I’ve often seen blog tours for one thing or another—learning about a blogger, promoting a new book, something else—but I’ve not often had a chance to be a part of one. When I saw the offer to be a contributor on the tour for STRUCK, I jumped. I’d never heard of the author, let alone the book, but as my readers know, I am always on the lookout for new creators to become familiar with. I was excited.
After all, anything with a tag line of “The shadows weren’t waiting. The shadows were invited.” is absolutely bound to get my attention all on its own.
STRUCK tackles the interesting concept of what really might happen to someone when they’re struck by lightning. It’s often this somewhat mysterious and fascinating thing: a power of nature so strong it can split trees in half, but we’ve all heard stories of those who have been struck and survived to tell the tale. Are they residual effects? Is it like a stroke, and part of your body no longer works as well as you might have hoped? Or is it more like amnesia or a bad dream, where it feels like a dark cloud just lurks over your shoulder?
In Clarissa Johal’s story, it may be all of the above. Main character Gywnneth is struck by lightning very early on in the novel, and what we see throughout the book is what exactly becomes of her. It starts out subtle—seeing a man at the scene of the incident, seeing him again at the hospital…and then the oddness. Shadows, and him—the man, Julian—saying he wants her to see something. And slowly but surely, Julian creeps his way into Gwynneth’s life…and doesn’t look like he’s leaving any time soon.
As her life begins to get darker and darker, her friends Fenton and Seth (the latter of whom being the requisite in-love-roommate-in-denial) try to find a way to bring her back—while Julian and the shadows around him do everything in their power to keep them away. But is Julian on the side of the shadows, or is he just as much a victim as Gwynneth?
I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s not as cut and dry as one might think.
I did genuinely like the book. What I think it struggled from is something I’ve seen a decent amount of lately: people taking 10 chapters of information and trying to cram it into 1 chapter of space. There was so much more this book could have explored, and it didn’t. I felt lost a sea with a world of interesting characters, and nothing more than a glance at any of them. Dante, a wrench in the works from the beginning: shows up, performs his monkey wrench scene, and is never heard from again. I wanted more of him! Why did he do what he did? Why is he so sullen all the time? Poppy, Dante’s coworker at the funeral home: this girl is a treasure trove of bizarre and mystical information—but we see little of why she knows this, or any more depth to her character. She’s given an integral task near the end, which ends up being entirely left out as the climax hits. Why? Why couldn’t we have seen her task through, found out it wasn’t enough, and THEN see the end hit? It raises the already-high stakes just that bit higher, and rounds out the character.
Seth and Fenton were the most fleshed out aside from Gwynneth herself, and I still found myself wanting more. We see tiny flashes of Seth’s past with Gwynneth, and not much else aside from the latent romantic tension. Fenton we see little of, though what I did see I very much liked. He’s a bit one-sided, but he’s the good kind of cardboard character (if there is such a thing). Yes, he’s a bit of a gay cliché, but from my unique vantage point, that’s not always a bad thing. (Besides, he seems to own it.)
The concept overall, however, holds the story together and kept me reading. It’s not something I’ve ever seen explored before, and one that I wish more people might think of. Take something incredibly dangerous but totally natural, and add something supernatural to the mix?
I can’t think of anything better.
Rating: *** (Worth A Look)
Check out more on Clarissa and her work below:
Genre: Paranormal Gothic Horror
Author(s): Clarissa Johal
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Cover Artist: Kelly Shorten
Number of Pages: 255
After a painful breakup, Gwynneth Reese moves in with her best friend and takes a job at a retirement home. She grows especially close to one resident, who dies alone the night of a terrific storm. On the way home from paying her last respects, Gwynneth is caught in another storm and is struck by lightning. She wakes in the hospital with a vague memory of being rescued by a mysterious stranger. Following her release from the hospital, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a gift–one that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something more sinister… for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.
Read an Excerpt:
A bolt of blue-white lightning snaked from the sky and hit the ground in front of her. The thunderclap that shattered the air was deafening. Gwynneth slammed on her brakes and skidded. It was a slow skid, or it seemed to be. Spinning around and around in a circle, she felt like she was watching herself from afar. Time felt like it was slowing. Oddly enough, she found herself wondering if there would be white or red flowers on Hannah’s casket. Or maybe none at all.
Gwynneth’s face smacked against the steering wheel. Reality hit her along with the pain. She had forgotten to wear her seatbelt. She pressed her fingers lightly to her throbbing temple and winced. “Shit!” Thankfully, she was in one piece. Gwynneth opened the car door. Lightning lit the area and bathed her senses in a flash of blue-white. Icy rain hit her skin. Stupid! You left your jacket back at the funeral home. She ran around the car and checked all the tires. The back one was flat, and on top of that, her car was quite obviously stuck in a ditch. “Great.” She had no spare tire, she knew that for sure. She also had no idea which way led back to the retirement home. Her headlights cast a weak glow through the rain. Soaked to the skin and shivering, Gwynneth peered into the darkness. A muddy road meandered across saturated fields and off into nothingness.
She sloshed back to her car and quickly turned the engine off. She certainly didn’t need a dead battery on top of a flat tire. “Okay, Gwen,” she said aloud, “you need to figure out what to do.” Rain ran in rivulets down her face and her tie-dyed T-shirt stuck to her like a second skin. I’m a soggy, shivering rainbow. She started to walk and cursed the fact that her cell phone wasn’t charged. Seth was always bugging her about that. “Suck it up, Gwen. It rains in Oregon too.” The inky blackness was disconcerting. Lightning intermittently illuminated the area like the flash of a camera. A snapshot of a road to nowhere. Gwynneth hoped that she was at least walking in the right direction. Her teeth were chattering so hard she was in danger of biting her own tongue. Thunder rolled up her spine and along her scalp like probing fingers.
Her thoughts wandered back to Hannah. A diary. I wonder what she wrote about? She wouldn’t read it, of course, it was private. I’m sure she just wants me to throw it away so her children don’t either. A pang of loss sliced through the cold and Gwynneth shook it off. They had spent countless hours chatting and Hannah never mentioned a diary. She bit her lip. If she could only turn back time, Gwynneth would have told her how much their time together had meant. Hannah had always encouraged her to start painting again, but also understood why Gwynneth couldn’t.
A loud ‘crack’ sounded and an iridescent white light surrounded her. Two things registered: a searing pain that ripped down her back and the ground which seemed to be pulled away from her at an alarming speed.
* * * *
Pain shot through the back of Gwynneth’s head as she opened her eyes. Somebody was standing over her. She tried to focus on the face, but it hurt too much. A cool hand slid across her forehead. She opened her eyes again.
Pale, almost white eyes. High cheekbones, aquiline nose, and a well-shaped mouth. Long, white hair. Ageless. Beautiful, like a Michelangelo. All of those details registered with clarity before agony ripped through her body. She arched her back and cried out. The man murmured something into her ear which she couldn’t understand. She could feel the vibration of his voice and his breath on her neck as he gathered her in his arms. She opened her eyes and saw lightning fork to the ground silently behind him. She blacked out again.
About the Author:
Clarissa Johal has worked as a veterinary assistant, zoo-keeper aide and vegetarian chef. Writing has always been her passion. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s dancing or taking photographs of gargoyles. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters and every stray animal that darkens the doorstep. One day, she expects that a wayward troll will wander into her yard, but that hasn’t happened yet.
*Member of the Author’s Guild
Coming May 19, 2015 from Permuted Press
VOICES, a paranormal psychological horror
Find Clarissa Online: