In this second installment of the To Be The Best series, author H. L. Hertel takes us back to the wrestling room of Riverside High School. Only this time, the Castle brothers and coach Sean MacCallister will have to beat tougher and darker obstacles than the first time around. As another wrestling season begins Nick continues his climb to the top and finally out of his brother’s shadow. Ron in the midst of recuperation from injuries is no longer on top and must navigate unfamiliar territory. Sean struggles with consequences of his own injuries and becomes haunted by demons from his past. In another story of sibling rivalry and sport competition the audience will engage with new questions. Will Nick finally achieve the coveted title of State Champion? Will Ron beat the odds and end up back on top of the podium? Will Sean find the stability he’s searching for or will he hit rock bottom?
This thrilling tale follows a large cast of characters whose lives are all connected more than they could ever realize. Felony is a story about family and the lengths one will go to protect the people that are most important. The novel is centered on Laura Mitchell, a college student who is still reeling from the loss of her parents. Her life then takes another dramatic turn when she is stunned again by the sudden death of her twin sister. Scared of her brother-in-law Max Bertolini and his questionable business practices, she decides to disappear with her newborn niece to start a new life. Six years later, going by Laura McKenzie and posing her niece as her daughter Benjii, the past begins to catch up with her. When Benjii is kidnapped from school, Laura goes out on her own to find her. Realizing it is the only way she will find Benjii, Laura must stop hiding and finally face her past. As the title implies, there is much at stake for the characters in this book, as twist after twist in this complex tale takes them by surprise.
13 Green Dragons by Allan A. Lobeck is a dramatic and moving tale about heroism and death in the Vietnam War. Based on real life battle situations of the author, the story of General Marshall Rooker is told as he first arrives in Vietnam and continues throughout his many missions while he is stationed there. Rooker, known as MC 36, quickly finds that he is skilled at leadership and adjusts to making split-second decisions with the lives of many soldiers depending on his abilities. With too little time for rest, MC 36 and his platoon have several successes with very few casualties, killing hundreds of Viet Cong soldiers along the way. Rooker is promoted twice in a short period of time because of his valiant leadership and asked to lead two different covert missions to rescue prisoners from camps in Cambodia. These missions were extremely high-risk, and amazingly Rooker and his men, known as Marshall’s Marauders, are able to complete them with better results than they could have hoped for. All of the prisoners were rescued and Marshall’s Marauders escaped with only a handful dead and few wounded.
On the surface, Krystina Cole appears to be your average recent college graduate. She is working at Wally’s, the local mom and pop grocery store, while searching for the job that will use her degree and keep her afloat in New York City. However, underneath her smiling exterior, Krys is a different person with her fair share of dark secrets, troubling memories, and a heart that she tries to keep as closed as possible. Then she meets Alexander Stone, a potential buyer for the grocery store, the owner of the successful Stone Enterprise, and a perfectly sculpted model of a man, just reeking of sex appeal and money. As their two worlds collide and become intertwined, they push each other’s boundaries, both physically and emotionally, and Alex begins to teach Krystina about compromise, boundaries, and BDSM. In a sexual arrangement that needs to be so based in trust, it is hard to tell if their relationship will survive the dark pasts that have hidden their hearts away.
The Bloodline of Wisdom: The Awakening of a Modern Solutionary by Anthony “Tony” Boquet follows the complex story of Joe Morrison, a twenty-two-year-old man living in Southern Louisiana in the early 1980s. Shortly after the death of his father, Jules Jr., Joe receives a cryptic message with a map and a key attached. The map leads him to a secluded isle that few would dare to traverse for its varied and venomous wildlife inhabitants. In the midst of the swap, Joe uncovers a series of scrolls and some writing that leads him to the conclusion that he is one in a long line of descendants that can trace their heritage all the way back to King Solomon. In exploring these documents, Joe not only discovers the deep knowledge imparted by King Solomon through his scrolls, he also establishes a close, albeit posthumous, relationship with his grandfather through his ancillary texts. As it turns out, both Joe and his grandfather shared a predilection for pursuing wisdom in all things. It seems only fitting, then, that they would be Solutionaries: the direct descendants of Solomon, who was known for his unparalleled wisdom. Joe delves deeply into the lessons that his grandfather gleaned from his research and draws his own conclusions from both the original scrolls and the wisdom that his grandfather extracted from them many years before. He then allows these teachings to seep into every aspect of his life, in order to better honor his extraordinary bloodline and live up to the stature of being a modern Solutionary.
A family drama that follows two brothers and their uncle who is a Catholic priest and high ranking official in the Vatican, Morgan 512 is a suspenseful narrative that will have you on the edge of your seat. Paul Morgan has always lived in the shadow of his older brother Lewis, ever since they were teenagers at North Hollywood High School. Lewis was the straight-A student who seemed to excel at everything, while Paul was the screw-up, spending a great deal of his time in detention. When Lewis graduates from high school, something happens that changes the entire dynamic of the Morgan family, altering the lives of both brothers, their sisters, and parents. The devout Catholic family is forever changed, and as time goes on, Paul tries to figure out what exactly happened to Lewis, suspecting that he was influenced by their uncle, Father Morgan. Paul does everything he can to learn Father Morgan’s secret, always coming back to Lewis’ graduation, and propelling himself forward into a web of deceit deep in the Vatican as he aims to stop his uncle’s evil plot, which if revealed, would be sure to shock the world.
Ruins is the compelling story of a young American man in the tumultuous 1970s who moves to Iran to work at an American corporation. Walt yearns to travel the world, visit historic sites, and meet interesting people. When he lands in Isfahan, Iran, he realizes he has to settle down and make some money in order to sustain his wanderlust. After meeting some Americans who work for an American Helicopter corporation located in Isfahan, he applies for and lands a job with the corporation in their supply division. There he befriends plenty of Americans, however they don’t all share his thirst for knowledge and culture. He does meet a young Iranian professor, Daveed, who, while he loves to share his own passion for his culture with Walt, serves as the leader for a local resistance movement. Walt and Daveed’s friendship blossoms as steadily as the civil unrest in Iran. Even if he doesn’t realize it, Walt is at the center of the clash between Western civilization and the Middle East, and the repercussions of the clash ripple throughout Walt’s life in ways he couldn’t have imagined.
Lili Wentworth has been through a lot in her life. She lost both of her parents at a young age, then later lost her lover and companion, Terrence. She suffered an injury that derailed her career as a professional dancer, and endured an intense period of self-discovery and conflict, where she confirmed her longtime suspicions that she was “Gifted” in an extraordinary, otherworldly sense. Now, things are finally starting to take a more positive turn in Lili’s life. Yet, Lili is still unsure of herself and her future, and, as things fall in line, she doesn’t know whether she’s being set up for happiness or failure…The third entry in the Brownstone series, The Brownstone: Celtic Whispers finds Lili in good times. The brownstone has recently expanded, both in terms of size and tenants, and Lili’s business endeavors are proving very fruitful. What’s more, her friends and family are achieving major life milestones, including marriage, childbirth, artistic expression, and professional success. But, as everyone and everything thrives around her, Lili finds herself at a bit of stalemate. Her past continues to haunt her; her late father’s prophecy lingers over her head; and her foretelling dreams hold her back from pursuing a relationship with the man she loves. But, Lili is not one to remain idle. She embarks upon a journey, as metaphysical as it is physical, that carries her to unexpected places, where she learns invaluable lessons about love, spirituality, nature, and walking the thin line between desire, morality, and reason.
The book’s major strength is how it expertly combines both fact and fiction. How the storyline blends real events that occurred during The Great War, with fiction, which depicts many emotions and dilemmas that truly were faced during the war, is very eloquent. This makes it a very interesting read as the base of the storyline is different from that of most other books. For example, the main character, General von Treptow, was created out of the author’s examination of an old 1860s map in his collection. Von Treptow hails from the actual Berlin suburb of Treptow. Along with this, when the author talks about The Verdun incident, he describes it as it actually happened, complete with the inclusion of the real person Sergeant Kunze. Likewise, the female character Estelle is fictional, but what she endured, i.e., her escape from the Germans, is a very typical story of many who tried to flee from German occupied areas during the Great War. Add to this appearances by some of history’s most well known individuals, including Adolf Hitler, back when he was just a Corporal in the Germany Army, and Winston Churchill, who the author does an excellent job of tapping into how the famous British leader thought and spoke. Particularly how Churchill discussed occupation of land on maps as the key to winning a war. He was right, of course, to think in this fashion. The made up conversations Churchill has with those around him feel authentic as if they were actually taken from a transcript somehow made during Churchill’s time.
Freedom Quest by M. S. La Voy, Sr., set in Richmond, Virginia, in 1872, follows the trials and tribulations of three separate families who are seeking better lives amidst the fallout of the turbulent Reconstruction Era. As the novel’s title suggests, the brunt of the narrative centers on these families’ journey on the way to literal as well as figurative freedom. First among the families that readers will encounter on this extended journey are the Brooks. Headed by James and Sally, the Brooks family have two children and a faithful dog they refuse to leave behind on their cross-country excursion. The second family introduced in the novel, the Summers family, is led by Zach Summers, a former Captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and his wife, Joan. They, too, have two children. The final family, the Adams family, comprises Mr. Mac Adams and Buck and Rose—who had formerly been called Centarosa Contros and Shobuk Contros respectively on the slave ship that brought them to the United States. All three of the families start their journeys full of hope and promise. Along the way, they encounter various difficulties that challenge those notions, but they never dash them. Though they come across many dangerous hazards, they never relent. They forge their paths and find their way to liberty in the end.
A short novel that follows two brothers in the heartland of America as they succeed and fail in the sport of wrestling, To Be the Best is a tale about brotherhood, sports, and what it means to become a man. The narrative follows the Castle brothers, Ron and Nick as they navigate the lanes of high school life. The boys grew up watching wrestling matches at Riverside High School, always dreaming that one day it would be them who would be showing their strength out there on the mat, and now, that day has arrived. Ron is a talented wrestler who makes it to the state championships during his sophomore year, gaining recognition from his school, the town, and across the state. Younger brother Nick struggles in Ron’s shadow, trying his best to show his own potential while aiming to escape his brother’s overpowering reputation. The novel follows the two young men as they learn and grow, Ron choosing to take his own path as he tackles obstacles, while Nick accepts the help of Sean MacCallister, the young assistant coach who guides him on his journey, all the while trying to move past his own troubled past.
No Greater Freedom is set in South and East Africa as well as in various islands off the coast of mainland Asia. Detective Steve Konig joins an investigation after weapons have been discovered in a variety of townships around Natal. Rumors are circulating that the nation of Zulu plans to separate from the Republic and become their own independent country. While Steve begins his own investigation into the matter, another detective, Francis Mackenzie, is on a mission to figure out how an illegal poaching operation near Kenya is functioning. Soon the two detectives will cross paths, merging the separate storylines together. While all of this is happening, Pat Ellis, a minister in the government department of Internal Security terrorizes the women around him while forcing his plan of corruption forward. It’s not long before all of the various plot points merge, creating a thrilling and dangerous tale of power, politics, and personal agendas.
Told in sixty, one-day snapshots from the perspective of an aging blackjack dealer, Doug Cooper’s The Investment Club crafts an intriguing story about a colorful cast of characters living and dealing in Las Vegas. Written in pointed prose that sharpens the details of each of the main characters, we come to learn about a self-destructive entrepreneur, a musician turned stripper with a drug problem, a retired New Jersey policeman, a feisty female sportscaster, and a card-counting, former Catholic priest. The novel begins and ends in the El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas, where the fates and fortunes of this rag-tag band align. Unlikely friendships and partnerships spring up between this wily group of misfits, revealing the often overlooked underbelly of Vegas in a refreshing manner many readers will enjoy.
By day, Red is a regular guy driving a fixer upper car and occasionally working at the lawn mower repair store up the street. By night, Red is Darin TaDream, the overwhelmingly successful romance novel writer who is giving Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. Even though Red and Darin are two vastly different people, they coexist in a way that allows Red to remain true to himself, while also allowing Darin the ability to groom and maintain a budding empire. But what are money, fame, and success really worth if there is no one to share them with? Red’s last relationship ended in tragedy and heartache when fate took Jenny from him much too early. But Red’s heart is neither closed nor cold and he formulates a plan for his next best-seller that focuses on Cindy, the high school sweetheart that he loved and lost. The more Red writes, the more he realizes that his love for Cindy remains true and that maybe, with some of Darin’s charm and money, the words of his book could play out in real life. Darin TaDream’s …Can Come True is a story about possibility, hope, and, of course, love. If you have ever daydreamed about what the love of your life would do for you if they had a big bank account and the heart of a romance novel writer, then this is the book for you!
G.D. Dess’ novel, Harold Hardscrabble, is a story about the life of an average man. Harold is nothing very remarkable nor anything overly bland; he is a just a man who lives his life in the same way that many other men live their lives. In college Harold meets Carol, the woman who will later become his wife and the mother of his children, and, after a time, they fall into some variation of love. After graduate school, they live in a modest apartment in New York City and work jobs that allow them more and more material possessions and upward mobility. While Harold had always imagined himself working and being connected to the arts, he settles relatively comfortably into the corporate job that allows him to occasionally put his feet up, admire the Chrysler building, and drift into a daydream. It is amazing the speed at which the years pass Harold by. One day Harold is a young man, wondering what the future will hold. The next day, Harold is an older man, remembering his youth and the paths that brought him to his current life. But who can really know what the future holds? Sometimes it is just when everything feels the most comfortable that something clicks, like the trigger of a gun, and sends everything spinning in a completely different direction. Sometimes what one thinks is love and a true life purpose just isn’t, and existential exhaustion causes shit to hit the fan with unimaginable force.
A part of the Mike Stafford Novel Series, Revenge at Dealey Plaza by William E. Dempsey begins with the infamous and unforgettable “shot heard around the world.” In Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22nd, 1963—in Dealey Plaza, to be precise—Lee Harvey Oswald committed the highest form of treason when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Quickly, though, the narrative rewinds to a couple of days prior to this monumental occurrence to trail the incidences that snowballed into the killing of Kennedy. Of course, it should be disclaimed that this is a work of fiction, one that posits (as many have theorized over the past fifty-three years) that Oswald did not act alone. In response to this tragic event, the CIA’s Domestic Operations Division’s Chief David Montoya enlists the expertise of Mike Staffors and Félix Molina to discern who, exactly, was behind the Kennedy assassination. Though Mike Stafford feels a bit weathered by time and his experiences with the CIA, he maintains a hardboiled determination and the dogged stick-to-itiveness when it comes to investigating the three possible culprits: Russia (Nikita Khrushchev), Cuba (Fidel Castro), and finally, La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia). He and Félix overturn every rock and inspect every possible angle to arrive at some interesting conclusions about Oswald’s motives—as well as the reasoning behind Jack Ruby’s subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. Beyond the investigation, the novel also gives treatment to Mike Stafford’s personal entanglements.
Madai Romero’s Through It All is a work of historical fiction set in the town of Lakewood in the nineteenth century. Quiet, beautiful Sophia Willis regularly sneaks out of her parents’ home at night to meet with Daniel Smith, the mayor’s son. However, Sophia’s father is preparing to select a suitor for her, and if Daniel does not act soon, she will be given to someone else. After informing Daniel of her impending betrothal, he reveals that he cannot offer himself as a suitor because he is already married. Outraged, Sophia returns home and learns that her father has selected Adam Lancaster, a worldly, educated young man with a thirst for knowledge, as her future husband. Although a handsome and popular young man like Adam may seem like an ideal husband, he is a close friend of Daniel’s, has a past with Sophia’s wild and promiscuous sister, and dreams of traveling before settling down. Will the two go through with their engagement? Will can Sophia forget her love for a married man and become a devoted wife?
The Other Side of the Wire by Harold Coyle intimately examines what it meant to be Jewish during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s through his very realistic, yet entirely fictional portrait of a family caught up in the turmoil of World War II. By following the veritable rollercoaster ride that is nine-year-old Hannah Koch’s life, the novel introduces conflicting questions about the nature of morality—and what truly constitutes a monstrous human. The novel posits that the delineation between right and wrong is not so clearly etched in stone, for Hannah’s adoptive father happens to be Ernst Richter, a stalwart man and, unfortunately, an SS officer. Though Hannah is Jewish, her bright blonde hair and striking blue eyes allow her to “pass” reasonably within German culture as a child of Aryan descent. All seems to be going well in the Richter household, until Ernst finds himself suddenly in charge of a concentration camp in Poland. The transition understandably takes a toll on Hannah, but it also has a lasting impact on Ernst’s wife, Lena. She can barely stand to examine her own reflection in the mirror without delving into depressive introspection. Needless to say, as The Other Side of the Wire wears on, Hannah’s relationship with her adoptive parents becomes more and more strained, until the breaking point at which Ernst Richter attempts to destroy all evidence of his involvement in the concentration camp. Hannah’s forthright bravery pulls her through to the other side, where she is able to redeem her soul by saving that of another.
After his San Francisco-based website job goes belly up, Nick Owen and his family move to Manhattan when his wife Liz gets accepted into an orthopedic residency program. With no work available for the previous computer programmer, Nick has a difficult time adjusting to being a stay-at-home dad to his cantankerous three-year-old twin girls. It doesn’t help that Nick manages to say and do all the wrong things in the presence of the stay-at-home moms (especially the obnoxious Supermom) in his building complex. To make matters worse, Nick and Liz are not getting along. Although there are people who try to point him in a better direction, the last thing Nick expects is to have his marriage tested when he befriends a gorgeous divorcee.
Zack Scott’s One Pissed Off Shark starts with a description of the main characters, “seven friends in their late teens and early twenties. Seven very stereotypical friends.” This group consists of An athlete, his girlfriend, his smart (black) best friend, the fat friend, the “hopeless romantic”/”chronic masturbator”, the sexy, promiscuous girl, and a prudish hipster. After this, the events of the book are further foreshadowed when the reader sees two brothers out kayaking, when one is attacked and killed by the shark. Next, the seven friends set out to go SNUBA diving (a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving). Drinking, hook-ups, and more shark attacks ensue. Meanwhile, the mother of the first two boys that were attacked hires a private investigator to find and kill the shark. The PI acquires the help of her marine biologist ex and a drunken self-declared shark hunter. Who will survive the ordeal?
An intriguing tale that twists together the paranormal with a witty rom-com, Seven for a Secret is both a ghost story and a romantic escapade. We follow twenty-four-year-old Kate as she moves into a new apartment, celebrating the freedom she feels as the year 2000 ushers in a new millennium. She decides to take a break from her boyfriend Dexter so that she can explore more of her spontaneous side, quickly developing a crush on her attractive next-door neighbor. However, it’s not long before her plan for romance goes awry, as she learns that her building, Camden Court, was once a hotel in the roaring twenties. Now, eighty years later, Kate is confronted with the reality that many of the hotel’s past guests haunt the halls. One of these supernatural beings happens to be ninety-year-old Olive, whose life ended in Kate’s very apartment. As the narrative unfolds, we learn that Olive holds a deadly secret she’s eager to share, one that links her to a scandalous affair involving a young man named Lon, who brings a whole bout of tragedy to the situation that Kate is forced to deal with, whether she likes it or not.
Starting in Copenhagen, and spanning far across the globe to locales such as Tehran and Los Angeles, The Lost Love is an engrossing work of fiction that follows multiple characters on their quests of self-discovery. Arranged as a collection of short stories that share similar themes and ideology, the pieces that Habashi has constructed here shine brightly from the page. While the titular story is about a story within a story, other narratives include tales about turmoil in the Middle East in ‘The Escape,’ while another follows the life of an older gentleman in ‘The Old Man.’ Each story moves quickly from beginning to end, creating easy-to-digest bouts of fiction that readers are sure to savor. By addressing universal themes in locations across the globe, Habashi presents a diverse cast of characters which many readers will be able to identify with.
A sequel to We Have Your Son, this novel follows up with the teenage romance between Jeremy and Emma, and all of the hardships they’ve undergone while trying to make their relationship work. It’s senior year, and the two are trying to move on with their lives and build a foundation together, all while aiming to get good grades and have some fun like most teenagers want to. Unfortunately for Jeremy and Emma, life proves to not be easy, even after they thought they’d put the past behind them. Jeremy’s sessions with his therapist continue to increase in intensity, and just when things start to calm down and he thinks he can stop going, he hits another roadblock. Another wrench is thrown into the mix when it’s revealed that Daniel Brannigan, the man who kidnapped Jeremy when he was a little boy, is living nearby. Between this revelation, overprotective parents, the typical turmoil of teenage romance, and the unrelenting angst that often boils up between Jeremy and Emma, it’s no wonder these two lovebirds are finding it difficult to make their relationship flourish in the ways they wish it to.
Mindy S. Halleck’s Return To Sender is a fast-paced, complicated story about Theodore “Theo” Riley, an Irish-born boxer and Korean war hero turned priest, who must face evil in the form of Genghis Hansel, a serial rapist, murderer, and pedophile, who believes he is on a mission from God. Father Riley is battling other demons as well. He is haunted by the sad-eyed Korean children whom he was unable to save as a prisoner of war, and the loss of his one true love, Andrea Bouvre, who abandoned him while he was serving his country. Theo is also tormented by his promise to his mother to become a priest, as penance for his gentle brother Kiernan’s death and Theo’s revenge on his brother’s killers, at the tender age of ten. Halleck tells a good story, and she builds up almost unbearable suspense over the course of the novel, culminating in a showdown between good and evil, during which Theo must face an unspeakable choice. There is no doubt that Halleck’s story will keep the reader enthralled.
Harlan Pomeroy, a highly educated writer, is not a racist. He is in love with and marries Sally Hairston, a free Black. He hates President Lincoln so much that he tries twice to have him assassinated. In his eyes, Lincoln is a socialist who’s ruining the country by opening the floodgates of immigration to Irish, German and Italians to serve as cannon fodder in the Civil War. After Booth kills Lincoln, Pomeroy supports Andrew Johnson against the radical republicans in Congress, which leads to political gridlock, the impeachment of Johnson and the downfall of the South’s reconstruction. Instead of the rule of law, the Ku Klux Klan takes over in a rule of terror that sweeps the southern states with lynching and allows carpetbaggers to perpetrate their frauds. One of the casualties is Pomeroy’s own wife who winds up hung in a Klan raid. Trying to piece together his life after this devastating blow, Pomeroy discovers that you can’t fix past wrongs no matter your intentions.
A few months have passed since Evan Skylark committed suicide. His wife Billie and their twins Evie and Sunny have temporarily left their sweet abode on St. Cloud Island and are living with Billie’s stepfather in Scotland. Going beyond Billie, Evan’s death affects all those who have had close ties with the young couple; just as Billie attempts to pick up the pieces of her fragile life, her friends (Jack, Felix and Zoe, Jed and Sadie, Dan, and Virginia) are doing the same thing, “each of them trying to live in a tragically altered reality.” While Zoe is concerned about her recent pregnancy and Sadie battles with the idea of marriage, for examples, the greatest unresolved conflict appears to be between Billie and Jack…until Raife—Jack’s brother—comes onto the scene.
An adored classic and, of course, a canonical giant: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales bears infinite recreation and translation. That’s precisely why Gerald J. Davis has put countless hours of work into researching and translating the tales from Middle English into a more contemporary, accessible dialect. Make no mistake, though, all of that reworking certainly hasn’t stripped the original text of its wit or its caustic humor. The vignettes that Chaucer has painted of the various facets of English society remain as sharp as ever, and Davis has made perfectly sure that none of those biting observations ever gets lost in translation. No summary of the tales would do their portraiture justice, but suffice it to say that there are dozens of short stories that comprise the work, and each is more delightful than the last. From The Knight’s Tale to The Parson’s Tale and everything in between, you won’t be disappointed by this literary smorgasbord.
Authors: Alexander Mescavage and Eunice Taylor
Our Rating: ★★★★
RCR Says: “With godlike humans and gods who seem far more mortal than they ever truly could be, this book is the perfect blend of originality, combining the old with the new.”
TitGlen Hierlmeier’s latest historical romance novel, Lazlo’s Revenge, is the story of one woman’s adventure throughout Europe to uncover her parents’ pasts. Stories of romance, war, and trauma, both physical and emotional, are unearthed as she traces their footsteps back to the World Wars I & II. During her journey, the people who influenced her parents’ lives fascinate Max, a writer and Swiss war correspondent. She follows the life of Lazlo Floznik, who saved her parents and helped them escape catastrophe in Europe by finding refuge beyond the reach of the enemy security forces. Max explores her family roots, in this deeply emotional story tied together by Lazlo’s intense story of love, and that of his father, Miklos, before him. With her research spanning the years prior to World War I through World War II, Max embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Out of Reach opens on a precious scene: a small girl, Jenny, bargaining with her father, Jim Markman, for Saturday morning pancakes and a trip to the zoo. She is clearly the apple of his eye, as he’s quickly cajoled into granting her every wish. Life could not be more ideal for the Markmans in that moment. Tragically, that very same day, young Jenny finds herself at the mercy of strangers who have kidnapped—and ostensibly murdered—her. The weight of this great loss causes Jim’s marriage to fall apart as he throws himself full-force into his work at the District Attorney’s office. Six years after the horrific kidnapping of his young daughter, Jim must confront a high-profile murder case that might just be the most complicated trial of his life. Just as the state seems to be cinching their case against the defendant, a dubious character called Clammer, the lead defense attorney comes to Jim with the most unusual deal he’s ever heard. Clammer knows the whereabouts of Jim’s daughter. Claiming that Jenny is still alive and that his client is the only one who can direct the distraught lawyer to his lost progeny, the defense attorney begs Jim to throw his own case out the window in order to salvage what’s left of his family. Understandably ambivalent, Jim asks for proof, and upon seeing photographic evidence, he is convinced of what he must do. In order to avoid a mistrial that might lead to the DA’s office reopening the case, Jim has to convince a jury to exonerate the obviously guilty man of their own volition. Calamity ensues as he battles for justice, retribution, his family, and ultimately, his own life.
In Richard Lutman’s gritty western romance, A Patch of Dirt, we are thrown into the world of 30-year-old Joe Oliver, an alcoholic womanizer drifting across the Montana wastes from one ranch job to another, from one bar brawl to another, and from one loose dame to another. After a failed relationship leaves Joe heartbroken, the only break in the monotony of his life comes when Frank Hill, a wounded sixty-something Vietnam veteran, offers Joe an unusual job as a hand on his ranch. Both parties have unexpressed, ulterior motives and Joe quickly learns that there is more to Frank and his young bombshell wife Rita than first meets the eye. His continued involvement with the couple will test the wills, hearts, and charted life courses for all involved.
After a sudden breakup with her fiancé, Margot returns to her parent’s home until she is accepted into a London business school program. As two close friends help go through her belongings in preparation for the trip, Margot comes across her brother’s Ouija board. For old time’s sake, the three friends play the game, and to their surprise they make a connection with an energetic spirit that leaves a slew of cryptic clues. Although she makes light of the incident, Margot finds herself thinking back to her grandmother’s brooch that went missing years ago, as well as the mysterious person who claimed to have possession of it. Stranger things occur once Margot settles in London, especially when she connects the clues to a local grave.
Pigeon Blood Red by Ed Duncan details the story of numerous characters and their various levels of involvement with the theft of and adventures with a necklace with multiple pigeon-blood red rubies within. As the novel begins, readers are thrown into the stories of two men, Jerry and Rico, as they discover that something has been stolen from them during their time as entrusted transporters of the mysterious package. As the story progresses, readers discover that Robert, a man who is indebted to the owner of this package, has found himself with an opportunity to steal the package from Rico and Jerry. Once Robert successfully escapes with the package, he quickly embarks on a trip to Honolulu, masked as a second honeymoon with his soon-to-be ex-wife. In an adventure of each party attempting to outmaneuver the other, readers are brought along for the journey of lost loves, extramarital affairs, murder, revenge, and greed. In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.
After World War II, the conflict in Korea, and the Bay of Pigs invasion, many Americans, especially those directly responsible for the protection of the United States, are hoping for an extended period of peace. Peace that will allow them time to spend with family and friends, relaxing and enjoying the ways of life outside of the stresses of war. However, as tensions build between the United States and the Soviet Union, and missiles keep appearing in Cuba, it quickly becomes clear that peace may not be in the cards. Blockade: The Quarantine of Cuba is an incisive historical fiction novel that provides insight into the lives of those who protect the United States on board some of the navy’s finest ships. William E. Dempsey skillfully weaves together information from various government sources to create the story of Mike Stafford, the Gunner’s Mate Chief of the U.S.S. Boyington. While many days are routine and uneventful, guarding the Walnut Line and protecting American citizens from the outbreak of war is no easy task.
The Dog Healers is a novel focused on the spiritual and magical powers that Carlos DeMarco applies to soothe and heal dogs. In the beginning, Mark Winik shares this story from a first person perspective, but the main character, Marco, is really not the main focus at all. Winik starts off the novel with a story of a young girl, Isabella, running away from home due to her uncle attacking her and her puppy. A few chapters in, the reader will begin to see what happened to the missing girl. Unfortunately, the story line is a bit disjointed. The story seemed to be about Marco wanting to learn more about dog healing, but it jumped to a story about Isabella, as a grown woman, and a horse, Tango, she was working with. Though she was quite successful, this experience led her to only want to work with dogs, which was her true passion. It is somewhat difficult to stay connected to any characters, other than Isabella, because Winik doesn’t keep them in the story for long. As readers move through the novel, they continually encounter new characters while many others are almost disappear. There ends up being twists and turns with an somewhat interesting ending, and readers learn a bit more of Isabella’s childhood and her journey towards dog healing, but not enough to make it a page turner.
Told from the Hips: Short Stories by author Andrea Amosson is a not only a collection of short stories, but is also a collection of stories of womanhood, sensuality, emotion, and difficult pasts that have been “collected” from these individual characters at various points in their lifetime and experiences. The stories include those of a young woman visiting her parents in Copenhagen, her eyes opened to the loss of culture and their pasts in exchange for the coordination and safety of a home in Europe. Another story examines Rhizomatica, a woman who is explained not in terms of appearance or visuals, but rather in by her personality, her emotions, and her actions. “Ananuca – Chachacoma” follows the life of a young girl through her time to an older woman. As a girl, Ananuca grows to discover the power of her sexuality, eventually finding herself married to a young officer. Though the man seems stricken by her beauty, he disappears, leaving the young woman with a baby and a lack of sustenance. The various stories that are told throughout this collection create the images of women of all ages, yet who are able to show their strength through their endeavors and their determination. As is a common theme throughout the collection, the stories told “from the hips” embrace and display womanhood.
A harrowing tale mixing history with creative invention, Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos outlines, on a grand scale, the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Fred Schmidt, captain of the U.S. destroyer Jaffey, takes front and center in William E. Dempsey’s novel as a protagonist tormented by agonizing political and military decisions. The story revolves around the historical event of the CIA’s work to uproot the communist Fidel Castro. In order to oust Castro in Cuba, the CIA trains and equips a brigade of Cuban exiles. The Jaffey offers up a trio of its own personnel for the invasion, and the plot is launched. What seems like an airtight and covert plan rapidly dissolves into chaos when Schmidt and the Jaffey are ordered to cease their involvement and all military action is canceled by the president. Abandoned by their own ship, three men face the social, political, and literal wilderness of Castro’s Cuba. On April 17, 1961, the brigade of Cuban exiles named La Brigada de Asalto waged war on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Dempsey’s Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos offers a vivid look at the men behind the action and the possibilities behind their unspoken adventures and sorrows.
Bea Hyska has no idea the life that she is saving when she adopts a baby girl that she finds abandoned in a box. In 24 Frog Lane, The Early Life of Eugenia Sztuka of “Keeping Mum,” Eugenia Hyska is to become a character like no other. Hard headed, determined, loyal, and often unintentionally hilarious, Eugenia quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with, an individual in her own right. Although Eugenia drops out of school to work in one of London’s button factories and support her aging mother, she remains quick witted, smart, and ahead of the curve– except in her singing abilities. Through her dedication and doggedness, she becomes a well-paid and trusted employee at a used clothing store and the wife of Alfie Sztuka. While Eugenia’s life appears to be a journey from rags to upper-middle class, Alfie’s despicable brother, George, presents obstacles, downfalls, and hardships that no one could ever anticipate.
Raymond Greiner’s Queenie begins with Korean war soldier Samuel as he leaves Korea and waits out his last few months of his duty in a base camp on the west coast. With little family to go back to and no love for any of them, Samuel surprisingly hears from his Uncle Jake in Alaska, who is becoming old in age and unable to care for his property. Jake offers Samuel his gold claim and hopes that the few fond memories that the two have are enough to entice Samuel to overtake Jake’s claim and to live out his foreseeable future in the home that Jake has built for himself. Anxious to escape the life that has surrounded him in recent years, Samuel accepts and moves to Alaska. Jake and Samuel begin to work together to maintain Jake’s claim, and Jake teaches Samuel the lifestyle that is necessary in such a desolate yet beautiful land. Early on in his time in Alaska, Samuel discovers six abandoned wolf cubs and takes them in to be his new team of sled dogs. Not only do the wolves work to perform their duties (and happily so), but the wolves also unknowingly save the lives of every person that they have touched throughout the story. A drunken, hopeless neighbor Philo turns his life around with the love of Queenie, the leader of the pack. Jake is given new ambition and motivation to live out his winter in the cabin on his land. Samuel meets Angel, a beautiful, native, local woman who takes a liking to the wolves and especially to Samuel. Throughout the story, we see how the lives of these individuals are intertwined and how their bonds have become stronger through the presence of the wolves.
In many ways, Family Snapshots by Bridget McGowan is a novel where traditional family values meet the modern stresses of growing up. Set in a small town in Wales, the story follows the youngest son of the proud Keating household. Even at four years of age, Nicholas Keating wants nothing more than to be a musician. At once precocious and naive, he quickly shows promise in piano, voice, and his beloved violin. Getting from four to twenty-four with his musical dream intact is not an easy feat, yet Nicholas faces it all with tempered inquisitiveness, reason, and a healthy dose of wit. An unusual life suits an unusual boy, and the path of a musician tests Nicholas’s strength of mind. At the core, the bonds of family are always there as support, even when life does not go as planned.
The Quandary by Jo-Anne Southern is a fast-paced narrative about Canadian Gail Montgomery and how she recovers from the death of her British husband, John. Set in England beginning in 1959, Southern’s novel explores not only the burgeoning women’s movement through Gail’s character but also the tension between changing social mores and the stagnant behavior of England’s upper crust. The novel opens during John Montgomery’s funeral, a tragic event that wreaks havoc on Gail’s family. In their traditional marriage, John handled all of the finances, and Gail is left with no money, and soon, no home for herself and her three children. Gail struggles to keep her family together and her children in school and takes a job as a server at a local pub. Gail’s older children are mortified by their reduced circumstances and even accuse their mother of squandering their father’s money. The truth, however, is that John’s finances are complex and he seems to have hidden money from Gail, who meets many setbacks trying to recover it.
In a smashing text lively with adventure, romance, and history, Lawrence outlines the story of Kate Rhodes and her tomb raider-style excursion to Peru. Opening with a harrowing rescue by Kate of the Scottish James Fleming in 1934, Lawrence sets the stage for a fast-paced and thrilling story. Lawrence then implants his audience into the present, six years after James returns to his homeland for World War II and Kate becomes a sharp-shooting police officer. Chakana’s plot really begins, however, with Kate receiving a mysterious Incan artifact in the mail from her brother, along with a message that indicates his run-in with trouble in Peru because of it. After consulting a local university professor and discovering the breathtaking potential of this artifact, Kate and the professor embark upon a journey to track down her brother and uncover the truth. Along the way, Kate encounters old friends, new enemies, and an insidious plot implicating the entire Second World War.
After being rejected and left alone, Alexandria finds herself going down a moral line. Slightly desperate for money, she takes a one-time ‘job’ as a paid for companion by a not so attractive but very nice wealthy man. Is being paid to be in the company of men really such a bad thing if it feels good and maybe helps someone feel better about himself? She falls into a world of clients that are wealthy, powerful, successful men with fancy cars and country club lifestyles. She sees the fragility in all of these men, the loneliness, and need for acceptance that is part of the human condition. Alexandria becomes ‘Catherine,’ a high-end escort with a beautiful laugh who finds the goodness and attractiveness in all men, falling in love with all of her clients just a little.
The year is 2014, and an underlying current of malaise is stirring behind the closed doors of residents in the small and quaint Maine town of Great Wharf. To name a few examples, Mallory Cooper is afraid to go outdoors, Dr. Jim Beall has intimacy issues, Jean Trent is still trying to get over the sudden death of her husband, and a couple are still searching for their daughter who has been missing nearly fourteen years. While the above-mentioned cast and a flurry of other town folk dealing with their problems, darker situations arise when a murder and a series of mysterious accidents occur.
Purshottam Gill is determined to address a growing problem at Amlawar Clock Tower. As the new manager of this Bank of the Nation branch, Purshottam not only learns that there has been a high turnover of managers, but also that political corruption has been a major cause of the Indian bank’s dilemma. Standing firm in his belief of transparency, Purshottam slowly builds integrity back into the branch by ridding corruption one honest handshake at a time. But when upper management circulates a false complaint against him, Purshottam is unaware of what he is truly up against.
When the characters of The Author or The Characters’ Short Living Story find themselves together with no memory of what happened to them before, the stage is set for an adventure in the mind of the talented author. It’s a creative (and very meta) narrative twist. The author introduces himself to Lisa, Violet, Henry, Leo, Kimberly, and Joe, who are understandably confused about their roles in the author’s mind games. He encourages his characters to make the most of the mysterious upcoming conflict for the sake of the Reader. Although angry with the author over his meddling, they continue to travel to each new setting in search of their past, with the Author always one step ahead.
Part love story, part self-discovery narrative, part suspense, Lee Dorsey’s newest novel A Search For Love has it all. The story follows twenty-eight-year-old Matt Matthews who is a successful DJ living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Eventually as his career thrives, he goes on to become a famous television personality in New York City. While Matt has found it rather easy to succeed in the professional realm, his personal life has not really followed suit. He longs to be in love more than anything else, but his luck with women is lacking to say the least. He goest out with a lot of different ladies, each one of them presenting something to keep him interested, causing him to fall for them as he wades through a pool of sexual encounters. The problem is that none of these relationships turn into anything more. When he finally does find a woman he thinks he can spend the rest of his life with, it is all ripped away from him, as she is sent to jail for perpetrating a dangerous Ponzi scheme. When the love of his life finally gets out of jail, she flees the country, causing Matt to wonder if he should drop everything and go after her, or decide to give up once and for all.
After refusing to kick out two men on a date, Dave is fired from his job as a bartender. His girlfriend Janine gets him a job as a museum security officer, but things don’t start off well. Dave’s new boss, Mike, thinks that Dave is gay and as it turns out, he might be right. Dave is haunted by memories of his college roommate, Matt, with whom he had a brief sexual relationship. Although Dave is questioning his sexuality, he feels that he has lost his opportunity to experiment. However, while working a special event for the museum, Dave meets an attractive young patron and drives him home to Elsie Street. They plan to see each other again in a month. Before they part they kiss passionately, but Dave declines Aaron’s invitation upstairs. When Dave tells Janine about Aaron she is neither surprised nor upset. The next time that Aaron and Dave meet they have sex and confess to one another that they are in love. They also talk about their difficult pasts and family lives. When Dave goes home, he admits to Janine that he is in love and she asks him to move out. He then moves in with Aaron. Shortly after this, Dave runs into his old roommate Matt. Matt is about to get married, but wants to see Dave before the wedding. When Dave tells Aaron about the encounter, Aaron suggests that Dave and Matt could have sex. Although this temporarily complicates things for Dave and Aaron, their relationship survives the turmoil.
Lili Wentworth’s life was already the definition of ruined, and she had hoped to start picking up the pieces in Sri Lanka. In The Brownstone, she has lost everything she knew and loved. Now in The Brownstone: Troubled Waters, all she wants is her life back. The last thing she needed was a group of people, some strangers, some dear to her, telling her she was Gifted. She has been her whole life, and not just with any ordinary Gift either. Being born extraordinary comes with as many confusing avenues to navigate as it does dangers. Soon, she is discovering that she no longer has a clear idea of who she is, and what to make of her life. As she struggles to trust the companions she must lean on for guidance, Lili has some decisions to make. Does she deny her dreams and fight the compulsion to help others when she still cannot help herself, or does she listen and learn, as her father may have once done? Can she open her heart again, only to find someone else has taken over it? And when disaster strikes, will her injured legs be steady enough to withstand it?
With Shoes in the River: The Story of ‘Feather,’ Madelyn Grape Rohrer examines life in China from the early 1970s through 2004, through the lives of the fictional Ming family. Their existence in a small village changes drastically over the course of 32 years, as they navigate personal trials against the backdrop of a country that is negotiating between its ancient heritage and the dawning of a modern era.The book’s title is based on the ancient Chinese practice of dispensing with one’s shoes once a great emotional burden has been lifted from the wearer. Shoes are thrown into the river to acknowledge the difficulty that has passed and greet the future with optimism and happiness.
A family saga that spans generations and unspools tales that readers of all ages are sure to relate with, Elliott Foster’s Whispering Pines: Tales from a Northwoods Cabin is a fantastic novel that aims to reveal the essence of the human spirit. As stated in the introduction of the book, the story starts and ends in 1993, in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Four generations of the Travis family have gathered in order to celebrate the eightieth birthday of their beloved matriarch, Isabelle. The family shares stories with one another at the rustic cabin set on the lake in the Chippewa National Forest, talking of everything from fishing, cooking delicious meals, and making love. The book is broken into three parts, as three different members of the family, one from each generation, recount memorable moments from the past. We follow Isabelle, her daughter Ruth, and her grandson Eddie, as they reveal secrets that have been previously hidden deep within the woods that surround them.
The Illegal and the Refugee – An American Love Story by Ian Tremblay is a romance novel that tells the story of two young lovers struggling with immigrating to the United States. Taking place in Mexico, Cuba, and contemporary America, this story is full of tragedy and triumph, with surprises coming frequently amongst the pages. Offering strong and resilient Latino characters to follow, Tremblay’s novel creates a heart wrenching tale that is sure to stick with readers long after they are done. The narrative follows Maria Torres, a smart student at college in Mexico City who is actively campaigning for the social issues she believes in. Trouble arrives when her beloved Eduardo decides to try his luck at illegally entering the United States. Maria does not want him to do this, but she is unable to stop him, and once he’s gone from her sight, he seemingly disappears from the Earth. Maria goes after him, retracing his footsteps and crossing into the US herself through the Arizona desert. She ends up in Los Angeles, an illegal immigrant herself, desperate to find him. Meanwhile, in Havana, Cuba, Ernesto Rodriguez has just sent his lover Yaneti to America, only to never hear from her again. After a while he follows after her, narrowly surviving a treacherous sea crossing. He washes up on a beach in Florida, a refugee, with no idea where he should go from here.
In a small and underdeveloped town in the area of Nigeria, Olise has but one desire and that is to claim the ancient and prestigious Ogbuefi title. Very few men aspire to this position since, as farmers struggling to make ends meet, the title requires that a man is “financially capable of providing as many cows as possible for his clansmen to dine and wine with him.” Regardless, Olise pursues his dream at the expense of his wife and children, even though there have been a handful of mysterious Ogbuefi deaths. The situation becomes convoluted when an Ogbuefi and his wife are viciously murdered and the perpetrators are still at large. Henry Edebeatu shed’s light on a traditional African society in his moral-to-the-story themed debut novel. Narrated by Akala, Olise’s son, Edbeatu portrays a teen who is not only describing a series of events that take place in his local hamlet, but also recognizes the foolishness of leaders whose unfortunate ruling powers hurt more than help the townspeople. While Edbeatu’s plot is set in a small town in the Niger Delta, it could easily represent many other African countries since, as Edbeautu poignantly points out, “it spells out simply and without ambiguity, the plights of some individuals, who because of traditions and superstitions beliefs, suffer untold hardship in their quest to rise to the top, in order to massage personal ego and satisfy vain human ends.”
Triple Score: A Character Study, written by Kerry Freeman, has one main character at the core that the story really is all about. However, there are a ton of characters that are touched upon throughout the story and the main protagonist, Marie Arnett, fades into the background during much of the book. Freeman writes of four young friends, three boys and one girl, growing up together and even engaging in orgies with one another in their teens. The three young men are found dead together with no evidence of how it might’ve really occurred. Freeman jumps forward to Marie searching out a husband just weeks after the death of her best friends – one of which was apparently the father of her unborn child. Twenty years later, another trio of young men are found dead with no evidence, but Marie and her daughter seem to be connected as they were her daughter’s friends. It happens yet again twenty years later. And, once again Marie was connected to the boys. In the end, the sheriff discovers the truth, but not due to his skill. Instead, the murderer comes forward via a letter and admits to the crimes.
In this beautifully written novel, author Gardner McKay uses a most unlikely idea to bring together a country divided. Charlie “Jib” Rutlidge has recently flunked out of Yale and is wandering the world in search of meaning. While visiting Rwanda he sees first-hand the horror of the genocide that took place there. Jib soon realizes his calling is to rebuild and reunite Rwanda, though he doesn’t yet know how. Then one night he dreams of boats sailing on Lake Kivu and he knows instantly he has to help Rwanda win the America’s Cup. What follows is a story of redemption, of bringing together two peoples who have hated one another for hundreds of years, all with the help of sailing.
Stephen Mollgaard has a somewhat normal life. As a college English professor he maintains his house, his divorce, his seizure medication, his bike. He lives his life inside the safety of the box, inside the safety of the lines, but also inside of a filing cabinet containing newspaper clippings, poetry, and past student files. In this filing cabinet Stephen recognizes the irregularities, the unfairness, the absurdity, the horror, and the other worldliness of…the world. In a way that Stephen cannot pinpoint, the moments contained in his filing cabinet connect him to something larger, something more meaningful than his drive to work, his lunchtime sandwich, and his time spent watching the news. When Silkie Sanders appears out of the rain, Stephen’s life is opened to new possibilities, new paths, and, perhaps, a re-invigoration– a reminder of what it means to be alive and human. Stephen comes to realize that there are two worlds. The first world is the one that we expect, the one that we see every day, the one that we grow up and are told to belong to. The second world is hidden a little farther under, a little deeper down. This second world can be ugly, awful, and hard, but it could also be the purpose for living, it could be where all beauty really comes from. Silkie, of this second world, will change Stephen’s life.
Caleb, a young man with his life ahead of him, has shut himself away from the rest of the world. After a fatal accident four years earlier that led to the loss of his cherished nephew, he was left unable to walk without a cane and suffers from an intense case of agoraphobia—the fear of being around other people. As the fourth anniversary of his accident and nephew’s death passes, Caleb finds himself in the midst of past family, friends, and loved ones offering him a chance to change his future.
Expert horse trainer, Dana “Coop” Cooper, has a successful career and fiance–until she is thrown off a horse and sustains serious injuries, leaving her paralyzed, numb from the waist down, and alone. While in rehab, she meets Renn, a fellow patient who reaches out to Coop and eventually helps her get back on the horse. Coop also meets Renn’s best friend and business partner, Matt. During her recovery, Coop and Matt gradually begin to develop feelings for one another against their better judgment. However, Coop is about to move away with her mother and Matt must go to his grandfather’s ranch in Wyoming to be with his sick grandfather. Although he is repulsed by her condition, Matt asks her to go to the ranch with him and she agrees. While in Wyoming, Coop begins to recover physically and emotionally. One day Matt takes her riding out to the Broken Road, one of the old roads west. He tells her that the road was supposed to be cursed, but his great grandparents took it anyway even though everyone else thought they were crazy. He says that this is similar to how Coop has lived since her injury. Coop is happy at the ranch and feels that she has found where she belongs with Matt and his grandfather, but they have to go home. Back in Iowa, the couple has a misunderstanding and Coop isolates herself and refuses to take care of herself in an attempt to end her life. Eventually, she regains her sense of purpose and realizes that she can open herself up to vulnerability again. The two make up and move to Wyoming with Matt’s oldest son and get married.
When 18-year-old Emma literally runs into a handsome hunk outside of her mum’s high-end hair salon in Melbourne, Australia, sparks fly and a fire is ignited deep inside her. She simply can’t stop thinking about the guy, and finds herself feeling things she’s never felt before. She’s still a virgin, and is innocent and naïve, and once her “white-hot hero” walks out of her life, she’s afraid he’ll never walk back in. But then he does, and Emma immediately realizes that this twenty-something stud, Ryan, is the man of her dreams. The only problem is, he’s the man of another woman’s dreams, too—and, that other woman just so happens to be twice his age, married, incredibly wealthy, and more than a wee bit insane. A rare breed of cougar, Eleanor holds tight reigns over her young buck, as expressed in a strange contractual “agreement” binding them both, and come hell or high water, she isn’t about to let go. She’ll do whatever it takes to keep her boy toy around, even if it means getting her hands very dirty in the end. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that Eleanor doesn’t know about, and as Emma is helped by some unexpected sources, Eleanor’s selfish, sinister plans are threatened, and could very well come undone.
In The Syndicate: Phantom’s Revenge, Phantom is a respected agent at The Syndicate, a secretive, powerful, bureaucratic entity that controls most governmental and big business operations. He excels at his job, has a beautiful family, and is skeptical of The Syndicate’s sudden decision to pair him with Ghost, a hand-to-hand combat expert with a temper, and a secret. When Phantom’s wife and daughter are suddenly and mysteriously kidnapped, the two agents realize that the only way they’ll be able to complete a mission with as impossibly high stakes as this one will be to work together. This story treads on familiar ground, but manages to keep the reader hooked with a steady supply of intrigue, action, and most importantly, revenge.
A suspenseful page-turner that will keep you guessing from beginning to end, Chris Sauter’s The Flock is an engaging and tantalizing read that will stay with you long after you finish it. Cole is a somewhat strange and unattractive teenager who has undergone a lot of hardships in his life. The fact that he is gay and often feels like an outcast is only one of his problems. When he meets a handsome boy named Joe in his art class, he decides to do whatever it takes to get Joe to be with him. When his actions ultimately lead him to starting a cult with himself in place as a leader known as the Prophet, Cole begins to realize that he’s getting in over his head. Nightly seances with a group of teenagers conjuring spirits quickly turns into a sort of religion with prophecies and strict rules. At first it’s fun, and Cole can tell that Joe and the others really believe he has the power to communicate with spirits and prophesize what’s ahead. Really, Cole is just making up things as he goes, astounded that people are looking to him for answers. The narrative shifts back and forth from Cole’s time as the leader of the cult, to present day where he is a middle aged man suffering from a debilitating hearing loss. The two timelines eventually converge as present day Cole is reconfronted with the cult he thought he had left behind, realizing that The Flock will never truly let him go.
In Joseph D. Colby’s Trip Around the Sun, thirteen-year-old Trip travels from California to Missouri with his family in 1926. Along with his hard-working farmer parents, his spunky sister Ellen, and his impressionable brother David, Trip journeys across the southern United States. The trip is the brainchild of Trip’s father, who is looking to reunite with his parents back east after a 30-year separation. At each stage of the crossing, the reader learns more about Trip, his family, and life as a migrant in early twentieth century America; from the very first chapter, the reader sinks into this past world, a world in which leaving your family and not coming back for 30 years is nothing strange. As the landscape changes and the family makes its way east, Trip endears himself to the reader, bringing a personal touch and a spark of humanity to the American theme of migration for the sake of a better life.
Ian King’s Jihad for Dummies refuses to delicately step over issues of controversy and vehement debate. Instead, King creates a space in which controversy lives and breathes, thriving in his characters and throwing caution to the literary winds. King’s novel focuses on the massive confusion surrounding religious ideals and the paths people take that lead them to commit heinous crimes in the name of a faceless deity or philosophy. Jihad for Dummies follows the intersecting lives of different Pakistani, English, and Somalian characters, all of whom represent conflicting ideals and ideologies. King pushes the boundaries of political, social, and religious dialogue, taking on the stereotypes surrounding Muslims as well as the activities that reinforce them, and going even further by interweaving the harsh realities of sexism into the tale. Characters seemingly unrelated suddenly find themselves meshed together in unexpected ways in Jihad for Dummies, ways that are sometimes terrifying, sometimes encouraging.
Comprising twenty chapters that are split evenly between “His” and “Hers,” Poetic Justice aims to treat the issues of nationality, tourism, and ultimately identity as a whole. The alternating chapters, all in first person, allow the reader to organically come to know the stories of Sun Wren Richards, a retired Native American artist from Wyoming, and Angelo Lopez, a young Costa Rican boy. Sun’s story begins with an impromptu trip to Costa Rica, which leads her to buy property and start a bed-and-breakfast in the gorgeous, dense jungle. Angelo’s story begins in his turbulent youth, following him through bouts with alcoholism at an early age, the death of his brother for which he blames himself, to his eventual placement at a military school in the States. Angelo rises through the ranks, finding himself more and more involved in top-secret operations. Sun and Angelo’s (“His” and “Hers”) stories intersect when Angelo—now in his mid-to-late forties—decides to stay at Sun’s peaceful resort, aptly named Casa Quetzal de Paz. The more time they spend together, the more they each become embroiled in shady, multinational crime dealings. Drug cartels, Russian spies, arsenic-laced swimming pools, and point-blank assassinations: nothing seems to be off-limits.
Religion, same sex marriage, protest and politics slam against each other in a tangled mess of conspiracy, hidden agendas and supposed righteousness in Joseph Todd Emerson’s book, Donald’s Cross. This story follows a young man still in high school, Donald Ross, as he cames face-to-face with big questions about life and right and wrong. His friends are more focused on teenager issues and games and drugs, but Donald wants to know what life is really about. For that matter, as a preacher’s son, he starts praying to God on how to seek justice. Donald expects God to give him the answer, but he does finally take action on his own and joins an effort to make positives changes in his local community and potentially the world. Emerson portray’s Donald’s mother as a stereotypical preacher’s wife pressing her son to overlook his responsibilities at school and his teenage concerns to show more adult level respect and support of his father. Yet, Eric, Donald’s father, seems more open to Donald’s method of support and coming of age thoughts and questions. As Donald expands his personal self he expands his circle friends, too.
Evidence of the Journey, by Todd Board, is a collection of eight stories woven from Board’s philosophical bent and complex inner dialogue of thought. The stories, conceived separately but somehow each intertwined into a cohesive whole, range greatly in their subject matter. An elderly and dying woman with a difficult decision about her beloved ranch dominates one lengthy story, while another ruminates over the thoughts of man named Arthur in the throes of a subtly depicted conversation. Another follows Daniel, a ferryman in the San Francisco Bay. Each story exquisitely melds humor with paintings of memorable landscapes of nature serving as backdrops for the complicated ideas that are proffered by Board’s main storytellers.
Don Kellin’s The Rockaway Boys and Maggie: A World War II Adventure Novel is the 1943 summer coming of age story of Donny, Ben, and Maggie. As a hot summer slowly fades into a temperate fall on Rockaway Beach, these three young friends go looking for a little fun, a little excitement, and a little something to get their minds off of the troubles of World War II and the impending school year. Eventually they come up with a genius idea: to do something that matters for their families and for the war effort…while maybe having a little fun along the way. Their plan is to sift through the sand under the beach boardwalk in order to recover change that was dropped from pockets during the busy season. Then, exchange the money for stamps or war bonds. But when they discover something that could indicate a significant Nazi presence on the east coast, their lives are changed forever.
Glenn Rice weaves a spellbinding tale of love, mystery, and heroism in the second installment of his Sandstone Ridge romance series, Never Harmed Again. The story opens with Dart Olsen entrenched in a battle in Afghanistan, his military Marine service having called him and a friend, Braxton, to the war front. There, Dart and Braxton meet tragedy and misfortune, but ultimately escape with their lives after performing deeds of tremendous bravery. Dart loses an arm in the process, but gains his life in return. Back in Sandstone Ridge family members and beloved friends await Dart and Braxton’s arrival, all of whom possess dramatic love plots of their own, filling the pages with colorful dialogue and moments of suspense and joy. However, the events in Afghanistan have changed Dart, and Never Harmed Again combines his rollercoaster love story with Bridgette and his PTSD with Bridgette’s own troubling past. This past involves an abusive ex-boyfriend who is slated to be released from jail, and who is now bent on unleashing havoc on the love-saturated community of Sandstone Ridge.
Butch and Jared Olsen are the kind of boys that every mother wants to have– honest, trustworthy, caring, and genuinely big-hearted. They take what life gives them and try to make it better. Even when their father is incarcerated for a rape that he did not commit, they take the slander and the taunts that come with being the son of ‘Ricky the Rapist’ in stride. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt, especially when the taunts are coming from Courtney Iverson, the most beautiful girl in school, the girl who used to be one of Butch’s best friends. When Butch later saves Courtney from drowning, he is torn between hate and adoration, and when his mom suggests a move, he jumps at the opportunity. Eventually, Butch changes his name to Chet, hoping to leave the bad memories of his past behind while he begins a fresh future. However, the world has a funny way of teaching love, forgiveness, and acceptance and Chet has no way to know what his future may hold. Triple Save will have you believing in true love again.
A touching tale that will pull you in from the beginning, Bury My Heart At Jones Beach written by Francis John Balducci, is a beautiful tale. The journey that Balducci takes you on, alongside a man who suffers from amnesia, is simultaneously heartwarming and frightening. Tahmin, who comes to be known as Pale Moon, only remembers his life from waking on a park bench on Jones Beach. Only in his dreams does he recall a woman and a child who seem to have been important to him. Tahmin is soon embraced by more than one family and eventually joins Big Feather’s family and is given the name Pale Moon. Due to his heroic deeds his true identity is discovered, but there is a great deal of trauma that surrounds this discovery. Morals and one’s own values come into play for not only Pale Moon, but for those from his former life. In the end, a powerful choice is made and changes everyone’s lives forever.
Based on the true story of author, Stephanie A. Collins, the fictional tale, With Angel’s Wings, will grip a reader’s heart from the first few paragraphs. Within just a few lines Collins transports readers into Laura’s journey into young love and new motherhood. Laura’s hopes and dreams are representative of many young girls, as well as the shock and utter exhaustion that often comes along with young marriage and being a new parent. Laura and Kevin struggle to save their marriage from the very beginning, but choose to strive forward making a true effort. Once their second child is born, they realize that their marriage is far from the only humongous challenge they will face during their lives. Hannah, their second daughter, is born with several heart defects and other health issues. The story takes the reader alongside Laura as she travels the perilous path with Hannah fighting for her tiny little life. Not surprisingly, having a child with special needs adds additional stress to an already precarious marriage. Collins keeps readers turning pages anxiously waiting to learn the outcome of Hannah’s health as well as what direction Laura’s marriage will take.
D. L. Teamor’s novel Mirage spans an extraordinary number of years, traveling across barriers of time, race, and gender to paint a portrait of the “mirage” that is the difference between colors of skin. Mirage begins in the era of American slavery, planting its readers into the story of a woman afflicted by her status as a slave and the lecherously amorous affections of her white master. This is where the tale begins, and it spirals out through generations of couples resulting from that one initial beginning, making its way so far into the future that “Martin King” makes a brief appearance. Teamor takes on complex and sensitive topics of the stereotypes and injustices inflicted upon not only those of a darker skin but also those of the feminine gender. Mirage refuses to shy away from difficult subjects of racism and sexism throughout the decades and instead tackles them headlong through her powerful and single-minded female characters. The story evokes devastating scenes of violence, tearful scenes of romance, inspiring scenes of integrity, and haunting scenes of heartbreak to carry the readers along a heart-wrenching and ultimately optimistic and thought-provoking ride.
A Discerning Heart tells the story of a lowly, misunderstood fisherman, shunned by the villagers of his close-knit community and desperate to forge meaningful connections and perhaps, even, find love. We quickly learn that Dim Jim, as the town calls him, will go to the most treacherous means to make his dream of acceptance a reality. With no family to speak of, no respect from his peers, and no prospects for the future, Jim sets out on journey to prove to those who doubt him the most that he is capable of greatness. However, his plan takes a spectacular turn when he shipwrecks on a desert island. He finds the journals of a long-gone, long-feared pirate among the wreckage and empowered by the dead man’s words, crafts a plan of revenge. Jim eventually makes his way back to the village, armed with the identity of Captain Frank Paxton, and a host of other secrets from his years on the island, ready to make the villagers sorry they ever wronged the poor fisherman Dim Jim.
Until recently, Elden “Choppy” Spencer was an officer in the Marine Corps who was as much renowned for his wit as he was for his physically aggressive, results-driven attitude, the combination of which made him no small shortage of friends and enemies among the Corps. But when a life-changing accident results in Choppy being cut loose from the Corps, he decides to make a fresh start for himself in a beachfront Californian town outside of San Diego. Soon, Choppy becomes acquainted with the numerous characters who live together on the narrow street he comes to call “the Row.” There’s Lara, a recently divorced and fiercely argumentative – not to mention attractive – teacher; Hugh Spicer, a retired baseball scout and the group’s unofficial ringleader; the Steroid Brothers, who live next door to Choppy and can frequently be seen chugging beers between workout sessions; and numerous others. But even a neighborhood as quaint and sunny as this one cannot escape the horrors that plague the human mind. As Choppy struggles to assimilate into his new community, a series of increasingly brutal crimes puts the denizens of the Row on edge. Choppy and the others must now come together and protect the fragile paradise they’ve created, or else risk watching it fall to pieces around them.
A delightfully macabre blend of the sardonic and the inane, the intellectual and the absurd, the beautiful and the revolting, The Last Eucharis: A True War Story by Ian King takes an impressive and memorable stab at the Vietnam War, politics, and mankind as a whole. Irreverently handling coarse language alongside of scenes involving haunting sexual encounters and oftentimes heartbreaking violence, King constructs a style all to himself, blending serious philosophical and political points with slap-stick humor and a great deal of flatulence. The Last Eucharist follows Sally Graham’s illustrious and ill-fated pursuit of the mystery behind the history of a Vietnam veteran vaguely identified as Thomas. Not knowing the cosmic consequences her determination would wreak, Sally follows the lie-littered trail of Thomas all the way to Vietnam itself, where adventures and relationships await her which she could never have foreseen.
Isaac, Eli, and Lucas Wright are not your typical brothers. While they do wrestle and roughhouse; play make believe games and go on make believe adventures; and occasionally cause some usually harmless mischief and mayhem, they are each also a part of something so much bigger and cosmically grander that calling them ‘typical’ would simply be an understatement. While each brother struggles with his own inner turmoils and demons, they also struggle against a physically and emotionally abusive father and a community that often does not see where they fit in. The brothers often find themselves feeling like outsiders. When Eli is struck by a car and killed, the family is thrown onto a new course that no one could have anticipated, but that is a part of a bigger story. In Robert F. Schatzman’s second novel, Built to be Boundless, one receives insight into the vast capabilities of the individual as well as the secrets of the soul and how these pieces fit together in the universe.
Holly Curtis creates a story in Celluloid that surrounds a character who is a lover of film and all things reminiscent of them. In Celluloid, Jimmy Clifford begins his journey as a depressed, angry film shop owner in his late twenties, desperate to find something in his life to increase his happiness. Clifford visits Laura, an employee at his local pharmacy, and plays cards regularly with his small group of friends – activities of a man who should be content. When one friend shares with him the news that Clifford’s favorite local theater, the Crypt, will be demolished, however, he has finally reached the straw that would break him. Angry with his community, society in general, and with the new property developer, Clifford becomes determined to save the theater with one grand idea: host a cabaret at the Crypt. To successfully complete his mission, Clifford must find seven acts in two months. Searching high and low, Clifford finds musical guests, comedians, mimes, recruits his friends and family to complete his set list, and even finds a romance along the way. Some acts drop out due to “artistic differences,” others attempt to bribe their way in, but in the end, a complete list is created and the night proceeds flawlessly. Whether or not the cabaret saves the theater, though, is another story…
The Horse Angels by Mark Neihart is a realistic story about a small family of equestrians. The tale starts by showing readers a glimpse of the strained relationship between the mother and father of a preteen girl. Anne, the mother, had just lost a competition, and her lack of anger management is very apparent as she fires a trainer that her husband recommended. Her daughter, Sam, is then introduced as she witnesses her mother’s rage. The story then switches focus to the husband/father, Simon, as he prepares for his own competition. It’s shown that he has a lot of faith in the horse he’s riding, whom he has a deep connection with, and is very confident that he will win the race. There’s an unexpected plot twist which will take readers on an emotional roller coaster. Then, there is a time skip as chapter two begins, this time focusing on Sam’s training with a horse of her own. Anne tries teaching Sam her own training methods, but Sam feels a connection to the horse similar to her father’s, which starts a conflict between mother and daughter.
Natalie Scott’s fast-paced Becoming Famous takes the reader into the whirlwind life of Bebe Barkely. Bebe is a former championship horseback rider, down on her luck in New York City, estranged from her family and recovering from the loss of her horse and the love of her life. Bebe doesn’t stay down for long, and with the help of immensely talented hairdresser Antonio, soon creates a new life with the intense but talented painter Blue, whose predilection for collecting strays leads Bebe to a life-changing friendship with Kelsey, an Australian transplant and wannabe actor. Bebe regains her confidence thanks to boxing lessons with the gruff, but kind Roccho. Soon, Bebe is making a life for herself in New York. A tragedy leads Bebe to Los Angeles where she connects with Shorty Wiseman, a cynical but well-connected talent agent. Bebe quickly finds acting work and re-ignites her love life with Dan, a director with a quick temper, who is a perfect fit for the fiery, fun, and fearless Bebe. Just as everything seems to be working out for Bebe, a senseless act of violence derails both her life and her ambitions. Bebe tries to outrun her problems by ditching everything and running off to Bali, but soon learns that she has just taken her problems with her. Upon her return, Bebe’s professional life takes off, though her personal life is in ruins. Bebe comes dangerously close to losing everything and readers will not want to put this book down, until they know exactly how Bebe becomes famous.
Leap in the Dark provides a unique perspective into the African experience in America combined with a fierce secondary romantic plot. Emmanuel Ngwainbi writes knowledgably about Tito, a young African who has completed his studies at a university in West Africa and who travels to Mississippi to pursue a Master’s degree in the United States. Full of bright ideals and innocence about the American way of life and the freedom American citizens enjoy, Tito arrives in Mississippi with barely a penny to his name and no plans for housing. Quickly submerged in an utterly unfamiliar climate, both physically and socially, Tito struggles with his preconceived notions about America and the realities that await him there. He finds himself enmeshed in a romantic relationship with a white professor at his university who takes him under her wing, and the path of their love affair travels colorfully alongside of important discussions of race, political science, and history, as well as vivid events of violence and danger.
Comprised of twenty-one short stories, Naked in the Swamp is short on depth. Mohammad Saeed Habashi shares a wide variety of characters, storylines and types of fictional short stories in this compilation, but there is little to grab or keep a readers attention. From the get-go in Stars of the Port, the disjointed feel to Habashi’s writing is glaringly loud. This first story displays what one can expect through the rest of the book as the scenes are hard to follow and they leap from one timeframe to another without coherence. The story entitled, Naked in the Swamp, is particularly disappointing as it is the actual title of the book, too. In this story, a woman has finally arrived to a new place with her young child apparently safe and sound. Then she begins to “fantasize” about another situation. However, at the end of this story, as her daughter finds her lying flat on the ground and most likely dead, there is little to no transition in the story as to how this happens. Finally, the author incorporates the idea of the swamp in the last line, “She was a lonely, helpless girl who was drawn in the life swamp.”
Forbidden Love by Jay Mora is a romance novel about a love that has survived the test of time, through many different lifetimes. When Carmine Basie experiences a spiritual connection with a teller at a local bank, he begins a journey into his past that he never knew was there. After recovering from alcoholism, Carmine’s brain is now more susceptible to his memories of a past life with the bank teller. Despite his long term marriage and family of his own, he becomes very fascinated by the bank teller and cannot help his attraction to her. He begins to have mysterious dreams, which then leads him to seek the help of a clairvoyant. Under her hypnosis, Carmine is able to travel through his childhood memories which reveal a spiritual journey that is very captivating, causing the reader to turn page after page.
A man broken by life, a man broken by repeated blows to his ailing body. In Kane Lesser’s The Angel’s Lounge, an Irish-American rock star comes to grips with a rather disturbing past, and while a heightened sense of drama persists, there seems to be a lack of identity for the reader to grasp on to, much like the central figure himself. Told from a third-person, subjective viewpoint of a doctor playing father figure to a troubled musician named Breck Stewart, the narrator takes a Tarantino approach by producing events from the singer’s homeless teenage years to later bouts with physical violence and drug-use over the course of several decades. While Dr. Richmond “Sandy” Alexander retains a neutral position to the specifics of Breck’s personal life, the reader come to know more about the musical prodigy’s sexual tastes and less about his wife and eight children. Then again, the narrator barely addresses his own personal life, leading up the startling event that leaves Breck fighting to survive.
Entertaining as Kane Lesser’s The Angel’s Lounge may be, one might be left scratching their head upon the final page, searching for a more fully realized setting beyond the one in which the entitled main characters live. The “persona” of Breck Stewart becomes clear through stories from his loyal buddies, but just when Lesser seems to offer more insight as to the singer’s often troubling effect on others, Breck once drifts to the dark side, surrounded by “friends” whom already seem to envision a potential romantic relationship (or straight-up sex) before the man can properly recover. And when the plot reaches a boiling point, The Angel’s Lounge suddenly becomes an erotic thriller featuring a descriptive sexual encounter complete with cum jokes. Unfortunately, the narrative seems to be leading to exactly that, given the lack of characters from the real world or more thorough explanations in regard to the never-ending plot to destroy (or bed) Breck Stewart. Ultimately, the narrator spins quite the tale, leaving one to question his elitist take on the events. The Angel’s Lounge will entertain most readers, and the author clearly has talent, but the submitted manuscript could have received another look, considering the inconsistent use of commas throughout (and numerous spelling mistakes).
The Angel’s Revenge by Kane Lesser is a novel about Breck Stewart and his group of friends and family. The book begins with Breck and one of his closest friends Robbie traveling in Europe and spending time on a yacht on the Aegean Sea. The pair have to cut their travels short when Breck sees Al at their hotel, and knowing that he is dangerous, they quickly return to the yacht. There they discover that the captain was murdered, so Breck and Robbie head back to Chicago where they have to deal with the kidnapping of their friend Jean Phillipe. They assume Al is behind the kidnapping, and Breck and a team consisting of Robbie’s uncle and several others set up a plan for Jean Phillipe’s safe recovery. The novel is filled with sex, drug use, murder, the discovery of long lost children, close friendships, and twisted family ties.
Though throughout the novel the characters’ reactions to events are somewhat overly dramatic, the things that happen are intense- such as several murders, people getting wounded, the kidnapping of Jean Phillipe, and Breck being reunited with two of his children. At one point toward the end of the book Breck finds out who his real father is and that he might come after him for his money, but nothing ever comes of this information as the book ends. Also, Breck has six other children besides the two that he comes back in contact with, and since he never meets up with the others the novel feels a little bit incomplete. Despite this, the book keeps the reader engaged by being filled with action and several complicated and well-developed relationships with his friends Rufus, Nobel, Sandy, and others that are fun to read about.
William Lang Jr., a liberal journalist from New York City, is in desperate need of a change. Recently divorced and suffering from a mid-life crisis, 41 year old William is tired of being brought down by his friends, Peg, his man eating ex-lover, and Janet, a man loathing lesbian. The story begins with William pitching his his next journalism project to Peg and Janet. For his latest gimmick, he will relocate to a rural, conservative New York town for one year, in order to discover what it means to be an American. Between the snarky remarks from his friends, and his boss’ rejection of the piece, William can’t catch a break. He becomes even more determined to prove that this experiment will reveal a story worth telling. He decides to cut himself off from his life in New York City and head to Littleton, New York and live as his conservative alter ego, Jack Stone.
Paul Salvo’s Licking the Taboo is a fiction piece about stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Readers will be instantly drawn into the thought process of William, the main character, who’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude is refreshing and nonstop entertaining. The author successfully shows the audience the true nature of his characters through the narrator’s confessional reflections. Although controversial at times, William’s conversational tone makes him a believable narrator that readers will fall in love with after just the first page. The story takes an unexpected romantic turn that adds an interesting conflict in the second half of the book. The love story that unfolds is both sexy and endearing, and makes this book a steamy pleasure. Licking the Taboo is a book about seeking new perspectives and finding love in an unexpected place. It is a well written and engaging read.
The Amended Family by Steve Ausman is a book about, as the title suggests, a pretty complicated family. John Murdock writes screenplays and lives in Los Angeles after moving there from his childhood home in Iowa. He visits a doctor after feeling run down, and after his follow-up visits and recovery, she asks him out on their first date. As it turns out, his amazing and beautiful doctor Elizabeth is actually already in a relationship with her amazing and beautiful roommate Catherine. John discovers that he cares very deeply for both women, and while he is initially shocked by their request for him to be the father of their child, he quickly warms up to the idea. Soon the trio are introduced to another couple, Anna and Margaret, who also want a child and like the idea of a handsome and caring man like John being the father. There is a third female couple that becomes part of this family of beautiful, kind, and caring people named Jana and Tran. They also want a child with John. For the most part and with very few hard feelings or jealousy, with the exception of Anna (who ends up leaving the family behind), all of these women and John manage to become a happy and loving family.
Mike C. Erickson’s novel, Pianist in a Bordello is a politically-focused novel that, surprisingly, does not have the same effect as an Ambien. Richard Milhous Nixon Youngblood, fondly known as Dickie, has spent his life living up to his impressively ridiculous name. From kidnapping and yellow submarines, to sexual encounters gone awry, to his disappearing-reappearing-potentially magical father, Dickie has just about done and seen it all. When he decides to run for office and make a difference in the world, his decision to put all of these stories and experiences into an autobiography seems dubious at best and down right stupid at worst. After all, how can someone be honest in politics? Or at least, how can someone be so honest? As one of Dickie’s friends so astutely notices, “…most idealists end up as footnotes in forgotten tomes in the basements of libraries.” The real question is, will Dickie will be one of those idealists?
In She’s Gone, Joye Emmens creates a novel filled with characters, love, confusion, discovery, and remorse, all rolled into one. In the novel, we follow Jolie, a high school teenager living in 1969 during the age of the Vietnam War, politics, protests, and drugs galore. As the story opens, Jolie finds herself protesting the drilling of oil in the oceans, which only opens up her love of protests and fighting for what is right. At rallies and protests, Jolie has fallen for an older guy named Will. Fresh from college and enraged by the war, Will involves himself in politics, writes manifestos, wishing to create a revolution and a movement that will create equality throughout the United States. Trouble arises, however, when Jolie’s father discovers that she has been present at these rallies and protesting the very things that he works and fights for. Ruining her last chances at freedom, Jolie is punished to attend a Catholic school in order to reform her rebellious ways – but this plan does not sit with Jolie. Will and Jolie devise a plan to extract her from her home on the morning of her first day at her new school, and they begin a journey throughout the U.S., aiming for freedom and justice. Throughout the novel, we accompany the two as they remain on the run, keeping their identities secret. Readers discover with Jolie and Will the lives of hippies as they bounce from commune to commune, living with others and learning to share all that they own. In a time of a cultural and political revolution, Jolie lives through these rough situations by building relationships, establishing herself as an independent woman, and through her own self-discovery.
Joye Emmens creates a thorough world within She’s Gone, establishing characters with clear backgrounds, motivations, and relatable worries and desires. With so much involvement in the characters, it is easy for readers to be sucked in to the story, grabbing the attention from the earliest chapters. Throughout the novel, readers experience with Jolie her concerns with her situation, her doubts about Will as an older, admirable (yet sometimes unstable) leader, and her relationships with those she encounters along the way. In this way, Jolie is well-developed and readers are able to back her decisions and her thoughts. The emotions that are felt by Jolie and echoed in the readers as the novel continues – for instance, when Jolie is surprised by the sudden appearance of police in a subway station, demanding her age and whereabouts of Jolie, we are instantly worried that she will be discovered and that her plans for escape will be foiled. The relationships are also well-developed throughout the novel. Each relationship that Jolie maintains is distinct from one another, just as relationships are in our own lives. A voice that is distinct, let alone relationships that are unique from one another, is an accomplishment that not every author is able to achieve. The only lacking element of the novel is one of a clear plotline. Though the novel progresses seamlessly, there is a difficulty in keeping the end of the novel in sight. Throughout the story, readers are able to see what the current situations and issues are and that the current plotline involves solving these issues; however, it is difficult to see where the story will be able to continue once these situations are resolved, as there is no clear goal to the storyline. Other than Jolie’s imminent return home, there are few other lights at the end of the tunnel. Overall, the story that was created was one that was rich in character development, in language, and in depth, and one that is recommended for all readers.
Jack “the Ripper” Lynch has had to give up on his dreams of becoming a rock legend. Now, with a family of his own and a boring but decently compensated job vying for so much of his time, Jack just doesn’t have the ability to make his dreams a reality anymore. When tragedy strikes a member of his family, Jack’s quiet life heads into a tail spin, putting everything he’s worked for at risk. But then Jack meets a stranger at the local diner who promises him a chance to do things over again, forcing him to decide, once and for all, what really matters to him in life.
This novel is a classic rock lover’s paradise. Much of the story is devoted to Jack’s love of music and how he uses his musical talents to help the people around him. Numerous famous bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Queen, and Van Halen put in appearances throughout the book as well. Despite a great premise and an intriguing lead character, the first half of the book feels largely stakes-free: Jack and his band achieve fame almost overnight; everyone loves them; everyone is kind to them. It feels like there is a lack of opposition, a space that some slightly villainous or self-interested character could have filled nicely. Not to mention that Jack is an unbelievably good-hearted person, which makes it difficult to relate to his story at times. Jack never once yells at another character, or does something selfish or stupid, or even makes a mistake. Unfortunately, this detracts a bit from the novel’s believability and draws the reader constantly out of the action. Yet even though the story is flawed, Murphy manages to make clever use of Jack’s knowledge of future events to highlight how tempting (and dangerous) tampering with time can be. In the end, Rock Rewind remains an immensely entertaining journey with a surprising – and satisfying – twist ending.
Everybody has A Story: This is Ours is a collection of short narratives depicting life events, family memories, and experiences. The stories include Lexi’s mom, a woman who is striving to understand her daughter who seemed detached since birth. Abigail whom is recalling her childhood nanny and the important lessons Chamele taught her. The stories also include a young woman being taken from her family, and another sister now grown trying to create a new relationship with her brother. A few stories are of women finding beauty in unlikely places and realizing the true value of the meaningful things in her life; as well as the story of Claire, a woman and her “girls night out” that ends in an interesting way.
Some of the stories such as “The Closet” cut deep into the dark inner workings of the human mind. Lexi’s Mom struggles to understand Lexi and to connect with her, but at the same time fears her. How can one fear and love their child at the same time? When readers find out what Lexi has been doing with bugs, it brings about an “oh my” moment. Other stories such as “The Perfect Load,” were heartwarming and very touching. The way Lewis describes feelings of one sister striving for an adult relationship with her older sister was exquisite. It is as if she reaches down into her soul to pull out these emotions and memories. The way she tells each of these stories gives the feeling that she is sitting beside her readers regaling them with the stories orally rather than written. Lewis does a wonderful job describing the faults and weaknesses of human behavior such as in “Fading Forest” with how Megan’s dad treated her and Jeffrey as well their mother. In contrast to how she deals with the frailty of human behavior, she also has excellent command of the strengths and good aspects of life as readers see in “If Only You Could Hear Her Sing.” The narrator goes into a nursing home expecting one thing and comes out learning so much more. Between each story are short poems and artwork, which help set readers minds up for the next story; almost like cleansing the palate in a taste testing. Audrey Lewis does a phenomenal job with this collection and leaves her readers wanting more.
A melodrama rich with hard-boiled elements, JB Heart’s The Scales of Justice tells the story of the new “Florida Hurricane,” Harris Robertson. An assistant district attorney in Orlando, Harris is charming, enterprising, straight as an arrow, and dedicated to justice – but his world turns upside when a dangerous new case lands in his lap, just as an impossibly seductive new intern pops up in his office. As Harris delves deeper into the case and falls deeper into love with the object of his obsession, the body count rises and he tumbles into a rabbit hole of corruption and sin that threatens to upset everything he knows about his orderly life, and possibly end it.
A classic sort of legal mystery thriller, The Scales of Justice is appropriately shadowy and intriguing, balancing informed legal procedure with illuminated glimpses into an urban underbelly of crime, sadism, and backstabbing. The novel smolders with a dark southern flare, touching lightly on heady themes such as rape, racism, misogyny, incest, and vengeance in a world where blood is thicker than water and as potent as wine. But a counterpoint of pious romance, comradery, and family drama – highlighted by fun banter and character dynamics – is what really shines through. The grim and grisly aspects mix with this chaste melodrama to create a sort of teetotal noir where sodas, pizzas, and soft rock replace the whiskeys, cigar smoke, and fedoras; this manages to ground the novel despite its flair for dramatics. The story is meticulously plotted and composed, but is so intricate that it can become a bit convoluted at times, with poorly delineated scene changes and progressions creating an awkward pace – and yet the novel is rarely surprising. The narrative constantly reveals the goings-on behind the hero’s back, diminishing the sense of mystery and keeping the reader up to speed in clumsy ways – we always know whose side everyone is on, even if Harris does not. Heart has a penchant for explaining rather than showing; saying (or heavily winking at) what things mean rather than letting us discover them for ourselves. Attempts to create character can also become annoying rather than endearing – the protagonists’ constant flirting, easy moralizing, facile spirituality, traditional virtuousness, and heavy repartee can feel cheesy and become grating. And yet the novel’s spirit is so earnest, its dramatic arc so solid, its world so full of fascination, that readers still may find themselves on the edge of their seats. Even if it’s a journey into the already-known, The Scales of Justice is a sultry, beguiling, and gripping ride.
Mark Robertson is a topnotch attorney who wins every case he is assigned, regardless of what side of the bench he’s on. He has a beautiful wife, adorable son, and a house decked out with the finest things money can buy. He drives a Jaguar, wears fancy suits, and regularly dines in the high-rent district. He’s got it all…but he wants more, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. But Mark’s ambition comes at a cost, and it repeatedly puts his family in grave danger. How far will Mark go to make his dreams come true, and how many cruelties must his family suffer in the process? The Silent Fear by JB Heart is a deep and disturbing novel about how determination, greed, and addiction can destroy a beautiful life and cause even the most powerful men to crumble under the pressure of their vices. Not for the faint of heart, it depicts severe physical, verbal, and psychological abuse and includes instances of adultery, excessive drinking, blackmail, and other subversive behaviors. In the end, it is a story about surviving these things, rather than succumbing to them, and it tells a tale based more in love than in hatred.
That said, however, The Silent Fear features one of the most despicable characters this reviewer has ever encountered. Mark Robertson is smug, overzealous, and way too full of himself. He says, thinks, and does unfathomable things, especially when it comes to his wife and son. His views on parenthood and marriage are disgusting, and the way he acts when he’s drunk will make you cringe. In other words, JB Heart does a stellar job creating a character that’s truly loathsome. But, unfortunately, some of the impact of this character, and this story, is lost because of mechanical errors and poor stylistic choices. The text is full of run-on, multi-topic paragraphs that rush through the storyline quickly and haphazardly; and the dialogue often seems unrealistic, and is confounded by improperly placed, or absent, quotation marks. Taking its strengths alongside these weaknesses, The Silent Fear is a little hard to read, both for flaws in its writing and the sensitive nature of its content—but as hard as it is to read, it’s well worth it.
Garrett Dennis’s Port of Refuge is his second novel in his Storm Ketchum series. This novel picks up with Storm Ketchum, “Ketch,” showing off his new houseboat and his lover, Kari, who is moving in with him. Everything seems to be in perfect harmony. However, when Kari’s aunt passes away and a will is found giving all her assets to a Wiccan coven, things become weird. Something seems off. Ketch’s sleuthing bug bites again, and he finds himself thrown into a world of the Dark Web, hitmen, witches, and drugs. However, it appears Ketch may have bitten off more than he can chew this time. The coven’s High Priestess, Samantha, is sly and ruthless. She will stop Ketch at all costs from figuring out what the coven’s true motivations are. Thus ensues a showdown of intellect and persistence.
Dennis is brilliant with his descriptions. He beautifully describes the Outer Banks area, not only detailing its physical beauty and peacefulness, but also delving into the history of the area. Whereas some authors can become a bit tedious in the details, Dennis’ information is interesting and adds to the story –similar to John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil does with Savannah, Georgia. Although it would be helpful to read Dennis’ first novel in the series, Port Starbird, this novel can easily stand alone. There just might be a few finer points and background details that are missed if one reads this novel first. Port of Refuge is an enjoyable read with an excellent pace.
Lady in Red is not what you might expect at all. E.V. King has written not only a romantic and erotic tale of joy and sorrow, but of pleasure and pain. Through the main character, Estelle’s, inner turmoil and tendency to lead a quiet, wallflower like existence King hits home for those who live similarly – viewed as average looking and who behave accordingly. This story depicts how societal beliefs and expectations play a powerful role in the choices that most people are willing to make. Estelle and her lover Milo face issues from an apparent difference in age to their preferences in the bedroom. King doesn’t make everything crystal clear within the story though. Instead, the reader has to pay attention and allow his or her imagination to flow, so that the gaps can be filled in. The lovers go their own ways until years later when they reconnect and choose to forgo what society says they should or shouldn’t do. With an illicit and erotic affair they lie to those who trust them most, so they can indulge in their fantasies of submission and control.
Even though Lady in Red is well written, E.V. King’s storyline is not for the faint of heart. Caution should absolutely be used when reading King’s tale of Estelle and Milo. There is explicit sexual activity and foul language. However, the most concerning aspect of the Lady in Red is the violence and control that these two characters thrive on in their relationship. From Milo choking Estelle during sex to constantly calling her degrading names to her being excited over his full and total control King makes it clear that their relationship is not one that would be considered normal. If one can look past the physical violence and what many consider verbal abuse, the message of being true to oneself and not succumbing to what is said to be normal will, hopefully, ring through loud and clear.
In a small Montana town, Katie O’Connor works at the local diner and gas station, which caters to big-rig truckers stopping in for a quick bite or nap before heading back out on the road. Katie meets a variety of men and women during her workdays, but she has never met someone like Rob Townsend, a spirited and kind divorcee who uses humor to cover up his painful past. Soon after arriving at Ghost Town, a blizzard descends upon the buildings and trucks, forcing visitors to extend their stays and leaving others in peril, stuck in their vehicles on the open highways. As Katie and Rob explore the possibility of a relationship, they begin to realize that not only has the bad weather prevented people from leaving the town – but it has trapped a dark presence in with them.
I Was A Champion Then: Twelve stories about quiet injustice, small rebellions and restless hope is an intriguing compilation though, at times, a bit confusing. Christopher Paul Meyer discovered a collection of his father, Alfred A. Meyer’s, writings that had never been published. Christopher selected twelve of them – mostly penned in the mid-1960s – and did what his father wanted for so long. He published them. As the editor of I Was A Champion Then, Christopher shares insight into Alfred and his life-long desire to be a writer. He did have some success during his lifetime, but never achieved the bigger fame he worked so hard for. Now, Christopher is trying to give him that chance by sharing some of the writings in this book. It is a mixed collection of short stories including stories with a focus on sports, stories of racial bias, stories that hint at rebelliousness and more. The stories are not connected and do not, for the most part, carry any common threads. Yet each one, if you take a closer look at it and the time to reflect upon it, has compelling depth. At the beginning of many of the stories, Christopher shares a brief editorial to give the reader a bit more information around that particular selection. Each story can be read quickly and easily, but if you do that you will miss the profound message that is seemingly in between the lines. One example is On The Bridge. In this one page story, a milestone has seemingly been met. With some bridges no longer available as the main character mentions high school ending, he or she is on the bridge to adulthood and new beginnings. Reflecting back the character suggests it could have been different. What do you suppose this means for his or her future?
There is a heartwarming feel to the book if for no other reason than that of a son editing and sharing his father’s dream. I Was a Champion Then is well written and offers the reader a door to go inside and explore his or her own past, his or her own views, and his or her own future. Read these stories more than once because if you don’t, you may feel confused and lost. Give them a chance to touch your heart and soul. Alfred Meyer’s writing style is one that will make you stop and think. His style flows gracefully so that you may see and feel in a way you may not have considered before. His eloquent and colorful descriptions will make you want to read the next story. By editing and publishing Alfred Meyer’s writings, Christopher Meyer has created a beautiful book of nearly poetic reflection and shared a gem that may, otherwise, have been lost forever.
Helena’s Vendetta is a novel primarily about the main characters Edward and Helena. The book begins by divulging the history of Edward’s family and childhood, but most of the story revolves around Edward as a young man and his relationship with Helena. Edward is wealthy man, whose money was acquired from an inheritance given to him through his father’s criminal organization. Edward is unaware of his father’s unlawful activities and believes his wealth came from a successful real estate business. Helena is also wealthy, but feels her life and money to be constantly threatened by her abusive stepfather Dominic. The novel has many twists in the plot, and whether or not the young lovers Helena and Edward will end up together is just one of the questions the reader hopes to see answered as he or she finishes the book.
This book is particularly fun to read, and because it remains so interesting the whole way through, the holes in the plot aren’t as bothersome as they could be. Part of what makes the story fun are the same things that make it implausible, such as simple disguises or a change in hairstyle making characters unrecognizable to other characters who know them. Things like a secret passageway that Edward remembers conveniently right when he needs one, and the way Helena fakes her death also make for fun and interesting reading despite not being very realistic. Towards the beginning of the book, both Helena and Edward are portrayed with an innocence that makes them extremely endearing characters, and throughout the story the reader wants to discover what their fate will be.
Ever since her mom married Cal, 20-year-old Summer Blackburn has just wanted to escape from her miserable life in small-town Montana. With her mom severely depressed and unable to even leave her bed, Summer is forced to take care of the house and watch over her younger siblings. On top of that, Cal is not only abusive, he also happens to be county sheriff. Summer knows if she ever wants to have a life of her own, she has to do it now. After a run-in with Cal, Summer decides to leave everything behind and make a run for it, changing her life forever. Her only plan is to make it to the Rainbow Gathering, a spiritual forest gathering where hundreds of people meet each year for guidance and support. With only a backpack to keep her safe, Summer’s journey is cut short when she is sexually attacked by a group of local men alongside the road. Defenseless and screaming for help, a boy named Logan and his dog, Lazarus, help her escape and the two create an instant bond like nothing they have ever experienced before.
The Gathering by Beth Burgmeyer creates a wonderful story of friendship, young love, and second chances. As Summer and Logan’s relationship intensifies, as does the connections between other relatable characters. While these develop, the reader can observe that things, and people, are not always what they seem. After Summer runs away, Cal immediately sends out a county-wide search for his missing step-daughter. The tension increases in the story when we find out he has posted notices throughout the surrounding towns with Summer’s face on it. She becomes worried that someone at the Rainbow Gathering may recognize her and report her. Summer knows she can’t go back to her life at home and relies heavily on the support of her friends she meets at the Gathering. However, the tension Burgmeyer effortlessly creates in the first half of the novel quickly wanes in the later half. It becomes easy to forget why Summer is at the Rainbow Gathering at the first place as the focus shifts to what Summer and Logan plan to do after the gathering. Sadly, the Rainbow Gathering eventually comes to an end, but not until Cal suddenly finds Summer after a tip and demands she return home – without Logan. Armed with the power of love, Summer and Logan manage to conquer it all, but not without a fight. The Gathering is an intoxicating read filled with incredibly deep characters, emotional drama, and thematic elements that are relatable for readers of any age.
Bevenab, a young woman living in Thailand, has just turned twenty-one. She works ten-hour shifts at a grueling factory job where she carefully covers up her natural beauty, hoping to avoid the predatory attentions of her overseer. The small sum she earns there is enough to buy her family a proper breakfast each morning – and little else. Even so, the family’s luck seems to turn when Bevenab’s brother, Lek, finds a job of his own aboard a fishing boat, which promises to pay handsomely if the men can bring back a proper haul. Bevenab herself enters a beauty contest and, if she wins, it means she will finally be able to quit her demeaning job at the factory. But luck has a way of going sour, and the family’s bright future might be in greater jeopardy than even they realize.
According to the author’s notes, Ferrill has made a total of seventeen trips to Thailand over the years, which explains how he is able to communicate both the country’s appeal and danger with such studied skill. The accumulation of all those trips allows Ferrill to write about Thailand and its people convincingly and confidently. Bevenab’s personality is particularly entertaining, and her plights create a narrative so immersive that readers will have difficulty acknowledging the need to come up for breath. The only issue with the story – and a minor one at that – is the characterization of its cast, which sometimes seems to rely on standard archetypes, rather than the creation of fresh faces. For example, most of the male characters fall into two camps: either the irredeemably villainous or the infallibly virtuous. Few are shown to demonstrate the complicated moral map that human beings are, in fact, known to possess. Nevertheless, Ferrill’s novel remains a compelling one, and we look forward to reading his future works.
Whispering Pines: Tales from a Northwoods Cabin takes place in September of 1993. The Travis family have come together to celebrate the birthday of their matriarch; Isabella Travis. Different members of the family share touching stories about growing up, hunting and fishing, and other antics they have gotten into in the past. The narration is shared by Isabella, her daughter Ruth, and grandson Eddie. Each story unravels memories long forgotten. It all begins with theories of how Lake Dunbar was created and progresses to how the family found their way to Whispering Pine, the family name for their cabin. It’s a fantastic story of building life, making new friends and memories, as well as the changing of traditions to adapt with the times. It is a story of family, faith, and above all, love.
The novel opens with exquisite descriptions of the history and landscape of Lake Dunbar. Readers are able to imagine the giant foot shaped lake Foster describes. The first segment depicts life in the small town Isabella lived in and then how her time was spent at Lake Dunbar which required them to hunt and gather. Foster captures the hardships and emotions the family had to endure such as Stella’s death after her appendix rupturing and Sam’s early death from a heart attack. One of the elements of the novel that was very well done was the different viewpoints. The novel is broken up into three parts, three different generations talking about the family, and reminiscing on their lives together. While each section is from another perspective, the fluidity and tone of the novel remains the same. One can almost picture a soft smile on each narrator’s face. It seems as though Isabella and Ruth had grand ideas of adventure and leaving the area, where as Eddie wanted to preserve the memories he had growing up. This shows how things can change; Isabella and Ruth wanted to travel away from where they grew up and away from the lake altogether. While Eddie realized the beauty and importance of the area where his family started their legacy. Foster has created a compelling story about family, and the places that shape who we become.
Dark Sun, Bright Moon written by Oliver Sparrow takes you on a very ancient journey to the Andes and the Peruvians. It is beautiful, complex, intense, and downright outside the box. From the very beginning, the author shows you how different the cultural beliefs of the Andean people were from the belief systems of modern day by describing a sacrifice of seven elderly pilgrims. This first example, expresses a beautiful willingness and acceptance of death. Quickly, the story moves into how there is a group that is working towards wiping out a number of other human lives and communities. There is a constant state of war, if you will, over varying religious beliefs. A young woman, Q’ilyasisa, is unknowingly the heir to the yachaq’ legacy. She has to help put an end to those communities that are trying to destroy the others. Eventually, she will accomplish this feat, become Mother Moon (Mama Q’ilya) and establish the groundwork for the creation of what most of us know as the Incan Empire.
Sparrow recommends in the preface of Dark Sun, Bright Moon that you very likely may want to start reading the book by flipping to the back and beginning with the appendix. If you do not do that and if you do not pour over the thirty-plus words in the glossary, which is shared within the preface, you may discover that you are very confused as you read the story. The appendix gives you an overview of the culture and belief systems during the time frame Dark Sun, Bright Moon is set in. Sparrow calls it “the Andean World View,” and it is quite different from what the majority of people experience today. With a great number of pictures included in the book and the appendix, Dark Sun, Bright Moon offers not only an interesting and unique fictional story but an opportunity for you to travel back in time. Sparrow has crafted a well-written tale that will draw your attention while at the same time expand your cultural and historical perceptions.
One night during her freshman year, fourteen-year-old Sarah Hausman attends a school dance that will forever change the course of her life. Bruised and humiliated by a group of drunken boys – and betrayed by a classmate she thought she could trust – Sarah decides to lock away the secret of what happened that night to protect herself and to save her family from embarrassment. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves beyond even our control. Judith is a high school senior with the perfect boyfriend and a host of college offers to choose from, but plans begin to go off track when her boyfriend receives some unexpected news. While Sarah and Judith struggle separately to overcome the problems that fate has unfairly placed before them, events are in motion that will bring the girls together – though whether it will mean their saving grace or their mutual destruction remains to be determined.
Marjorie Brody comes to writing by way of psychotherapy, and she commands her characters with a smart and sensible application of her knowledge of the human personality. To portray the plight of a teenager, especially one coping to manage her emotions in the wake of a traumatizing experience, requires a master’s dexterity – but Brody certainly pulls it off. For one, Sarah’s relationship with her mother felt particularly viable, the mother-daughter bond tested – and ultimately strengthened – by the unspeakable acts committed against a young woman. There are things that are never easy for a family to go through, and sexual violence is chief among them. And, as if a compelling story and true-to-life characters weren’t enough, Twisted sets off several firecrackers toward the end that will bowl over even the most well-balanced readers.
This collection of ten short stories and folktales features scenes and characters that meld Celtic mythology, Christian spirituality, and Irish history to create truly contemplative and animated fiction. In the title story, a young brother and sister breathe new life into their town by spreading the game of Tiggy Tiggy Touch Wood (upon which football, tag, and hide-and-seek are based). In ‘Bess and Roy,’ two newlyweds are separated from each other in the wake of the Japanese bombings at Pearl Harbor – but serendipity brings them back together. The story ‘Ah, Chocolate!” offers a humorous look at the many wonders and miracles heaven holds in store for us, which thankfully includes chocolate! In ‘A Different World,’ a young father finds his prayers for a miraculous display of God’s glory have been answered, though now he wishes they hadn’t. A POW of WWII is able to escape captivity thanks to a Monopoly set that holds the key to his freedom in ‘A Well-Kept Secret.’
Jumping between the past and present-day, these stories bridge both time and culture, producing a well-balanced blend of entirely fictional tales and stories that are based on true historical facts and the lives of Rohrer’s close friends. Likewise, the inclusion of both traditional-style folktales and modern short fiction keeps this collection exciting and innovative through to the end. Heavily influenced by Christianity, many of the stories feature a strong religious element and positive messages that will undoubtedly be a source of comfort to troubled or saddened readers. Rohrer’s stories signify a departure from contemporary narration and a return to the classic storytelling methods of past generations, the result of which is an astonishing anthology that resonates with a life force of its own.
A. L. Gibson has penned an intriguing fictional story in Poka City Blues. Written from the perspective of Sedelia, a black woman in her mid-70s, you are taken on a chilling journey through her life experiences. She recounts a number of tales from childhood through her current life. Being born and raised in the Deep South in Loachapoka, Alabama, she writes of being dirt poor, picking cotton, her “skirt-chasing” father, the Ku Klux Klan, rape, murder and more. Your heart will go out to this character. You will get to see a very hard life through her eyes. Mind you, she is not shy or quiet though. She is a spit-fire and refuses to keep her mouth shut more often than not. Sometimes, this works strongly in favor, but not always. Be prepared as her inner anger pours forth at many of the horrific experiences she has gone through and the people that caused them. Gibson allows Sedelia to show you how strong love and honor is from start to finish. Sedelia was taught by her mother to honor and respect herself, and in a perplexing way it appears that those who tortured, abused and harassed Sedelia, her family, her friends and her community taught her to honor and respect others as well.
Poka City Blues is written in a way that makes you feel as though you are sitting at Sedelia’s feet or having a cup of tea with her as she tells her stories. Gibson doesn’t have her speak with a strong dialect, but her speech is vernacular. Reading Poka City Blues will give you a taste of what it might have been like to grow up in the Deep South in the 40s and 50s, and Sedelia continues right up through modern day. This was certainly an enjoyable read.
Shada Amiri is a young Iranian woman with a troubled past and insatiable desires. When Shada was a girl, her parents were abducted by the government and she was sent to live with her aunt. It was around this time that Shada met Agrajeeta, a member of Al Qaeda whose passion for the cause convinced Shada to become a terrorist herself. After completing medical school, Shada resumes her involvement with Al Qaeda – but is soon apprehended by a group of formal Navy SEALs known as “the Company.” Shada is given a simple choice: either join the Company and continue to do what she does best – mainly, killing – or resign herself to a quick and senseless execution. Opting to live, Shada is assigned work with the Company, her missions taking her to all points of the globe. But Shada soon learns that leaving the Company is not as easy as joining it. When a series of revelations leads Shada to reconsider her new employers, she decides to plan her escape. Staying alive is going to take everything she has – and more.
Mercenaries of Panama is a fast-paced, cinematic thriller with a colorful cast of characters, but even amidst such company, Shada herself shines most brightly of all. With a skillful hand, Dorsey paints Shada with layers of layers of appeal: there is her seductiveness, of course, as well as an edge of danger; her idealistic nature, which others seek to contort to fit their political agendas; and there is her very understandable need for human compassion and connection. Though the narrative is sometimes heavy-handed – chiefly, in the number of gratuitous sex scenes featuring Shada and an ever-changing buffet of lovers – Shada’s story will undoubtedly connect with readers on a visceral level, and in her struggle for freedom, one can find room both for entertainment and contemplation.
Alex Walker’s Zenox is the third book in his Toltec series. The timeframe of this story encompasses the ending of the Civil War and the years shortly thereafter. Confederate President Jefferson Davis selects Colonel Robert Patterson to lead a mission in which he will hide a secret confederate treasure worth millions. Within the Confederate treasure cache, Patterson discovers an odd coin and a thin metal sheet with symbols and hieroglyphs. Not knowing what they mean he takes them along with him and his team as they escape to Brazil. Years later when Patterson requests a pardon from his homeland and asks to return, President Ulysses. S. Grant is unsure if Patterson’s tale of a hidden confederate treasure is true or false. President Grant calls upon Simon Murphy and Elijah Walker, as well as archeologist, Professor George Scott to retrieve Patterson and his “band of ‘homesick’ rebels.” However, simply fetching a few former confederates from Brazil is far from a simple journey. In fact, Simon intuitively brought along the zenox, a communication device that is not of this world. The story and the mystery kicks in once they find Patterson and he shares the strange coin and sheet. Simon and Elijah recognize the sheet as being similar to the logbooks aboard the Toltec and the Cuzco. Patterson proceeds to share a secret offer he has for President Grant that is “far grander than the Confederate treasure,” but first they need to go on a very dangerous journey to find it. As expected, they encounter vicious tribesman and not everyone survives during these encounters. The native tribes aren’t the only ones try to stop them though. And, yes, the zenox comes to life as well, but what information is it transferring and to whom?
This Indiana Jones type journey is a page turner and filled with amazing information let alone the suspense. Even though this story is the third in the series it could be a stand alone. Walker does a good job of incorporating important pieces from Toltec and Cuzco, the first two books in the series, in case you haven’t read them. Alex Walker has crafted a well-written, fascinating and suspenseful series where historical fiction and science fiction meet.
All Jemima wanted was to get a passport for her business trip, only to find out her birth certificate was forged, and the authorities have been brought in on the case. After speaking with family and friends of her mother’s, Jemima struggles to piece together stories of her mother’s past to find out her own past, and identity. She travels across the globe seeking answers to questions about the mother she thought she knew. Little did she know her journey would take her to destinations across the world. She learns of the hardships her family endured and faces some of those hardships herself. The answers she seeks throw her world upside down, more so than it already has become. Along the way, she makes numerous ties in different cities and builds relationships with new friends who will stay into the future, and some who do not. Portrait of Stella is a whirlwind tale of deep family history and finally discovering one’s own heritage.
From the beginning of the book until the end, this story holds the reader captive. It pulls readers in quickly by tugging at the heartstrings. It builds up the excitement and desire to know what happened to Jemima’s parents, and why her birth certificate was forged. Never does one think it would become the tale that it does. It ranges on so many different topics, but does so in a way that it does not seem like too much information. Just when one thinks they have it figured out something new is revealed which changes the whole course of the story. The telling of the story through the eyes of different characters was a wonderful element. It added a depth to the story which might not otherwise be present. The author develops characters that readers can relate to. The character of Jemima is astounding, although some of her actions do seem out of character for what readers know of her. The other characters compel the reader to continue and learn more about them. Susan Wüthrich does a phenomenal job at bringing all the elements of the story together. She brings out various different emotions from happiness to sadness and pain. It is easily one of those books that can be finished in a single night.
Bottomless Dreams by Ryan Power is a collection of 25 short stories that, quite frankly, can’t be summarized in one paragraph. Not only are there 25 plot lines, 25 settings, and 25 casts of characters, but there are also scores of psychological themes and dozens of metaphysical quandaries set across several, often concurrent, genres. In other words, there’s a lot going on in this collection, and it’s pretty awesome. Bottomless Dreams tells very real tales alongside the fantastic, carrying readers around the globe and across the universe, through the past, present, and future, to explore the inward and outward bounds of the human condition. As per the stories themselves, they speak of surfers, old men, and coming-of-age children, as well as of beasts, werewolves, witches, and others. But what the stories speak of is not nearly as remarkable as what they speak to, which makes Bottomless Dreams, at the bottom line, a prime example of literary fiction. Isolation. Fear. Pride. Conviction. That’s what these stories are about, and then some. Power presents a buffet of themes and topics, dishing on everything from parenthood, masculinity, and absurd rites of passage, to the sanctity of life, enlightenment, and familiar questions about life, death, and religion. Plus, there’s a little sex, drugs, and jazz tossed into the mix, and the pages are scattered with original artwork—25 title pages for each of the 25 stories, as illustrated by interior artist Court Dheensaw.
All told, Bottomless Dreams by Ryan Power is a one-of-a-kind, somewhat strange experience. Many of the stories deal with “messed up” things, but do so in a way that’s insightful and illuminating. Power’s writing is also rather exceptional, full of powerful words, phrases, and devices that effectively communicate his messages and fuel further thinking. That said, however, be aware, Bottomless Dreams is not, by any means, a poolside novel. It’s neither a quick read nor a light read—but, it’s definitely a good read, and it comes highly recommended.
Richard Daley’s Detroit Ghost: Tennis Life expands the story of Mickey Dryden, a kid from the mean streets of Detroit who has grown up to be a dazzling and charismatic tennis player. Mickey’s moves on the court are rivalled only by his moves in the bedroom, and he leaves a trail of broken hearts wherever he goes. That is, until he meets Alessandra Tessini, CEO of Tessini Sports. It is love at first sight for both of them and soon Mickey and Alessandra seem “as if they had been together and a happy couple for years.” Soon, Mickey transitions from bad boy tennis pro to gifted marketing executive for Tessini Sports. Mickey has never been so happy – until Alessandra is killed in a plane crash and with her, all of Mickey’s hopes and dreams. Mickey’s grief over Alessandra’s death is so extreme that he begins forgetting their time together, a coping mechanism a doctor labels “dissociative amnesia.” With the help of his manager and Alessandra’s friend Diane Gottfried, Mickey begins to come back from the depths of his grief, but he is never quite the same. Diane helps Mickey return to tennis and he becomes an instructor at a country club.
Mickey’s charm and outsized personality, even when dampened by his grief, cannot be contained for long, however, and soon Mickey is using all of the skills he learned working with Alessandra to achieve success. Although the story sometimes suffers because of poorly integrated narrative asides and often lacks coherent secondary character development, Daley’s fast-paced and beautifully detailed narrative will keep the reader wanting more of Mickey’s story, a character so well drawn and nuanced that he seems as if he must be real.
After a fire that seemingly destroys her life, Marie Maxwell struggles to raise her two young children Laurel and Todd on her own. Now that her beloved husband Joe has died, she is forced to abandon the life she previously lived. As they begin to move from place to place, Marie and her children become squatters, taking refuge wherever they can find shelter now that her world has come crashing down around her. As this mother and her children learn to rebuild their lives in this unconventional way they befriend an unusual cast of characters including a woman named Fiona who is hiding from a dangerous Russian mob, Martha, a lost heiress who came from a wealthy family, and Rosa and George, relatives who have been displaced by society. Eventually, Marie finds balance in her life again, as she embraces a new love and becomes a successful ceramist. Unfortunately, her children are still tormented by the past, as they continuously have nightmares about their dead father. As a terrible secret is revealed about Joe’s past, Marie has to once again strive for peace, wondering if she will ever be able to find it.
The book Stashes by PJ Colando is the story of Jackie and Steve, and also of their son Brandon and his wife Amy. Steve runs a micro-dairy in Michigan while Jackie works at the local school. The couple decides to take a break from their lives and travel around the United States in an RV. Brandon and Amy had some serious financial problems and lose their house, so they agree to move into Steve and Jackie’s house and take over the dairy business during Brandon’s parents’ travels. Amy is the vice president of the local bank, and uses her power there to take a large portion of Jackie and Steve’s money, nearly causing them to completely run out of funds for their trip. Further complicating matters, Amy comes up with an idea to start a business selling cookies- but cookies baked with marijuana. As the story unfolds, financial, legal, and relationship problems are resolved in unexpected ways.
A Moment of Time by Jilaine Tarisa is a novel that combines elements of the investigative thriller, medical mystery, and relationship drama. We follow Justice Department attorney Caitlin Rose as she investigates a vaccine preservative that appears to be having negative affects on the children it is administered to. To make matters more complicated, her boss, Neil Morton, has personal interests tied to the drug, as he’s been lobbying on behalf of this very pharmaceutical company behind the scenes. With the drive and fire that her reporter mother instilled within her, Caitlin is determined to find out the truth, no matter what the cost. Eventually, Caitlin is pressured into traveling to Ireland, where she meets up with her old friend Kimo, and it’s not long before she is forced to re-evaluate her life, as she contemplates her understanding of religion and the world at large.
At nearly five hundred pages, A Moment in Time is certainly not a short book, and Tarisa covers a great deal of topics, as her heroine Caitlin traipses through the uncertainties of womanhood. The central plot has a lot to grab the reader’s attention, but there are many parts that are rather dense when it comes to the sections about sermons and world religions. We found the parts that focused more on Caitlin herself and her journey for justice to be the most intriguing, as she was a protagonist that we feel many women will be able to relate with. She has complicated relationships with men, is often unsure of her self and her motives, but always strives for what she believes is right. If you are looking for a book that covers a lot of ground and builds up a strong female main character, then this could certainly be the book for you.
Gospels from Life is a short philosophical novel by Felix Guerrero that follows a young boy named Leonard as he grows up and experiences all of life’s trials and tribulations. The pace of the story moves at a nice steady rate even though it is short enough to be considered a novella. Leonard loves to go fishing down by the river with his brothers even though his parents do not permit them to do so, thus they must go in secret. When his teacher encourages him to follow his desires and dreams, Leonard strives for what he wishes for, giving him the courage to stand up for himself and move forward with his childhood. There is a strong philosophical overtone to the entire manuscript, as the introduction to the book explains that all human life is guided by founding principles ingrained within culture and practices that do not always align with the spirits that surround us.
Luke Entelechy needs a job. An aspiring writer with only incomplete projects to his name, Luke is invited along to a teacher recruitment event in New York City with his friend Billy. Teaching isn’t exactly what either of them wants to be doing – high effort, high stress, low returns – but both boys need to start making money. And fast. Billy lands a job at an A school in Miami, ranked as one of the best schools in the country by its students’ test scores, while Luke finds himself teaching social studies at a nearby F school, the very opposite of the academic spectrum. What follows is a poignant, engaging, and oftentimes light-hearted look at the many shortcomings of the American education system and the numerous heroic men and women who sacrifice countless hours to keeping their students in school.
In Woodfiber Dreams: Coming of Age Tales, author James Stark has compiled a series of thirteen short stories. They focus mainly on young children, men and women trying to help their families survive during times of fear and intense struggle. Set during the Vietnam War, the Korean Conflict, and World War II, these stories offer you an opportunity to see into the experiences and the mind’s eye of those youths who battled through the tedium of daily life just to stay warm, keep food on their tables, and stay safe from physical and emotional harm. Within just a few pages Stark has captured the uncertainty that these fictional families faced head-on. These are stories that can reach right in and grab your heart. You may even be able to imagine your grandparents or other ancestors having lived similar moments in their lives.
While out biking, Mitch Wilde is unexpectedly hit on the shoulder by an arrow that mysteriously disappears into the distance. The bizarre occurrence pales in comparison to when his best friend Jack is in need of medical attention after being attacked by another one of these unexplained arrows, and then Jack begins uttering unintelligible verbiage. As if that isn’t surreal enough for Mitch, the oddity of recent news reports reflect the bizarre disappearance of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Further information from Mitch’s recluse neighbor Jasper indicates that there are UFO sightings near major Oregon lakes. When Mitch asks Jasper to accompany him on a photo shoot job, Mitch has no idea what is in store, especially when Jack shows up out of the blue.
In Suzanne Keslar’s Obscuring the O, the three O’Malley kids are New York’s very own Kardashian-like family. They spend money, they start drama, they look perfect, they live extravagantly, and they party. However, when the family becomes embroiled in some drug trafficking charges, the O’Malley’s are put into protective custody and moved out of the city. For the youngest daughter, Darby, it is the end of the world as she knows it– less shopping, no partying, and lots of whatever happens when you live on a farm. However, for Tiernan, life out of the spotlight while living in the suburban New Jersey apartment of her bodyguard, Robert Archer, is a breath of fresh air. It is a chance for her to actually be herself instead of the person that the media thinks she is and portrays her as to the world. It also affords her a much needed opportunity to struggle with her growing secret– an unborn baby. Keslar’s characters are beautifully written, far more than page deep and they will have you wanting to read just one more chapter before bed.
Major league baseball scout Riley Knight is in search of an once-in-a-lifetime pitching prospect when he finds himself stranded at a remote mountain diner with a collection of nutty eccentrics after a gigantic solar storm destroys electrical power grids worldwide. Cut off from the rest of the electricity-deprived world, the group finds themselves forced to rely on each other with laughingly absurd results. Their situation rapidly becoming unstable, the town of Jericho becomes their only hope for survival. But the road to Jericho is fraught with peril that only the bravest of them may survive. While perceived as a safe haven, Jericho may not be the paradise of tranquility desperately sought by the unlikely band. Riley and his companions will have to band together and face ridiculous obstacles to survive this new world.
Twenty-year-old Mathias Kamau-Barrett is blessed with The Sense, the same gift his mother possessed. Sensing that Mathias is supposed to spend time on Battersea Island to help the black families (the Gullah) from losing their homes because of exorbitant tax assessments on their properties, the Duke University student takes off for the Georgia coast and quickly becomes acquainted with the islanders. Fărnăz Űsman, a paralegal working to help the families get over the hurdle of State zoning issues, recruits Mathias’s educational prowess to do legal research at the University of Georgia’s Law Library. Mathias’s research is not only met with opposition, but a mysterious set of circumstances – including a death – occurs on the island. The Sense guides Mathias to believe that racism is the motivating factor behind the force to remove “an indigenous population.” Whether or not Mathias can prove that is another issue.
Linda Cousine’s sharp wit and bluntly honest writing truly come to life in her novel about the immensely interesting life of a fifty-something ex-super model. In Hot to Trot, Lexi Taylor seems to have it all: rocking body (underneath all of the Spanx, of course), gorgeous husband (if you ignore their divorce), and the fabulous job that makes her a millionaire (if you ignore the substandard quality of the product). As Lexi is getting ready to really enjoy her money, her husband, and the years that are supposed to be some of the most relaxing and meaningful of her life, she quickly discovers that being an ex-super model millionaire may not be as easy as it seems. Cousine touches on everything from the meaning of life, to motherhood, masturbation, and merkins in a novel that will have every reader laughing and shaking their head, all while rooting for Lexi to make the right choice.
In the book Follow the Rain by Firouz Hejazi, Fred, his brother Jimmy, and Jimmy’s girlfriend Ashleigh are headed to Mobile, Alabama to be closer to Ashleigh’s parents. This is the story of the adventures they have along the way and how a young girl they call Jabaala comes to be a part of their journey, impacting all of their lives. As the group travels south toward Mobile, Fred meets several women that he considers sharing his life with, as well as a few other interesting and colorful characters along the way. When they reach the New Orleans area, they are forced to stay in the Super Dome because of terrible weather. It is during their stay there that Fred crosses paths with a little girl who has no parents around to look out for her. Fred gives her the name Jabaala and makes the decision to take over as her guardian.
The Epitaph Negotiation is a collection of short stories by William Eisner that examines human reaction under stress. The 16 stories feature characters in a variety of stressful situations, from attempting to decide on what should be written on a dead man’s headstone to a man attempting to fall in love with a woman in hopes of replacing his deceased wife. Other stories include a new boss brought in to close a business, a drug dealer looking for forgiveness, and an old man’s retirement party. Many of the stories are connected – there are often two or three stories featuring the same characters but showing different viewpoints or times in their lives. The one common thread throughout the entire collection is the undesirable situations each character finds themselves in – it may not represent stress in the most used form, but each character is certainly under some form of distress.
There is no doubt you will be immersed from the beginning into a feeling of old southern charm. You will, perhaps, quickly and easily be taken back to your own childhood when the adults unexpectedly ask you to help them with something. Tolar Miles writes Mud Marbles in a first person style, which allows the colorful memory of the main character to flow smoothly and steadily. As the main character begins to reflect back upon those early childhood years, the reader discovers how the Montgomery family held great love and respect for Miss Mincy, and how she had a large impact on their lives. However, there were family secrets. Some of these were uncovered more easily than others, and maybe not all were that secret to begin with.
The second novel in The Untapped Series, Twin Flames by Tanja Kobasic builds on the story of conjoined sisters Scarlett and Jade Jennings who were introduced to us in the first novel, Vanishing Twin. Having survived a tumultuous childhood, the sisters are now best-selling authors living comfortably in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tranquility does not last for long though, as Scarlett’s relationship with Sebastian, an illusionist performing in the city, takes a turn to the dark side, as his supernatural powers begin to lead him towards dangerous aspirations. The twin sisters who are unable to be separated from one another physically begin to divide emotionally, as Jade is concerned for where her sister’s heart lies deeply in love with the treacherous Sebastian. A tale of good versus evil filtered through the lens of an intangible, complicated love, Twin Flames is a riveting piece of fiction unlike anything else you’ve ever read.
Dreams, reality, travel, love, mental illness, sex, drugs, and more combine in the stories of The Last Thing Before The Apocalypse to give a glimpse into the lives of the many various characters. We follow along as one man relives his life in his dreams and another lives his life on the streets of Berlin. One recounts a speech heard, while someone else travels through Europe. Peter G. Mackie drops us in the middle of a dreamlike and mysterious world where anything can happen.
Gagged and Bound, described by author Nick Jones as being full of over five hundred original gags including puns, one-liners, and dad jokes, includes a variety of content that will be sure to make you laugh. While some jokes are more miniature stories that go on for a few pages, others are brief one liners that deliver their wit quickly. There are even illustrations that offer up jokes to the reader through their artwork and composition. This book would best be used as a gift to a lover of comedy, or used as a coffee table book to entertain guests. Jones succeeds in offering a wide variety of content, covering such topics as bar jokes, family jokes, jokes about animals, occupations, men and women, and much more!
A fantastic collection of eleven short fiction pieces, Mary Dean Cason’s What Solomon Saw and Other Stories guides the reader through a tenderly-woven patchwork of tales that focus on key moments in the lives of a colorful array of woman characters. Largely set in the American Carolinas, the stories also fly us from New York to Chicago to California, and even across the pond to a Europe in the throes of WWII. Gleefully swinging somewhere between the genuine whimsies and kitchen-sink-realisms of life, Cason’s tales cast a generous gaze that offers nuanced glances on race and class, gender and sexuality, religion and community, childhood and parenthood, death and new life.
Jim Scoresby should’ve listened. He should’ve listened to his father, should’ve listened to the news, should’ve listened to his friend. That’s all he could think about while he and his friend, an older jazz musician named Freddy, were stranded on his roof during Katrina. Wishing he had grabbed Freddy and evacuated, he watched as everything he knew and loved disappeared before his eyes- including Freddy. In the aftermath, Jim runs from the destruction, roaming around New England for a while. Loving life in Boston- with a great job and a beautiful girlfriend- doesn’t change the fact that he still feels part of him is missing and broken, and he wonders if he will ever get it back.
Confronting the issue of homosexuality and Christianity head on, The Door of the Heart focuses on the journey of protagonist Tammy Sloan after her son bullies a gay student at his high school. The wife of a conservative Texas politician, Tammy begins to reexamine her values after the incident blows up in the media, and embarks on a mission not just to view queer issues through a loving Christian perspective, but to become an active participant in positive change. A generous look at homosexuality through a Christian lens, Diana Finfrock Farrar’s novel interweaves multiple story lines that feature endearing characters each confronting the consequences of homophobia and demonstrating a need for the understanding and the embracing of the queer community, especially in the heart of Bible-belt reactionaryism.
A Digital Carol is a modern day twist on Charles Dickens’ extremely popular story, A Christmas Carol. Adolphus Writer attempted to take Dickens’ story and transform it into a story that fits a digital world. He tells a tale of Eliz Benjamin Ezer, a man solely focused on gaining more and more acquisitions of companies and properties. Writer has Ezer have a right-hand man, Rob Cratchit, whom he treats like a lowly, slave-like employee just as Scrooge treated his employee, Bob Cratchit. In A Digital Carol, it seems that Ezer doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions. Of course, he ends up facing his old partner Marley, but this time he isn’t a ghost. Rather he is some sort of computerized digitization. It seems as though Writer’s story is exceptionally similar to Dickens’, but you will be surprised by the interesting twists and turns that come about with a futuristic feel.
An intoxicating blend of exuberance and tragedy, luxury and hardship, adoration and resentment, liberation and imprisonment, sex and longing, Skylark charts protagonist Billie May Skylark’s ascent into womanhood against her passionate relationship with lover and husband Evan. Ruthie Morgan’s first work of fiction, this accomplished novel pairs the modest Kansan heroine with the devastatingly handsome, brilliant, and troubled Irish artist/architect, and thoughtfully examines the complex dynamics of their intense relationship over the course of several years. Narrated largely by Billie herself, the novel whisks us from bustling London into a romantic adventure to enchanting Paris, homey Ireland, meditative Scotland, and the paradisiac tropics. Looking unflinchingly at the ups and downs of love and family life, the novel metes out pleasure and pain in equal measure in a thoroughly delicious tale of a strong woman’s voyage into love, loss, and redemption.
A Patch of Blue, written by Sharon Mikeworth, is an adventure-filled, enticing novel that is sure to attract readers of all ages and interests. Protagonist Carrie Sinclair’s story begins when she follows her husband of sixteen years (along with a mysterious blonde) to a motel room one afternoon, finding something that will change her life forever. After discovering her husband has cheated, Carrie decides to take advantage of both her newfound freedom and her two sons’ summer plans, and embarks on a two-week journey to an island resort in Fiji. While out on a day trip to snorkel in the open ocean, Carrie finds herself overboard on the return trip, without a soul to have noticed her disappearance. What follows her open sea experience is an adventure in itself, and she finds that she must face demons of many forms: predators, physical exhaustion, dehydration, and, most importantly, her own thoughts. A Patch of Blue is a story that tackles adventure, a budding romance, and the struggles of marriage, family, and relationships – truly a novel with something for everyone.
A riveting novel that focuses heavily on the themes of good vs. evil and what it means to be sisters, author Tanja Kobasic has created an engrossing read with the first of her Untapped Series: Vanishing Twin. Telling the story of conjoined twins Scarlett and Jade Jennings, sisters who are fused at the pelvis, the narrative is rich from the very beginning. Even though the sisters had a troublesome start to their lives, not only because of their physical state, but due to being born to a Bulgarian teen with a drug addiction, only to be raised in a shoddy orphanage, eventually the sisters find good fortune after being adopted by an American couple. Nowadays they have written a bestselling novel and travel as motivational speakers. It is because of their semi-level of fame that they meet Sebastian Cole at one of their events. Scarlett finds herself extremely drawn to this dark and mysterious man, who works as a grand illusionist in Las Vegas. Supposedly possessing demonic powers, Sebastian may not be all he seems, but that doesn’t deter Scarlett from trying her best to follow her heart after him. The only problem is, she has a sister that she can’t get rid of, and Jade is not pleased with her sister’s wishes.
If you read one book this year purely for pleasure and the enjoyment of reading, choose AJ Sidransky’s, Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon. Sidransky’s novel is the perfect combination of humor, mystery, and good-natured law breaking. In Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon, Elliott Serlin finds himself questioning his place in his family, as well as in life in general, after losing all of his money in the most ridiculous Ponzi scheme ever. When Elliot then discovers that he may also be losing his comfortable, if boring, bank job, he knows that something has got to give and that he needs to get fast money from somewhere and by any means possible. Through a series of coincidental events and a partnership with his best friend and lifting partner, Elliot begins to plan a heist that could potentially save his bank account, his marriage, and the financial situations of many of his friends. Breaking the law has never seemed so practical and so sexy.
While Henry First, is, at its core, a story about a culinary chef who is desperate to win a cooking competition, the multiple layers that author Basil Lawrence has added to his narrative make it something special. Offering a realistic and unapologetic view of the restaurant industry and those who work within it, this novel displays a world in which no one really seems to understand why things are the way they are. A tale of excess, whether it be through the ingredients Henry uses, or through the capitalism, corruption, and greed that is present throughout the world that seems to keep degenerating, this novel is satire at its best. Not only that, the author brings about a great deal of humorous anecdotes and plot points in his writing, that keep the reader laughing from page to page. Although the title character is arguably the most fascinating, there are plenty of supporting characters who add to the mix, where the fast paced storyline shows just how unforgiving people can be towards one another in order to get what they want.
Since high school, Candace Bradford has been offering advice to anyone who would listen: stop procrastinating, start exercising, remain calm in tense situations. Now that she has a just-released book on the market and a radio show airing weekly out of Chicago, people are definitely listening. It seems that thirty-something Candace has achieved her single greatest dream in less time than she could have imagined. But despite her bright future, Candace’s success comes with a price – at the very moment when her career is poised to take off, she comes under the hold of a strange illness, the ramifications of which could tear her carefully constructed world apart. Candace makes a quick decision that could save her life while simultaneously ruining her marriage to Ross Simpson, a hunky, hot shot lawyer with a severe competitive streak and a burgeoning workload of his own. In an effort to protect Ross, Candace lies about her health, preventing him from having any influence in her decision-making process. Ross becomes irate when she finally fills him in on the situation, walking out on their already-troubled marriage. Even so, Candace can sense that there is more to Ross’s reaction than he is letting on. The real question is, can Candace keep her crumbling career together long enough to figure out what he is hiding?
Anne Leigh Parrish weaves an interesting tale of a recently widowed, senior citizen in her story, What Is Found, What Is Lost. The main character, Freddie, recently lost her husband after his tough battle with cancer. Parrish peaks the reader’s interest by introducing a strange man into the story, and Freddie’s daughter returns home with one child and tells her mother she is pregnant with another. The story moves along at a decent pace while jumping back and forth to give the reader more details about Freddie’s past, as well as further insight into her deceased husband, Ken and her daughter. The story carries a theme throughout around God. Freddie, born to a religious zealot, has strong disagreements with religion. This view is interwoven throughout the story. But, what does the mystery man from the beginning have to do with the story, and what happens with Freddie’s daughter and the pregnancy? As the reader moves through the story, they will also discover key components that focus on Freddie’s upbringing and how they might have had an impact on her adult life.
Early one morning in nineteenth century England, Lady Natalie Dowling is out on the pond gathering water lilies – her mother’s favorite – for a birthday surprise. But as she reaches out for a flower, her small boat capsizes, sending Natalie down into the water, weighed down by her bulky garments. Just then, Maxwell Westbury happens to be riding by in his carriage, and he stops to save the poor woman from a painful death. As the young pair’s bodies meet, a spark runs between them: is it merely the rush of having escaped a near-fatal accident? Or is it something more? Unable to banish the alluring woman from his mind, Maxwell is drawn deeper into Natalie’s dark past; his own father forbids him from pursuing a relationship with her, without telling Maxwell why. Despite mounting opposition, Maxwell and Natalie fall irrevocably in love, their romance setting off a chain of events that will follow them both for the rest of this life – and into the next.
Carson City in the 1800s was a legendary place and the perfect backdrop for a story about the Wild West, as several westerns have established. Once again, thanks to Digger Cartwright, we find ourselves planted at a cattle ranch outside this city in the newly formed state of Nevada. Following the stories of the Maynwaring family and their power struggles in this western frontier town, Cartwright weaves an affective web of danger, politics, and intrigue. Barron Maynwaring is the patriarch of a prominent Carson City family. His cattle ranch is the largest one in the area, as he serves as U.S. Senator for the new state of Nevada, and his family members are all respected members of the community. The family is generally known to have wealth, power, and honor with a fantastic work ethic. Barron helped to build Carson City from its founding. Essentially, the Maynwarings are the perfect western frontier family. Until a mysterious, high powered business man rides into town, buying up real estate left and right, and threatening the power structure in Carson City. The Maynwarings are faced with the challenge to retain their good name and assets, and rid the town of this menacing stranger and his men.
Digger Cartwright’s Conversations on the Bench starts very slow and quite dry. This fictional story, based on actual events, kicks off in a fancy country club where Mr. Cartwright had been invited to a symposium. The reader is left to wonder what this is all about and just where the plot is headed. The two men, who invited Cartwright to the symposium, wanted to make a difference in the world. Eventually, after a continued rendition of their visit and a round of golf, one man, Robbie, asked Cartwright to write a motivational book about the other man, Sebastian’s life lessons. He wanted the wisdom of those lessons to be captured and shared with the hope it would help someone else. This particular conversation was the initial spark for Conversations on the Bench.
An ambitious novel of excellent literary quality, The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle is the kind of book that you can get lost within. By combining elements of a family saga with a coming of age story, author Jedah Mayberry has constructed a searing tale of love and loss, all the while offering up philosophical anecdotes that fit right into the story, causing the reader to reconsider notions they previously believed they understood. The narrative takes place in the town of Preston, Connecticut and introduces us to the lives of three generations of the Hopkins family, including the quick-tempered Grandpa Tuke, the selfless mother Dottie, the unhappy father Chester, and their two sons, Langston and Trajan. When a horrifying accident destroys the balance that the family has come to know, each character is forced to deal with the dilemma of how to overcome such a sudden and unrelenting change. The focus of the book rests on the shoulders of Trajan, the younger brother who must now learn to survive the difficulties of growing up and becoming a man without much guidance from anyone else. Through changing relationships with old friends, coming to know the intimate world of women, and the danger of an ominous drug ring that looms over the area, by the time the final pages of the narrative come to a close, Trajan is no longer the same boy we met at the beginning of the novel.
An epic tale of betrayal, A Wicked Wicked Man is an engrossing account of historical fiction that tells the story of a friendship gone horribly awry. Set during the fifth century in the land of Persia, the novel follows two boys, Haman and Mordechai who promise one another to be friends forever, until a terrible lie sets off a chain of events that forces them down a path where only one will succeed. By beginning with the hanging of Haman at the gallows, this narrative starts off by grabbing the reader from the very start, offering shocking language and bringing forth revelations into the psyches of these characters before we even understand what is actually going on. After this harrowing scene is teased before us, we go back to Haman’s birth and follow him throughout life as he grows. Haman faces many dilemmas throughout the course of the story which he must triumph over in order to become the man he is meant to be. He is eventually appointed Grand Vizier, a position of great power, which causes him to be pulled in multiple directions as his conflicting loyalties battle for his attention.
Former Golden Gloves boxer and Army medic Roger Hitchcock returns home from Vietnam to a very different America than the one he left. His hometown population has ballooned in size while he was away and he finds the police force needs to expand. With a solid option available, he jumps at the chance to serve his neighbors. Like his fellow veterans who pin on the badge, they find that when they left Vietnam, Vietnam didn’t leave them. They go from being called ‘baby killers’ to being called ‘pigs’ yet they do what they did before, serve and protect an often undeserving public. The drug craze of the early seventies takes a heavy toll on the Boomer generation, and the social fabric begins to unravel. This book is a collection of stories filled to the brim with nail biting action, romance, and intrigue, which are all based on actual events.
As far as book titles go, some are fitting to the text they serve, while others are misleading in some way. The title of this particular piece, however, is both at the same time. A Diary With a Difference by Martin A. Line consists of not one diary, but two, and each stands out as ‘different’ for what it covers, what it conveys, and how it is told. The main voice in the novel is that of a young woman named Judith Thomas, who receives two books from her parents. One is a diary of blank pages, which she sets out to fill—and the other is a copy of a seventeenth-century testament written in Welsh, which her father asks her to translate into English. The testament was written by one Jane McCarthy, whom Judith’s father believes to be their ancestor, though Judith is somewhat skeptical of this fact. So too she is skeptical of doing the translation itself—that is, until she undertakes the task. As Judith works on the testament with the aid of those in her Welsh language class, a centuries-old saga of hardship, controversy, and desperate measures unfolds. At the same time, Judith’s life begins to take on new shape, and her once bland existence is spiked with some challenges of its own. From witchcraft, civil war, terrorism, and untimely death, to romance, familial integrity, divine gifts, and much more, the tale of these two ladies, taken together, carries readers throughout history and recent current events, across a veritable landscape of human emotion, experience, and thought.
Diana comes home to her childhood town to try to begin her life anew after losing her husband. Little does she know, the demons she thought she had left behind dead and buried, are very much alive. Diana is a newly widowed mother of three girls who are adjusting to living life in a small town. Janet and Sue are dueling teenage sisters trying to find their stride in a new school with new friends. The youngest, Whitney, is on the cusp of becoming a teenager and is constantly reminded of her youth by the other members of her family. Strong willed female characters are a staple in this story. Amidst all of the turmoil between the girls and the teenage angst they display towards their mother, something sinister is growing in their new home. To combat its affects the girls move to their grandmother’s, two houses down, leaving their mother to battle her demons alone. This proves disastrous. Tragedy strikes the already grief stricken family and the demons that come to haunt them threaten to completely destroy everything.
Family of the Year is a story about the Murphy family and their business Murphy Pallets and Honey Baked Ham. Jon Murphy III, the main character, is a married father of four who is unhappily working for the family business. Jon works with his father, mother, two brothers, and two brothers in law in the corporate office of the pallet business, and then goes home to his wife Lucy and his kids. Jon has a somewhat strained relationship with his brothers and father, and his mother is an alcoholic. His children Chris, Emily, Craig, and Trevor get average grades and don’t excel in extracurricular activities, but are rambunctious, social, and funny. When Jon’s daughter Emily wins a school essay contest about the Murphy family and their business, Jon feels a mixture of suspicion and pride. As it turns out, the essay, which could potentially win state and national awards, is mostly untrue.
Damian Stone has battled his whole life against the demons of his past. The product of a young, misguided mother and an emotionally abusive father who skipped out on the first few years of his childhood, Damian has been pushed to his limits – and now he’s taken things into his own hands. During a tour with his hard rock band, Damian meets the mother of his future son, Tristan, though circumstances tear the family apart and Damian his robbed of the ability to be a father to his child. When Tristan his killed in a car crash, Damian truly hits rock bottom and depression clouds his vision so that taking his own life seems to be the only way he’ll see his son again. But when family intervenes, Damian may just have been given a second chance to live again.
Set in 1936, Babette Hughes’s The Red Scarf tells the story of Kate Gold, the young widow of Ben Gold, a vicious bootlegger known as the “Jewish Godfather.” After her husband’s murder, Kate meets and falls in love with FBI agent Adam Fairfield. Their relationship is interrupted by the murder of Adam’s friend and fellow agent Gary Gettlemen by the Levines, a Jewish mob family. Gary had been undercover for two years in an attempt to bring the Levines to justice but was instead murdered after his true identity was discovered. Kate volunteers to use her credentials as Ben Gold’s widow to infiltrate the Levines and bring them to justice for Gary’s murder. Kate risks her relationship with Adam to put the Levines behind bars and to help Sol Levine’s wife, Miriam, escape her abusive husband and his equally dangerous mother, Edna.
The Diary of a Good Luck Charm is a true account of a love story filled with deceit. This story jumps around a good deal and leaves the reader confused, but it is coming from the author’s heart and her painful experience. Focused on the story of a twenty-something female dancer and college student, the reader should expect to see things from the first person perspective. An independent young woman, who had been so entranced in her career and education, had ignored her romantic life for many years. Stepping outside of her normal tendency to maintain strict order and responsibility in her life, she met a man who she eventually fell in love with. This is one of those times when the saying “love is blind” really turns out to be the truth. No matter how many times Angelica’s lover lied to her she continued to open her heart and cast away as much doubt as possible. She loved him and continued to give and give. The reader will be forced to wonder how long the author continued to be sucked into dealing with this, or they will ask themselves if she finally figured out how to walk away from this naïve love and relationship filled with lies.
Kate had always been a grownup. Her runaway father and alcoholic mother saw to that. Not one to back down, Kate learned to rise to every challenge. She fought her way through school while working to keep herself and her mother alive. So when the Great Depression hits it is the worst possible scenario for everyone, but for Kate it means the end of the dreams she had worked so hard for, a chance to go to college and be a writer. When Ben Gold walks into her life at the exact moment she is fired from her job, it seems like a godsend. She didn’t realize until that moment how much she needed to feel taken care of for a change. The girlhood fantasy of being saved and swept off her feet by a charming, dashing man is just too good to pass up. Kate soon finds out that just because something smells like a rose, doesn’t mean it is one. Inexplicably drawn in to a life of intrigue, murder, and betrayal, Kate attempts to find herself in the darkness encroaching on her sanity. Tragedy strikes, ripping away the veil of her life as Kate begins to see her world for what it is, a façade covered by a web of lies.
A beautiful and well-crafted story, The Hat will make you think and re-examine your own life circumstances. It is a grab you by the heart strings and wring out your tears kind of book. In short, it is well worth the read and Babette Hughes is a very talented author who we look forward to following to see what she comes up with next.
What is life? What does it mean? What is the point? These are all questions that run through the unnamed main character’s head. Taking the long drive from Minnesota to Seattle is just the beginning of his journey. Samantha Hainie was a green-eyed beauty. She managed to work her way into his heart and soul, and losing her devastated him. Not understanding why things have to happen the way they do, he is full of sadness and anger. He barely wants to continue on, but he made a promise; one he intends to keep. She never wanted to be buried…the thought of it disgusted her. No, she wanted her ashes spread in the water of her favorite place, Leo Carillo State Beach, on the day of her birth. So off he sets with his RV and their German Shepherd Sammy, off to Seattle to start his trek down the Pacific Coast Highway to Samantha’s final resting place, but as the days count down to October 31st, he begins to realize this trip may have been more about him than he realized.
Bits n’ Pieces: Musings of an Oklahoma Girl by Freda Lattimore is an honest and heart-warming story about the twists and turns and ups and downs that one country girl’s life takes her on. Charletta Chastain prefers to be called Charlie and isn’t necessarily your average Oklahoma country-girl. While Charlie does ride horses, enjoy the outdoors, and spend a good amount of time with her mom, she also has a painful and sometimes mysterious past. Even though Charlie’s father died many years ago, when she was in the sixth grade, Charlie continues to emotionally deal with his death and consider how it has shaped the person that she has become. As Charlie’s relationships with her family and her friends deepen and she begins to consider what it would mean for her to have a steady boyfriend, she realizes that she doesn’t necessarily need to be completely controlled by the events of her past and upbringing, and that she has a future full of varied opportunities.
Mary Bliss Parsons was born nearly four centuries ago, amidst a tumultuous period for Great Britain. The monarchy’s grip on everyday life was so tight that, famously, groups of religious refugees travelled overseas to the New World, where – it was thought – colonialism would afford individuals more freedom, if not necessarily more comfort. The Parsons family was Puritan, and heavily abused by the British government, so they had no choice but to join the exodus from England. Arriving in Massachusetts, Mary and her family were given a plot of land bordering the American wilderness. And, while this wasn’t a huge departure from their old life, since farming had been the family’s livelihood back in England, even the most mundane chore became a Herculean task on the frontier. Food and supplies were more difficult to come by, and animals and Native Americans were constant threats to the colonists’ well-being. If that weren’t enough, imagine yourself as a teenaged girl trying to navigate her way to womanhood, while fighting off the paralyzing fear of dying from hunger or random attack! Yet despite all the uncertainty and hardship of life in the wilderness, Mary experienced true beauty: finding her own voice, becoming a member of the community, experiencing the natural wonder of untouched field and forest – these were things she earned in the New World. But, as Mary would soon learn, good things can turn rotten in only a small moment. After the witch hunting craze struck Massachusetts, Mary found herself at odds with friends and neighbors, one of the countless girls accused of practicing dark magic. Relying on her faith in God and her own family to see her through her trial, Mary bided her time in prison. But would mere faith be enough?
Sam Eggertsen’s science fiction novel Save Thy Brother from the Sky is a thoughtful and well-written story about one man’s journey to find himself and learn his purpose in a world where he is, quite literally, an alien. Through this simultaneously confusing and enlightening journey, Loring also seeks to fill the emptiness that he has felt all of his life, the emptiness that has come from not knowing his history or having a family. In order to know who he truly is, Loring must dig deep into the secrets of his past and bring to light mysteries that had been forgotten, or purposefully hidden, generations before.
I Choose You by Charles A. Bush is a passionate, capturing story of true love and two people who truly choose to make their relationship a priority. Emily Robertson is a focused Yale medical student who, having lost her mother to cancer at a young age, is determined to be the best doctor she can. Jude Macavoy is your stereotypical British playboy soccer player whose life is devoted chiefly to the sport, partying, and women. These two opposites’ worlds collide when Emily’s friends surprise her with a summer trip to England. Although their relationship begins with a rocky start, eventually Jude and Emily fall in love and force each other to grow as individuals. Jude pulls Emily out of her shell, challenging her to live in the moment; while Emily centers Jude, allowing him to find calm in his otherwise overwhelming life. With the summer drawing to a close, Emily and Jude face the challenge of making their love endure despite distance, careers, school, and the temptation of an easier relationship.
Greg Levin seems to channel his humor vicariously through Eli Edelmann, his sardonic and quick-witted protagonist in The Exit Man. Eli, a little jaded and a lot fed up with his current position running the family party store Jubilee, has his life quickly changed when he is approached by Sergeant Rush, an old friend of his father who makes of him an unusual request. It seems Mr. Edelmann, recently dead of terminal cancer, failed to come through on a final promise: a promise to help Mr. Rush, who is suffering from severe emphysema, to die. It is to be a death by helium, an apparently painless way to go. Who better to ask than the guy who runs the party store? And so, after briefly battling with the more obvious legal and moral implications, Eli fulfills the old man’s request…but he doesn’t stop there. Instead, he becomes the Exit Man, a self proclaimed hero helping the terminally ill to go out with dignity. Of course, there’s inevitably a girl and a little bit of intrigue, too.
Deirdre Foster isn’t the least bit afraid of danger. Both empathetic and brave, Deirdre is determined to help out her ailing neighbors in Boston after the British land on American soil, the tension – and hunger – escalating with each passing day. Sneaking food to people in need, Deirdre has already placed herself in harm’s way, but she must also confront severe opposition from family members and friends who would see her assume a less dangerous role in the rebellion – say, sewing sweaters for the militia. Her lifelong friend, David Tremont, also seeks to aid the rebellion, but he perhaps has other motives as well in seeking Deirdre’s company. Could he be wanting to take their relationship to a new level? And how exactly can one be expected to pursue romance when bombs and guns light up the night? Set in the few crucial years leading up to the American Revolutionary War, Revolt! shows how even the slightest actions, whether noble or otherwise, can tip the scales and win a war.
To Matson Daley, renowned country singer and pop culture celebrity, there isn’t anything that provides quite the same rush and release as making music for a rowdy crowd. Handsome and talented – and with an A-list actress as his girlfriend – Matson is well versed in the seductive power of music – but he isn’t quite used to being seduced himself. Leah Hayes is a retired music business executive with early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Beautiful and independent, she’s made a good show of hiding her illness with medication and poise, but it can’t help but make her nervous about starting a new relationship. And then she sees one of Matson’s music videos while flipping through television channels; instantly, she can feel an unexplainable connection between them. After attending one of his shows, the pair becomes acquainted and strikes out on a romantic path together. But no matter how much fun she’s having, Leah knows that she’ll soon have to divulge her secret and possibly end up with a broken heart. Yet, she isn’t the only one harboring secrets. Matson’s past holds a few more surprises than country music and acoustic guitars – surprises that could end up irrevocably hurting Leah.
Billie Barrett is a shrimper out of Edgewater, Florida. He grew up on the docks, going from boat to boat, helping out wherever he could. He grew up tough, and he grew up mean. Billie didn’t trust many people, and he liked even fewer. He was a racist and a bigot in the truest sense and he was proud of it. The only thing Billie cared about more than himself (and his drugs) was his boat Ol’ Sally. When he and Perry, his deckhand and friend, went out for Rock Shrimp one day in November, Billie had no idea that everything he thought he knew would disappear. Bridgette Kamau is proud of her Gullah heritage. Every chance she gets, she comes home from school and gives her time to her community. As a student at the University of South Carolina she is on track to become the lawyer she has always wanted to be, so she can help the people of her island. But after her mother breaks her leg Bridgette decides to take some time to come back to St. Helena’s Island to help nurse her back to health. Little does she know that that decision will put her on a collision course with a man full of hatred and rage. And, somehow, she must be the one to save him.
What happened? This is the main question circling Lucas’ mind. He has awoken in the middle of a catastrophe. Buried alive and barely clinging to life, he manages to claw his way out, but what he sees makes him almost wish he could crawl back into the hole. There is devastation everywhere. Everything has been burned and flattened. He seems to be the only living thing for miles. How is it possible that he survived? Lucas isn’t sure, but he knows he has to move if he wants to keep it that way. Besides trying to figure out what happened, Lucas must also try to fill in the holes in his memory. He knows his name, his favorite car, and other random pieces, but the main part of his life is blank. He doesn’t know his parents, he doesn’t know where he grew up, he doesn’t even know where he is. He knows there has to be a reason why he is alive, and because of this, he feels that he is meant to do something great. Now all he has to do is figure out what that is.
In May Koliander’s Love Code, we follow the story of mid-twenties character Evangeline. In what starts off as a wild, erotic dream, Eve wakes up wondering what the fantasy means for her life and her future. In an attempt to follow the dream’s foretelling, Eve sets off on the adventure of a lifetime: crashing parties, driving convertibles, and searching for her soul mate. It’s not all fun and games though – with the scrutiny and mind games of her sister, an apparent love triangle, and even a deadly diagnosis, the tale turns into a prioritization obstacle. What will come out on top: Eve’s well-being, or her love? Or are the two more intertwined than she ever thought before?
A novel that explores the themes of love, power, eroticism, and self-sacrifice, Mi Puta by King Author (the author’s pen name) is an intense story about how our drastic actions affect not only ourselves, but the people we care for the most. The main character is a French woman named Ni’al Reagle, who functions both as the protagonist and the antagonist. She has an impressive career in the fashion industry in San Francisco, as she is the founder of Reagle Designs, an international fashion house. She also has two adorable children, and a wife who loves her. Seemingly, she has it all, but as the power and corruption take her over, leading to sexual escapades that consume her completely, her life starts to break apart as her wife, Alexandria learns the truth. While Ni’al is more of an intense character who is always going after what she wants and not thinking twice about, Alexandria is a more gentle soul, compassionate and dedicated to those she loves. The dichotomy of these two women eventually causes them to clash as Ni’al’s behavior spirals out of control, causing her to lose more than she ever thought possible, as tragedy comes to claim her soul.
Pride of Love by Kevin Dwyer is a powerful story about hope, love, and the importance of embracing your true identity. Jesse Coleman seems to be floating numbly through the life that he shares with his mom, but when he is brutally attacked and left for dead with the word FAG etched into his back, everything changes and many of his emotions finally rise to the surface. In order to cope with the devastating event and the subsequent acquittal of the suspected attackers, Jesse and his mom move to a new town and begin a fresh start. As Jesse goes through the process of grieving and coping, he meets Jaden and Liz, two individuals with their own painful secrets. Through these relationships Jesse begins to realize that he might not be as alone in his feelings as he once thought he was. Then, as Jaden and Jesse’s relationship becomes more intimate, Jesse begins to discover that love, and a pride in that love, may still be possible for him.
Entering Electric Value by Reed Fauver is about a man who embarks on a short road trip with his wife. He meets with a former love interest of his, while his wife stays in the car, and both realize that they’re better off apart. He then runs into his former best friend and realizes that they’re not the same people anymore, despite having known each other for over 30 years. He leaves abruptly as he can sense that his former best friend is unhappy with his presence. Throughout this road adventure, he describes his wife by talking about how she is always eating food, and finds it repulsive. Overtime, he learns to realize that he does love her.
The world is flat, or so the Zenetic society theorizes in Malcolm Pate’s novel ‘Voyage to the World’s End.’ David Penhallion, a man with ambition and hopes of one day commanding his own ship finds himself as a first officer on the Griffin, whose mission is to discover if the world is flat. During the course of the novel, David suffers a great tragedy, finds love, and conquers evil. With his friend Richard, and the mysterious apparition of the Grainman, David overcomes setbacks and brings justice to himself and loved ones. Meeting friends along his journey, such as Captain Horatio of the Griffin, and Elizabeth, a widow, brings different perspectives to the novel and modesty to the storyline. At the end of the novel the world seems just a little bit bigger to David and his voyage partners.
Alexander and Lena are young emigrants from Scotland whose dream of starting fresh lives in America were laid to rest with Alexander’s father, a miner who met an untimely end. After the funeral, the couple find themselves without the funds required to move overseas, and their increasing discontentment leads to a deep enmity between them. Terrified by a future cut short by the same fate as his father, Alexander lashes out at his family. It is into this unloving environment that Elsa and her brothers are born, curious and intelligent children who quickly pick up on their parents’ unhappiness and begin to internalize it. Eventually, the young family moves to Canada, where Alexander is freed from a life spent digging down through darkness and delivered instead into another sort of servitude. Life in North America, it turns out, does not guarantee a person wealth or happiness. As Elsa ages, her story picks up where her parents’ leaves off, and we begin to observe the obstacles that a young girl, bruised by a bad family history, must overcome if she wishes to undo all her years of emotional abuse and pain. Otherwise, Elsa has little chance for a fairy tale ending as her parents.
Jasmine Sheffield’s Freshmen Fifteen is a fun coming of age story that digs deeper into what it means to be a young black woman entering the college scene in the modern day. When Laila and Tanya graduate high school they feel nearly invincible, as if their lives will turn out exactly like the plans that they have created. However, when Laila’s boyfriend is arrested and her plans to lose her virginity are thrown to the wayside, some of Laila’s naivety is lifted and she begins to recognize the gravity of the decisions that she makes. When Tanya discovers that her plans have also been thrown off by her unexpected pregnancy, the two girls truly begin to realize that there are some decisions that can never be taken back, and choosing to have sex is one of them.
They say true love conquers all – and the couple in ‘The Convict and The Rose’ really puts this notion to the test. He’s a honky-tonk-hero country musician with a sharp tongue and a lot of miles under his boots, and she’s a naïve former go-go dancer nearly two decades younger than him. But the differences in age and experience between Luke Stone and Darlina Flowers are the least of the obstacles they must overcome – if their love is to survive, it’s gotta get past hundreds of miles, a forty-foot wall, and a fifty-year prison sentence, among other things… When Luke is sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary to serve time for his supposed involvement in a bank robbery, he urges Darlina to go on with her life, and tries to find reason and hope to go on with his. But no matter what pits and peaks they experience in their own separate lives, their love for each other remains constant and steady, and the connection between them only grows stronger with time – and so, too, do they. Both Luke and Darlina undergo major transformations as their stories unfold, and, in the end, they’re much better off than where they began.
“The Indios” feels very reminiscent of other historical novels set during periods of revolution. (Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables especially comes to mind.) “The characters here are fully fleshed, the setting both raw and realistic – at times you can almost feel the heat and humidity of a tropical evening bearing down on you.”
David Hall’s And I Wish I’d Asked Why is a collection of eighteen amazingly compelling short stories. Set in modern day England, these stories contain a hugely varied assortment of characters and personalities. Ranging from gay college students to aging war veterans and just about everything and everyone in between, these diverse characters draw you into their stories and urge you to understand, or at least consider, the complexities of their lives. Each character and story is so unique; however, as you read you also discover that sometimes the motives that keep us going (or potentially hold us back) can be the same. Perhaps, we may not all be as different as we once thought.
Sex isn’t always sexy, and, let’s face it, sometimes it’s a hassle. But for the girls in this raw and revealing novel, that’s okay, because with the hassle and the ugliness comes something more important: money. “Twisted,’ written by Lola Smirnova, tells tale of three sisters who leave the downtrodden economy of post-Soviet Ukraine in search of opportunity, hope, and an escape from an otherwise inescapable cycle. Narrated by Julia, the youngest of the three siblings, it carries readers deep into the belly of the sex industry and explores the guttural circumstances, situations, and responses these “entertainers” deal with daily. Neither for the faint of heart nor the conservative thinker, it graphically depicts the girls’ sexual encounters, from what one would consider “normal” activity to the most absurd, scandalous, and depraved deeds imaginable (though many scenes are beyond even the most ambitious of imaginations). As the story unfolds, so too does the nature of Julia’s character, which, beneath the cloud of empty sex, good drugs, and bad luck, is surprisingly strong, resilient, and aware of her social, political, and moral surroundings, even if numb to her own internal feelings. This numbness, however, turns to painful pins and needles as ‘Twisted’ winds to its conclusion, and when the book closes, so much more is left open – not just for Julia, but also for her sisters.
When it comes to matters of the heart, there are usually three sides to every story: what he said; what she said; and what really happened, which is usually somewhere in the middle. In ‘My Missing Puzzle Piece,’ author Kristin Hoepfl delivers a roller coaster romance uniquely told from all three of these perspectives. The story follows the all-over-the-place relationship that develops between a young PR/HR entrepreneur named Elle and a handsome hunk named Trevor, who owns a landscaping business that’s being sabotaged from the inside. Trevor hires Elle to help him get to the bottom of things and find the saboteur before there’s any further damage to his business. The two had worked together before, but their outward behavior toward each other was somewhat hostile, even though each was secretly smitten with the other. This time around, however, they clear things up after they cross paths outside of the office, and they begin seeing each other socially. As they get to know each other, the hot and heavy attraction between them builds and boils over, leading to explosive sex and a volatile relationship that’s complicated by the investigation they are conducting. The two primary suspects each have a link to the couple, and when an orchestrated ploy uncovers who’s behind the debacle, it drives a wedge between Elle and Trevor. Though the wedge seems immovable at first, they struggle to move it and move forward toward a future together – and, with each turn of the page in the final chapters, this reader was left on the edge of her seat, wondering if they could do it.
The theme ‘love knows no bounds’ is laced throughout Crystal Bennett’s romance novel Time and Again. This heart-wrenching story follows Melanie Chapman and her relationship with a mysterious man from another place and time. Laden with sexual tension and drama, the book takes several twists and turns. Melanie and the man of her dreams look for support from their friends and family, having to adapt and accept truths along the way. The supporting characters contribute more depth and realism to the romance. They also add stories that reveal the strength, resilience, and love the characters have towards their family. Although the overall story is passionate in nature, danger looms over it. Bennett reveals what hatred looks like and the risks her characters will go through to reach true love.
Time is on the side of Peter Silverman. The author’s second novel, Hancock Hill, is a superbly written, emotional powerhouse that will lead some readers to experience the silent cry. The setting is 1950s America and Alex Dunhaigen, a high school senior, has one thing on his mind: sex. Getting it in. Unfortunately, the young man experiences the horror of premature love and the psychological trauma that results when one gets “too close.” In the case of poor Alex, a little innocent sledding changes the course of his life and regret tortures his mind throughout his collegiate years. One woman. One sled. One perfect night. Alex cannot forget…even while he develops a device that could change the world.
Who said that academics can’t have a little fun? Greg Damico’s archaic narrative of a post-graduate student, Finding Philosophy, offers a glimpse into collegiate nerd culture and an honest look at self-realization. Tony Greco is hopelessly devoted to philosophy, however the witty intellectual is more of a Brewhouse Lecturer than a true academic, but that’s youth. Let a guy relax, right? However, Greco finds his life in shambles after a series of disastrous events and must locate his inner Aristotle in order to overcome his irrational fears. The future can be frightening, especially when you don’t know your place.
Color Me Green by M.C. Wade is the story of one man’s journey through the United States Marine Corps during the time leading up to the Vietnam War. Ryan Webb of sunny San Diego joins the Marine Corps directly after his graduation from high school. While the rest of his friends are out partying, meeting girls, and generally wasting time before moving on with their lives, Webb is jumping straight into his basic training. His almost constant drilling mixed with a newfound respect (or fear) of authority challenges Webb to become more than he has been. The more time that Webb spends in the Marine Corps, the more he changes and develops himself. He makes new friends, he makes new enemies, he gets embarrassingly drunk, he travels across the world, he falls in love, he earns respect for his superiors, he hates his superiors, he gets drunk, he gets really drunk, he has fun, and he feels alive. Although there are times that Webb finds himself desperately wondering what he is doing in the Marine Corps, the stories that make up Webb’s experiences make it clear that it is where he has always belonged.
Jack Light has a secret – her name is Elizabeth. In David M. Schroeder’s The Surfman, Jack is one of the brave men who patrols the East Coast as part of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. One evening, during a routine patrol along the beach, he comes across Elizabeth’s waterlogged and nearly lifeless body, washed up on the shore in the dead of night. Jack’s first reaction is to bring the young woman to his patrol station and to alert his superiors of a possible shipwreck, but Elizabeth Harrison is clearly frightened, warning him that “the men” will be after her, and that Jack’s life is now in danger, too. So, for the first time in his entire career as a surfman, Jack decides to keep the woman a secret from his colleagues, for her own safety. But Elizabeth’s captors are not far behind her, nor do they believe – as Jack suggests – that she is dead, or swept out to sea. Jack and Elizabeth soon realize that though they barely know each other, their lives have become hopelessly entangled. Without trust, neither of them will survive this voyage.
Garrett Dennis’ Port Starbird has everything that a fun, summer weather novel should have– adventure, romance, beautiful beaches, guitar playing, underwater excursions, and, of course, murder mystery intrigue! Storm Ketchum is a retiree who is discovering that life after your career may be even better than the crazy days of your twenties. After settling in Avon, North Carolina and purchasing the house of his realistic, fiscally responsible retirement beach dreams, Ketch is ready to live out the rest of his days quietly. However, his life takes a stressful turn when his home and habits are threatened by Bob Ingram, the dirtiest real estate mogul in Avon. In an effort to avoid Ingram’s threats of eminent domain and save his home, Ketch becomes the secret detective that his parents had always hoped he would be. With his faithful canine sidekick by his side and the good-looking Kari in his bed, Ketch begins a journey that will bring secrets to the surface and make him into a different man with a different view of the world.
The Déjà Vu Experiment is best compared to Paul Coelho’s novel The Alchemist, which is really philosophy dressed up as fiction. Experiment is narrated by John Galt, a character from the eminently influential “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, who tells of his lifelong journey of self-discovery and mental wakefulness. Galt comments on the hypnotic effect reality has on human beings, eventually leading us to navigate our lives on auto-pilot, much in the same way that people driving along the highway arrive at their destination without any recollection of the ride itself. How did we get here? And where is “here”? These questions – and more – are examined in Experiment through the lenses of physics, logic, art, music, literature, and religion, which conspire, says Renato, to create what he terms “gaps” in reality, fleeting moments during which the mind is sharp enough to pierce the fabric of our existence and catch a glimpse of the larger picture behind.
This steamy piece of short-form fiction centers on the budding romance between Georgia Jacobz, a recent college graduate who works at a child care center, and her coworker, Scott, a handsome, seemingly unattainable man who also happens to be a private investigator. After more than six months of working together – and ignoring each other completely – Scott asks Georgia out on a date, and she readily accepts. Soon, though, suspicion wins out and Georgia confronts Scott about his real motives in dating her. After all, why would Scott suddenly decide to ask Georgia on a date after working with her for over half a year? He reveals that he is a private investigator hired by Georgia’s mother to investigate a possible threat to her life. At college, Georgia had a brief, albeit deeply dissatisfying relationship with a young man named Josh, who turned out to be secretly videotaping the couple during their sexual encounters together. Georgia exacted her revenge, embarrassing Josh in front of his friends before breaking of their relationship altogether. Now, Scott believes that Josh may be responsible for sending a threatening photograph of Georgia to her own mother. Together the fledgling couple digs into the past and attempts to track down Georgia’s ex-boyfriend, all the while exploring each new sexual and emotional aspect of their blossoming relationship with each other.
The Great American Adventures of Modern Big City Railroading by Eric B. Barnes is a tale that initially seems as preposterous as its title. Told from the point of view of Danny, an out on his luck investigative journalist, the story has the structure of a circus, even being punctuated by infomercials and commercial breaks. Led on a journey by Circus Larry, also known as Laurence James Turdburger, Danny and his other journalist pals discover the mysteries and wonders of the big city railroad. While told from a humorous point of view The Great American Adventures of Modern Big City Railroading is also a very poignant piece that urges the reader to take a step back from their everyday lives and appreciate the big city life that is available to them. When did society become so fast-paced and habitual that people could no longer exit a train at a stop that was not for some predetermined errand? When did people become so self-centered that they could no longer find fellow public transit passengers to be funny, if not down-right entertaining?
Addiction is a powerful thing, especially when love is mixed with substances. Stephanie Hensley’s erotic and train-of-thought noir is an eye-opening tale of celebrity, self-destruction and passionate love. Dane Granger is a movie star known throughout the world and must deal with the brutal truth about an old flame along with a recent tragedy during a trip back home to Indiana. Old wounds are opened up with a simple bite of the lips, and the intriguing but disturbing life of celebrity Dane Granger is revealed through a personal, and often devastating, narration of a life approaching disaster.
Randi Lewis, a hard working employee of Brockington Capital Management, is trying to work her way up the corporate ladder while also taking college courses at night. Randi is trying to find what everyone in life is looking for: the perfect balance between work and home life and finding love with the little time she has for herself. The only problem is, Randi feels obligated to help her little sister overcome a terrible depression which has almost taken her life. George Evans, an Analyst at Brockington Capital Management has paid his dues. He has worked at Brockington since high school, and put himself through college while still being part of the Brockington family. This is George’s time to shine! As the youngest person ever to be promoted to president of this branch of the company, will George’s time be stopped short? Will George’s new found love put an end to everything he has worked hard for? These are the questions Alonza Williams explores in his novel, The Canary with the Broken Wing.
This book is tells the story of great loss in a family and how that family struggles to support each other through difficult times. Though this story is slow to start, it does keep you interested in the characters and you find yourself hoping for the best outcome for them. There are some parts of the story which seem unrealistic, such as a member of management dating an employee. In a corporation as large as “Brockington Capital Management” it should be known that dating your subordinate is unacceptable. The story ends somewhat abruptly and leaves you wondering what could have been, but the journey that gets you to this end is still a suspenseful page turner nevertheless.
Cheryl Holdefer’s, The Second Key made me want a glass of wine and a big, warm dog to snuggle up to. This novel is a wonderful work that pushes the reader to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of their own life and ask, “what am I doing here?” and “what does my life mean?” These questions can be really big and can sometimes have answers that we do not like or understand, but the story that Holdefer tells about Rachel reminds us that while the path in front of us may not be as sweet as we like, it will eventually be as smooth and as balanced as the Cabernet Franc of the Lotus Winery. Rachel, a widowed army wife with two young children, struggles to reconcile the confusing secrets that she learns about her deceased husband as well as the secrets of Michael, the high school crush who manages to steal her heart a second time. Rachel’s journey of self-discovery is both painful and laughable at times, but allows her to create a world that she can not only live in, but enjoy, grow through, and find fresh love in.
Cheryl Holdefer crafts a tender tale of love, pain and family in her emotional novel Victoria’s Run. The titular character is a competitive runner and her intense dedication was learned at an early age after a family tragedy. When one experiences pain they may choose to run away, however Victoria chases after a new dream, literally, and figuratively as well, once she learns about all the madness of young love. Her world is large and expansive, much more so than a typical teenager, and it’s her worldly education that ultimately leads her to success, children and a sense of security. However, there is a poorly hidden secret that Victoria must address before she can move on to the next phase of her life. Victoria’s Run is a story about various kinds of love, each important in their own way in how we are shaped as human beings.
Put-in-Bay is an idyllic island community marooned in Lake Erie off the northern edge of Ohio. It’s also (sort of) home to twenty-eight-year-old Brad Shepherd who, until quite recently, taught at a secondary school in St. Louis, Missouri. But Brad’s life is thrown into upheaval when tragedy strikes his classroom, putting a premature end to what had promised to be a rewarding and fulfilling career in education. Cut loose, without a job and without a sense of direction, he decides to meet up with some old friends. Over the course of a single drug- and alcohol-fueled summer they help shake Brad out of his overwhelming grief and self-doubt, encouraging him to let go of “Mr. Shepherd the teacher” and just enjoy his youth. And, while life on the island is perhaps a bit more ambiguous than he’s used to, Brad has to admit that his new, free-spirited life could turn out to be a whole lot of fun.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Zhou Yu is a Chinese-born tile merchant seeking to expand his enterprise into new territory. Leaving a wife and child behind in China, he strikes out for New Zealand where he weds a Maori native named Horowhai. At the heart of this story live their three young children, the offspring of a Maori mother and a Chinese father. Eddie, the eldest brother, is thoughtful and quiet, seeking harmony in his family’s household above all else. Emily is bright and warm, and she understands much more about the world around her than normal girls of her age. Their younger brother, Alex, is even more reserved than Eddie. He has inherited a great deal of their mother’s look but less of their father’s, making him an outsider among his own people after the children return to China to pursue their education. Ultimately, Zhou Yu is forced to reconcile the two halves of his family, asking his first wife, Yung, to watch over his children while he continues to conduct business abroad. As Horowhai begins to lose her hold on reality, increasingly haunted by a traumatic event during her childhood, Yung’s position as mother to Horowhai’s children grows more and more demanding, which leads to an inevitable airing of violent emotion between Yung and her husband.
Best Book of the Month – February 2014
Set in early twentieth century Ireland, Gabriella West crafts an exquisite and heart wrenching tale in her debut novel ‘Time of Grace.’ The story follows Caroline, an English girl who is traveling to Ireland in the year 1916 to become a governess at Lady Wilcox’s household. Shy and reserved, Caroline takes the position because it is one of the few opportunities available for a woman like herself. At the estate, she quickly comes to know Grace, a beautiful young maid servant whose lust for life is both enticing and surprising to Caroline, who has never before been enthralled in such a way with another woman before. It isn’t long before their friendship blossoms into romance, a strict taboo not only because they are both women, but because they also come from separate social classes. Caroline cannot help herself from falling in love with Grace however, even as she watches her become impassioned with the idea of Ireland gaining its freedom. The novel builds itself up towards the Easter Rising, an important moment in Ireland’s history, which serves as the climax of the narrative, forcing the reader to wonder not only if Caroline and Grace will be able to continue their relationship, but if Ireland will be able to persevere as well.
This novel is both moving and thought provoking, as the narrative succeeds at placing a story about a same-sex relationship in the distant past during a turbulent time in history with relative ease. Caroline and Grace are both fully imagined and realized characters upon the page that any reader will be able to relate with, as their desires and passions are described in such rich detail. West has a great ability of weaving in historical facts into her story, placing her characters right in the thick of a real life event. The juxtaposition across gender roles, class status, and sexuality causes nice boundaries for the conflicts that occur throughout the story. The novel balances the facts, fiction and romantic elements in a superb fashion. Although the book is relatively short, coming in at just around 260 pages, it is full of tantalizing plot lines and moments that will stay with the reader for a long time to come.
A fictionalized account based upon the author’s own true love story, ‘Flowers and Stone’ tells the story of naïve nineteen year old Darlina, and the reckless man she falls for. Rebelling against her overbearing parents, Darlina begins working nights as a dancer in a club. Eventually she meets and begins to develop feelings for Luke Stone, who is a womanizing singer and leader of a band. In time, Luke falls for Darlina as well, and the two begin what is bound to be a tumultuous relationship, not necessarily because of their affection for one another, but because of the choices they make, and the complicated circumstances that result from their decisions. This is an engrossing and deep love story which thrives in the rambunctious and lively land of Texas in the seventies.
This novel, written by Wayne Clark, is about a man on the edge. His advancing age, his insecurities about himself ,and his sexual desires all compound together to cause him to act on an urge that he previously wouldn’t have imagined himself capable of going through with. Past the age of fifty, the main character is a translator who no longer takes joy in adapting written works into different languages, just as he no longer finds any happiness in his hobby as an amateur musician. As his world around him darkens, he explores remote websites on the Internet, eventually finding an image of a startlingly beautiful woman who may be the solution to his woes, even if that means she will have to dominate him in order to give his life a new meaning. Coming to terms with this new world of sex and desire, he has to contemplate if he has wanted to be in this kind of situation all along, as the dominatrix begins taking control of him, as ‘He & She’ embark on a dangerous ride.
Evelyn Skye is a bit lost. Twenty-six years old, Evy has no father and only her barely-there mother – who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of potential suitors for her daughter to meet – to guide her. Not to mention there’s a huge chunk of Evy’s young adulthood, the nearly two years she spent doing God knows what in Europe, completely missing from her memory. Now, just when things look like they’re finally clearing up for Evy, she loses her job, too. But Evy soon learns that sometimes the things we’ve lost have a way of coming back to us. One fateful night at the local bar, she encounters a man who appears to know a lot about her for being a complete stranger. Or is he? Whether she likes it or not, Evy is a part of a bigger mystery involving the handsome stranger she’s just met and a colorful crew of jewel thieves back in Europe. But Evy’s past doesn’t without consequences, as she’s about to find out. The truth is out there, and it’s coming for her.
Best Book of the Month – November 2013
Sitting next to his grandson who lies in a hospital bed due to a coma brought about by a recent suicide attempt, George Bender decides to explain the story of his life to the young man who remains in silence beside him. While his grandson had aimed to give up on life, George still holds on to the memories that both delight and haunt him. ‘Richmond Road’ by Miles Hughes then takes us back, as George’s tale begins in the early 1900s in New Zealand. When his father dies he is forced to enter the high-risk stakes of gambling in order to provide for his family, but it isn’t long before he is taken to prison as a result of his erroneous ways. While George is locked away, his brother Daniel is called off to the Great War, and by the time George is released and Daniel returns, his brother is a different man, shell shocked from the horrendous events that he witnessed out on the battlefield. As George recounts these stories to his ailing grandson, he is forced to come to terms with the guilt he feels over the tragedy that befalls his brother.
‘Dreaming of Elephants: The Yoga of Love and Forgiveness’ by Karen Berry Powell is a multifaceted book that combines genres into one informative fiction narrative that is both an enjoyable read, as well as a helpful guide on topics such as yoga, self-help, and parenting. The main character, Adeline, is a woman struggling to take control of her life path. She tries to guide herself in the right direction, just as she has guided her children before her. Throughout her journey, Adeline’s knowledge is shared with the reader, as she offers techniques to her students in her parenting class, (which is a sort of self-help section.) Further into the book’s pages a style of therapeutic yoga called Yoga of Love and Forgiveness is introduced, which offers a source of healing energy of love and forgiveness that filters into the body of the individual who is practicing the routine.
Set in the distant past of 14th century China, ‘The Ming Admiral: A Chinese Odyssey’ by Mee-mee Phipps is a spellbinding tale about a boy named ZhengHe who faces many hardships and adversaries along his journey to fulfill his dreams. The story is rich with accurate historical facts from this period in Chinese history, which grounds the story in a realistic and pleasing way. The details about the Chinese elite, such as the emperors, admirals, and soldiers who fill the pages cause the story to have a certain sense of urgency, as the oppression they so often impose upon the characters fighting to get by gives a significant emotional weight to any instant in which ZhengHe succeeds.
This novel succeeds in creating an enjoyable story about love, and the family ties that not only bind us together, but shape us more than anything else. ‘Bones of My Brother’ by J. Frank Dunkin tells the story of two couples, John and Evelyn who live in Alabama during the middle of the twentieth century, and Price and Joy whose story takes place in Minnesota during the century’s final years. This engrossing family saga delves into the seemingly parallel lives of John and his son, Price and explores their dreams, successes, failures, loves, and even the secrets that they’ve hidden deep within. Both men have to struggle in order to move forward in their lives without the darkness of the past creeping up on them as they try their best to forget about their regrets, striving to do better. In the end, this novel is a gripping tale about the disappointments we are faced with in life, and how we work to redeem ourselves, finding our humanity as the wonders of this world guide us along the way.
Each one starting with a picture, ranging from shots of nature, people, and buildings, the sixteen stories included in ‘13 Ways: Illustrated Stories’ by TD Whittle and Sandra Peterson Ramirez are brief poignant perceptions into the world that constantly surrounds us. The images featured at the beginning of each narrative serve as a leaping point, from which the two authors take as inspiration to weave within the story that follows. The tales vary in genre, with everything from surrealism, suspense, comedy and science fiction being present, but they flow together in a pleasing and interesting way that causes the reader to reflect upon the stories and compare them to one another. All of the pieces included within this book can easily be considered touching and memorable, but the real gems are Taking Flight and Side Effects, one story to represent each of the authors’ major strengths.
Turner Michaels is a young marine who has always known that he is gay. During the beginning of his military career he meets Jace Sozio, who he can’t help but feel attracted to. As time progresses and the two young men become closer, Sozio also starts to feel an undeniable connection to Michaels, the kind of bond that transgresses friendship and seems to stand for something more. Neither one of them know how to react to their feelings, which are complicated even further by their current surroundings, as active members of the United States Armed Forces. Michaels and Sozio face the dilemma of admitting the truth to one another, which is even harder to do because of the fear of rejection they may receive from their fellow military officers. In the end, the two men must decide whether or not to follow their hearts, or keep their affection for one another a secret.
The Sol of Jupiter by Thaddeus J is an all-absorbing novel set within the confines of what it’s like to be gay while serving as a member of the military. While Michaels himself has long accepted the fact that he is a homosexual, his emotions are problematic when he finds himself falling for his close friend Sozio, who hasn’t ever admitted to preferring the same sex. This book could be called the military version of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’ as there are many similar themes present here. Instead of cowboys, the two main characters are marines, but the struggles they face are very similar to those of the two men in the film. Thaddeus J creates a well developed and thought out novel that faces tough questions with grace. His characters are the kind of men we’ve all met before, and the dilemma that Michaels and Sozio face, of being hesitant to admit how they truly feel because of their sexuality, is a subject that is constructed in an all encompassing and engrossing way.
Thomas Ryan constructs seven perfectly paced capsules of fiction in his book that is entitled exactly as to what it contains: ‘Short Stories.’ While the tone of the seven stories varies a great deal, the overarching themes present depict the struggles we face in achieving what we want, and how our relationships with the people around us can either help us obtain our goal, or complicate the matter even further. It can be argued that the most compelling story in the collection is the first one, Ruth, which tells the tale of an abused woman who is standing trial for her involvement in her husband’s death. The ending of this story comes in an unexpected way, wrapping up the narrative in a dramatic fashion. Another story, Nightmares, is an account that chronicles the reoccurring bad dreams of a writer, whose night time visions of a woman being murdered convince him that the dreams are a prophecy, leading him to the decision that he has to save the mysterious woman’s life before it’s too late. The World’s Biggest Bun, sandwiched between the previous two stories offers a lighter tale about a baker’s wish to break a world record, while the final four stories: The Artist, The Dementia Man, The Affair, and Mending Kittens round out the collection and bring forth different anecdotes about life and humanity.
The strength of this collection comes from the memorable characters that become fully fledged beings in each of the stories that Ryan has written, and while there are similar themes presented in each, the connections between each tale could have benefited from been strengthened even further to create a more coherent compilation. Nevertheless, the stories are enjoyable on their own, each with their own merit. From the variety that is presented in ‘Short Stories’ it is clear that Thomas Ryan is a talented writer who has the ability to invent in a variety of different genres while simultaneously offering the most important messages in each of his fictional narratives.
Synopsis: Acceptance by Ibitola Ojoye-Adebayo starts off with a woman in distress, who has been jilted by a former lover by the name of Richard. Although she is upset, she proclaims that “Acceptance exists at the core of our being. It is our default status. In order to reach this base level of acceptance, one need only remove the items lying on top. To do this, we must first identify all the things we do not accept around us. Then, one by one, eliminate them.” The main character, the woman who is at the core of this tale of romance gone wrong is Eva, the London born daughter of refugees from Nigeria. She meets Richard while she is at university, and decides that he is the love of her life. Unfortunately for them both, although their love is seemingly full of so much hope and prosperity, the actions that they both undertake lead them down a path of uncertainty.
The love story that unfolds in Ojoye-Adebayo’s novel is one that is painted in a realistic and heartbreaking way. She thoroughly describes all of the emotions one goes through while falling in and out of love in a realistic manner. The reader will feel the emotions that Eva is going through every time something dramatic happens between her and Richard, as the words chosen elicit out a connection between the characters and their stories that are written on the page. As the main character, Eva is fully imagined, and her desire to be loved and accepted rings true. This novel is both insightful and unsettling. The pages will turn quickly by, and in the end, this story may just make the reader contemplate the true effects of how our feelings can overtake us.
Best Book of the Month – July 2013
Synopsis: As we deviate through the relationships we come across in life, some cause us to feel joy, others pride, while a few only result in pain. In the novel, Killing Mercy, by Tess Clare, five characters interact with one another on an intrinsic level, reacting to one another’s emotions as if they themselves are nothing more than animals. The first chapter starts off with a wonderful hook, which immediately grips the reader’s attention, describing a dead body that is found in a tall office building in the city of Los Angeles. From that point forward, the story goes back in time, following the mixed up connections of love, lust, sex, and betrayal that falls between the cracks and spaces that Rick, Madison, Zoie, Branford and Abigail create with one another. In the end, the novel ends up portraying the most basic of human emotions, and shows us how ugly things can get when we are only interested in our own well being.