read them all as a single, contiguous tale. When I read them separately with various other books to say nothing of my own writing in between I tended to forget who some of the supporting characters were and other important details. Thus, being able to enjoy the stories as an integrated saga enhanced my enjoyment considerably.

Elle’s characters are not only memorable but seem so real you expect to run into them at the grocery store. They quickly attach themselves to your heart as you vicariously share their adventures, heartbreaks, dilemmas and triumphs. If you’re looking for a gripping read that sucks you into the story to the exclusion of everything else, then look no further than one of Elle’s stories.

Now let’s get to know the woman behind them a little better…

MF: How long have you been writing? Was there anything in particular that got you started?

EK: I’ve been writing since I was a teen. It was something that relaxed me and I enjoyed it. I still enjoy it today. I started with corny poetry and moved into novels.

MF: Do your characters come to you fully developed or do you gradually get to know them?

EK: Gradually we get to know each other. I have a basic idea but once I start writing they take on a persona of their own. I go with it. If I try and fight it the book stalls and dies. The characters run the story and I’ve learned to let them. Cleo is a great example because she has not only developed but grown and matured through the course of the books. When I began writing the shorts I had no idea what twists and turns she’d take, often lollygagging as a teen/new adult.

MF: Cleo is a fascinating multi-dimensional protagonist who develops quite naturally through her adventures. Did she ever surprise you and if so how?

EK: Many times! She’s independent and won’t listen to me or succumb to her love interests. Meeting Fetch and her reaction was a huge surprise. She’s at Happy Trails enjoying a beer and starts dancing. Until that point I didn’t know she could then she gets hit on by a man beyond gorgeous and walks away. There are many times I feel the need to parent her but she won’t listen.

MF: LOL! You’ve gotta love strong-willed characters! So how are you like Cleo? How are you different?

EK: Like Cleo I’m stubborn and independent. My life hasn’t always been easy and I’ve learned to take the hard road. Even now I chose to be an indie author – one of the most difficult professions to make a living at, however, that doesn’t stop me. It’s my passion and the incentive that keeps me striving for more. Cleo uses her stubborn independence to track down the dirty details of her familial beginnings. Our similarities end there.

Cleo loves to cook – I hate it. She loses focus with her task – My sights are set dead on. She can’t let go of Einstein and her past – I let mine drop like a lead weight and have felt amazing since.

MF: Besides Cleo who’s your favorite character in this series?

EK: La Tige. Love him! As an ex-cop he’s got a tough man exterior, and has his own secrets which Cleo gets a glimpse of in “City by the Bay.” She’s too focused on finding answers to her mystery such that the information she finds slips past her. He tests Cleo’s limits almost to the point of his own pleasure yet he adores her.

MF: I, also, loved La Tige! Fabulous character. Did you know how Cleo’s saga would end from the start or did it evolve?

EK: I wrote a rough draft several years ago and the two parts I knew when I finished writing were the beginning and the end. The in between was raw but once I decided to work on the story it filled itself in. The Box Set includes an epilogue and prologue not found in the shorts. It is still very much like the original rough draft with editing. It is my original vision which started the series.

MF: Do you come up with a premise, i.e. “What if…” first or a character with a story to tell?

EK: “What if” comes first, the characters come in when I least expect it. Didier was a surprise, Kacy, Fetch, Halette, Slug’s brother. They weren’t even a thought when I first drafted.

MF: I love it when that happens. Walk-on characters add so much depth and reality to a story. What’s your favorite part of writing? Your least favorite?

EK: My favorite part is getting on my computer in my comfy stretch shorts or pants and drifting into my own world full of vibrant characters. Their actions and twists their choices make in the story keeps me pegged.

My least favorite part used to be editing but I’ve learned to enjoy it and use it as a means to write and learn more. I think my least favorite at this moment in time is the process of formatting and uploading. It’s not difficult to do and I feel a sense of accomplishment but it’s mundane.

MF: I agree that formatting can be a challenge. How do you think your writing has evolved?

EK: I’ve learned to write more action as opposed to prose. I catch a lot of my grammar crutches right away. I’m learning to use the known as a suspense builder and less description = more reader imagination. The story is meant to guide not tell.

MF: Your new “Eye of the Storm” series is off to a great start. Is there anything you’d like to tell us about it?

EK: “Eye of the Storm” is a paranormal suspense thriller that I’ve been told borders on horror. It’s the story that makes people double check their doors are locked at night before snuggling into bed. It’s unlike my other books and more my nature.

CONNECT WITH ELLE:

http://thetroubledoyster.blogspot.com/
http://elleklass.weebly.com/
https://twitter.com/ElleKlass
https://www.facebook.com/ElleKlass

BUY LINKS:

Print Copy:  http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Girl-Box-Books-I-IV/dp/1512343293/

Amazon Kindle pre-order- http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Girl-Box-Books-I-IV-ebook/dp/B00YDJX24K/

Smashwords pre-order: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/545931

Ebook Pre-order price is $2.99 until July 14th when it will jump to $4.99 so get it NOW!

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Review of Susanne Leist’s “The Dead Game”

ENTERTAINING & SUSPENSEFUL WITH GOOD CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

By the time you finish this suspenseful tale you feel as if you know the streets of the resort town called Oasis as well as all the people who live there. The one thing you don’t know, however, is who is what they claim to be and who’s not, whether they are good or bad, and what will happen next. There is an excellent mix of reality and paranormal which lends more credibility to the story. It gives you a lot to think about, particularly if you live by an old, seemingly abandoned house with a spooky reputation. If you enjoy moderately scary stories populated with a variety of characters you will enjoy this book. I particularly liked Mike’s sarcastic remarks which had me laughing out loud more than once.

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http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Game-Susanne-Leist-ebook/dp/B00F3IWF70/