ARC Review, Interview, & Giveaway: Izzy Moffit’s Road to Wonderland-Victoria L. James

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     Making it to seventeen in one piece isn’t usually a concern for your average teenager, but if there’s one thing Isabella Moffit has never been, it’s average. Dragged through life by parents who couldn’t care less and surrounded by violence on a daily basis, Izzy reaches that epic birthday milestone in her life with only one person to thank for getting her there: her best friend and soul sister, Paris Hemsworth.
     Vowing to stand side by side through thick and thin since they were four years old, the two of them have made it this far and are confident that now is their time to tackle the world head on, one shaky, naive little footstep at a time.
     Except they have no idea what awaits them both on the other side of adulthood, and before either one of them can strap on their hard hat, they’re taking so many knocks and bruises that Izzy’s childhood suddenly seems like a stroll in the park.
     Dodging as many bullets as they can along the way, Izzy tries to hold on to Paris’ hand for as long as possible without either one of them slipping away. But no-one ever told them how rough their journey would be. No-one told them that friends and family would change or leave along the way. And no-one told them that for every good intention they have, there’s a thousand people out there with bad ones, waiting to rip them apart.
     Follow Izzy’s journey in part one of the Road to Wonderland series – a coming of age novel with a difference, where you’ll face tears, tantrums, laughter and heartbreak, but above all else, hope. Hope that no matter what life throws your way, it’s all part of setting you on the right path to your very own Wonderland and that, more often than not, everything happens for a reason.
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***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review and participation in this blog tour
***This is New Adult so 18+ and contains what could be triggers in terms of drug addiction and physical abuse.
  • The emotional depth is staggering and complex. Victoria L. James delves into the warring aspects of the psyche, stripping the characters bare and emphasizing their conflicted emotions in love, life, and friendship. Each character is full of confusion about what it means to love and be loved. The road to self discovery and learning to give and take is compelling to watch. As each character struggles to figure out their relationships it’s a seriously rocky road full of speed bumps and dangerous twists. 
  • Izzy’s life is devastating. More than anything in the world she wants to be accepted and loved as she is and she’s forced to contend with a home life that does nothing but challenge and attempt to break her. The scenes of abuse are not especially graphic, there’s blood and pain, and broken bodies but nothing prepares you for the emotional trauma. There’s scenes between mother and daughter that are so poignant and powerful, it brings tears and heartache. The tender way Izzy cares for her mother, how meticulous she is in checking her wounds and minimizing the pain highlights and reinforces Izzy’s endless compassion. 
  • Nothing is more heartbreaking than learning a truth that destroys your hopes. Izzy is slapped in the face by so many truths that you can’t help but hurt for her. The feelings are so raw and rough, they’re like open wounds and your heart bleeds for Izzy. 
  • Izzy is astoundingly courageous. She never will admit defeat, she is not broken, and though she does go into emotional downward spirals, she’s fiercely independent and works hard to make a life for herself. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such bursts of overwhelming pride for a character as she makes her moves towards recovery and rebuilding her life. 
  • Friendship is the main theme of this story. The unshakable bond of best friends. Paris and Izzy are complimentary, total opposites really. Izzy soothes and tames Paris while Paris helps Izzy work through her grief and psychological scarring. The Cooper family is made of angels, they’re Izzy’s saviors. 
  • Dandy is an amazing character. He’s a father figure that Izzy never had and has so much love in his heart that it makes you believe in the power of good, kind people. Their relationship is warm and full of these wonderfully insightful conversations about life. 
  • There are several relationships in this book and I thoroughly enjoyed that each was so different. Each experience changed Izzy and made her stronger. There are all sorts of relationships and many times, I think authors get stuck in a rut between the too kind guy, the jerk, and the sarcastic sexy playboy. Love can be toxic, it can be cruel, sometimes it’s laughable and demeaning, but the feelings are real and a whirlwind. Victoria did a fabulous job getting at the nuances of many different types of love.
  • Paris’ story is rough and sporadic. Though it’s not constantly a main arch, it’s always there because Paris is never far from Izzy’s thoughts. Though we might not know what’s going on with her precisely, like Izzy, you feel almost compelled to know. Paris’ story shows that though you might materially have everything all it takes is one life changing event to turn your world upside down. Paris doesn’t know how to deal with her sadness and has an addictive personality. This combination is pretty deadly. Her mood swings are intense and shift from one moment to the next without much warning. Seeing the toll getting in with the wrong crowd has on her is hard to read and made harder by Izzy’s thoughts when she finds her. 
  • There’s fear in abundance and after quite a few disappointments the foreboding is wicked strong. There’s tons of uncertainty about what will happen and where Izzy and Paris’ stories will lead. I loved that because it was authentic. Sure, we can guess where life will lead us and we can try to prepare but we never truly know.
  • Sometimes it was really frustrating watching Izzy slip into phases of pushing people away almost to the point of self-destruction. You kind of just want to shake some sense into her. 
  • Because this story is so expansive, a journey of nearly 15 years, some sections dragged a little midpoint where it was a bleak and lonely life for Izzy. She was in a cloud of repetition and routine as she tried to figure her life in the moments after university. 
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Jordan: Tell me about the Wonderland series.

Victoria: This whole series was an idea that was put together by a group of writers who each took on a character to write about along the way. So the entire series will eventually lead to the same place. It’s showing the characters journeys to finding one another in what they will eventually call their “wonderland”

The other authors that will be releasing along the way will be Francesca Marlow, L.J. Stock, H.A. Robinson and Charlie M. Matthews. Some of us will be writing about more than one character also, so we have the potential for a decent sized series here.

Moffy will have a follow on too at some point… Fingers crossed. I love Izzy too much to let her go just yet.

Jordan: Izzy Moffit’s Road to Wonderland spans close to 15 years. What made you decide to write such an expansive story rather that focusing on a few short years or specific period of Izzy’s life?
Victoria: I think it’s mainly because I feel that Izzy has so much to give once she reaches her “Wonderland” that I wanted to do a really detailed explanation of what brought her to be this amazing woman. We were also aware that there wasn’t much out there like that. Most novels concentrate on the here and now. Or they give brief explanations of a person’s past, all of which is brilliant, but I fell in love with Izzy the moment she was created. Her history, her childhood, her mistakes, they were all what moulded her and I felt that she needed the world to see the life that made her the way she was. I wanted the reader to live it with her and, hopefully, watch her grow into something amazing. To scream when she messed up and sigh when things went right for her. I wanted it to be the reader’s journey as much as Izzy’s.
Jordan: Well, it definitely was a journey for me. As a 20 something year old girl, I can personally identify with many of her qualms about love and sex and the uncertainty of the future.
Victoria: The early twenties are as perilous as the teenage years. People expect a woman to turn 18 and have all the answers. The truth is… even women in their 30’s and beyond don’t have those. Just ask Izzy. Lol.
Jordan: What are some of the main themes of IMRtW? The role of friendship is powerful in this story, so much so that the greatest “romance” of all seems to be between Izzy and her best friend. What made this relationship the focus of the story, or more specifically, what made you choose to highlight friendship over the traditional ideas of romance?

Victoria: With Izzy’s life being completely chaotic, it would have been so easy to make it a traditional boy meets girl love story and have her fall into the arms of a man who promised to save her, but that wouldn’t have been true to who she was. Paris was the one soul who saved her during her childhood and, Izzy being Izzy, she was pretty adamant that Paris remain the focus throughout. I wanted her to learn to love herself before she gave herself over to anyone else. The friendship with Paris was such a huge part of who she was, it had to be the main focus because it was such a huge reason as to why she was so loving, giving and self-sacrificing throughout.

As a group of writers, too, it seemed right to all of us to try and do something a little different.

Jordan: What I loved about IMRtW was how authentic it felt. It’s an emotional overload complete with terrible choices and even worse consequences. I appreciated that Izzy and Paris were so real, that they were complex, and that they were far from perfect.
Victoria: I love that you picked that up about their characters. That’s exactly what we wanted to achieve with them and with all the characters in the series, actually. They have to connect and to feel like someone the reader has met before, or even someone like themselves. No human is perfect. Mistakes are what make us who we are. The girls stories hopefully show that not all bad decisions have to be as disastrous as they first seem… It’s all part of a greater plan, right?
Jordan: I hope so. 🙂 IMRtW deals with several serious issues like abuse, drug addiction, and self-esteem issues. Did you do a lot of research into the psychological and physical aspects of these issues and the steps to recovery?
Victoria: Bits of research were done here and there, but honestly, very little. As a woman in my thirties myself, I’ve lived a very colourful life and I’ve paid attention along the way. Haha. As have all the writers involved. There was generally one of us in the group who had quite a good grasp of the ins and outs of each issue covered, so we were our own research, so to speak. I think most writers pick things up from a lifetime of reading, too. The main concern for me when writing about all these subjects, was handling each issue as sensitively but as accurately as possible. Hopefully that came across 🙂
Jordan: Oh, yes it came across really well. Are you working on anything outside of the Wonderland series currently?
Victoria: Actually, I am, yes. I have another three novels in the works at the moment. One of which will hopefully be out sooner rather than later. *fingers crossed*
Jordan: Awesome. Can you talk a little about it or is it a surprise?
Victoria: It’s a little bit of a surprise, although I can tell you that it’s a co-write with another one of the Wonderland writers, L.J. Stock. It’s a little more adult than the RTW series, but you should definitely still check it out. I’d LOVE to come back and tell you all about it once we make the official announcement and do the reveal…
Jordan: Can’t wait. I’d love to have you back to talk about it. Thank you for the opportunity to interview you and for giving us a glimpse into the madness behind Izzy. 
Victoria L James is a teenage girl stuck in a thirty-something year-olds body. Living somewhere ‘oop north’ in England, she has had a strong passion for words and stories going as far back as she can remember, which she credits to her grandmother and her love of reading anything that was on sale and cheap from the local market stall. Never once did she think she would release a novel, though. At best, she thought her love of language and her ability to create stories in her mind would provide her with a ‘get out of jail free’ card whenever she messed up and her parents were mad at her during her teenage years… and when even that didn’t work out, she thought she was pretty much done for.
When an opportunity presented itself for her to take a back seat from paid working life for a few years, she knew straight away that she had to try and write about a few of these worlds she’d come up with along the way, and quieten all the voices in her head without racking up a heavy psychiatry bill for the pleasure.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve and trying to lighten her friends’ and family’s lives with naff, and more often than not, badly timed, nineties jokes, she has yet to learn the art of knowing when to shut up. Which is another reason writing became a passion of hers. With pen and paper, there are no limits.
A firm believer in never quitting, with a ridiculous obsession for all things Rocky, she hopes that one day she writes a story that will inspire at least one person out there to keep on going if theyre struggling. Other than that, she’s just a regular old converse wearing, corona sipping, English version of Chandler Bing, who loves and adores her family more than life itself. Oh, and she also has two cats. Every writer has to mention their cats, right?
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