Tag Archives: paranormal

Roman: Saints and Sinners

This is a review Amazon refused to publish.

I admit it, the author is a friend, in fact we have had a business collaboration in the past. But I gain no profit from the sale of this book and I am not in direct competition with the author. I don’t write YA books – although I think this one is a cross-over. I do wonder if Amazon would have published my review if I had written a 1 star screamer. But I haven’t. If I didn’t like the book, I would have told the author so, and said why, and I would not have reviewed. You’re right not to trust all Amazon reviews. But you can trust this one.


In a dying town, two teens marked as broken struggle with the burden of lies masquerading as truth. Not even a man of faith is strong enough to hold back the coming darkness.

  • Benedict Nowak bailed on his marriage, taking his son with him but leaving behind his five year old daughter. He had his reasons. He had no idea they’d come back to haunt him.
  • TJ had come to terms with the mother she despised, making those small concessions that made life bearable. But her mother’s death changed everything.
  • Her brother, Anton, was the parent missing in TJ’s life, until he found a calling in violence, and left his sister at the mercy of shrinks and a mother with ice in her veins.
  • Roman Rincon was the juvie rescued by Father Marcus and placed in the care of Benedict Nowak. With his records sealed, no one knew what happened that fateful night when Roman was only fourteen.
  • All Father Marcus knew was the boy had confessed to a crime not even the cops would talk about.

In the small coal mining town of Montville, two teens whose lives have been shattered beyond repair must find a way to cope … with school, with each other, with growing up marked as broken in a town dying under the weight of secrets and lies. Warned off having anything to do with Roman, TJ is all too willing to agree, except for one little thing. The young man lives in the apartment above her father’s car repair business so avoiding him might be a problem.

As for Roman, he will take his secret to the grave, no matter what the cost.


This book starts off with a fairly routine YA premise – a sixteen year old girl (TJ) finding herself dumped on her estranged father when the mother she despises dies. Coming from a wealthy, upmarket life style and a private school, she’s faced with a new life in an impoverished, dying mining town where Latinos do what they can to survive. The longed-for college sporting scholarship is no longer an option in a school which doesn’t (can’t) support women’s sport. TJ’s brother, Tony, the only person who cares about her, the closest to a father she has ever known, is a serving soldier due to return to active service, leaving her to cope on her own. Before he goes, he makes her promise to keep away from Roman, a young man working for her father.

It’s obvious TJ isn’t going to keep away from Roman. But many things about this novel are not obvious. TJ’s father, Ben, has his own demons tormenting him with deep levels of guilt at not taking in his daughter when he and his wife divorced. TJ’s deceased mother is an invisible participant, sitting on the sidelines, mocking TJ and Ben. Ben’s cousin, Marcus, is a Roman Catholic priest who delves into ancient scrolls. Tony’s girlfriend, Marsha, is a scarred veteran of the Iraq war.

And then there’s Roman. He’s described as a seventeen year old juvenile delinquent who is sent to live with Ben as a form of rehabilitation. From the outset it’s obvious he is dark and dangerous. But how dangerous? And who to? He arrived in Montville not long after a series of mysterious events that are still spoken about in whispers, accused of bashing a man near to death.

In a way this is the usual YA coming of age story, but it is so much more. There’s a thread of dark fantasy – or call it myth – which begins as a hint, then coalesces in the latter part of the book and brings it to a thumping, heart-stopping climax. It’s a book about love, acceptance, sacrifice and redemption on many different levels.

The characters are all well-developed, real people with pasts and futures and reasons. Only the mother’s motives are not crystal clear. But then, that’s life, isn’t it, and she is dead.

The writing is sensual and evocative. You spend a lot of time absorbing atmosphere, feeling events. This is no skim read. You have to pay attention or you’ll miss things. Perhaps that is my only criticism. I occasionally lost my place as it were, since the narrative might skip from the present to a past conversation or reminiscence in the character’s head. The description is rich and real. I particularly liked the detail. You can see the town, the garage, the metal stairs up to Roman’s apartment. The author talks about motorcycles, a dying Pennsylvania town, living on a mountain road in the woods and coal mining, just to name a few, with authority which lends authenticity.

I really enjoyed this book. My YA days are far behind me and it would be sad to imagine that this is just a story for ‘teens’. It’s not. I give it *****.

PS. I LOVE the cover, designed by fellow author (and friend) Poppet. It truly suits the story

PPS. The book was written as a serial, a couple of chapters a week. I dips me lid. I could not possibly write a book in that way, especially as the writer just… goes with the flow without elaborate planning. Kudos.



What is it with vampires, anyway?

Sorry. I just don’t get it. Why would anybody find a vampire sexy? C’mon, folks. They ‘live’ in coffins during the day and crawl out at night to suck people’s blood. I don’t mind vampires per se, you understand. In the right context and all that. Like Dracula, who wasn’t nice, anymore than the lovely gentleman upon whom I believe he was based (that would be Vlad the Impaler). And Terry Pratchett’s vampires, such as the family of vamps in Carpe Juggulum. They’re not nice, either.

But this fascination for blood-sucking fiends as sexy heroes is- sorry – just plain weird. I mean, do you find mosquitoes sexy? They come out at night and suck your blood and while they’re at it, they can leave you a nice little reminder like malaria or Ross River fever. Same thing, really; admittedly without any gratuitous sex but that would be really kinky, wouldn’t it?

I haven’t read Dracula the book but I did have a go at Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. For me it was a DNF* but I skim-read and I found the early parts particularly interesting where she describes the MC being ‘converted’ and his experience of draining a man’s blood. For me, she concentrated on what the MC gave up to be a vampire; normal meals, human companionship, daylight. I felt it was pretty sad, really. A shadow existence albeit for hundreds of years.

I don’t have the same WTF feeling about some of the other paranormals, like shape-shifters. I can imagine it would be cool to be able to change into a wolf or a tiger and I can see lots of sexy elements in there. Take Sir Terry’s werewolf, Angua. She’s a beautiful woman most of the time but she can change into a wolf at will. And yet to Terry’s credit, that dark side of the original legend shines through. Angua is constantly fighting her other nature and The Fifth Elephant goes deeper into her family and her past and her very disturbing brother, Wolfgang. As I write, some of the images from the movie An American Werewolf in London come to mind. Seriously not sexy.

Maybe it was the introduction of tuxedos and virgins in flimsy white nightgowns in Hollywood that has led to the sexification (sorry) of vampires. I noticed at least four movie versions of the classic Dracula book, the most recent in 1992 directed by no less than Francis Ford Coppola. But the idea of a one hundred-year-old vampire at a high school? It’s all beyond me. What about you?

* DNF = Did Not Finish