The Lost Flower by Geraldine Solon

Cover_The Lost Flower

The Lost Flower by Geraldine Solon
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: Full (273 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

After third grade teacher, Lacy Stone undergoes a kidney transplant she develops vivid dreams of a toddler running away from a blazing fire. Lacy soon embarks in a journey to Boracay island, Philippines to find answers. On the island, Lacy meets Sampaguita Navarro, one of the last few Aetas of her tribe. As a manghihilot, Sam hopes to open her own holistic spa on the island, but as she acquires tragic visions, she discovers that her gift of touch comes with a price. Searching for clues, Lacy crosses paths and falls in love with investor, Adam Shaw not realizing that he’s the prime target of waitress, Frankie Lloyd who has acquired a new identity to seek revenge and claim her redemption. When Lacy and Sam provide a threat to Frankie’s plans, trouble looms paradise which leaves Lacy with a choice between saving the man she loves or the child from her dream.

This book has an interesting premise– after a kidney transplant, Lacy Stone begins having vivid dreams of a toddler in need of rescue. Because of clues in the dream she realizes it takes place on the island of Boracay in the Philippines and has a strong sense that she needs to go there.

Once there, she is introduced to other people on the island who, at first, seem to have little in common but it is soon evident that there is a thread that ties them all together–a thread we do not see clearly until the end of the book.

This book could have done with a bit of editing–it was not an ARC but there were several points where the editor fell down on his/her job (punctuation, duplication of a passage, etc., actions which seem inconsistent with transplant patients).  It was hard to connect with the majority of the characters– I think if the book had been longer the author would have been able to deepen the characters. As it is, we see a lot of what they do, but we don’t actually come to feel what they feel.

However, the story itself is compelling that this reviewer was able to get back into the story even with these issues. The mysteries as to why Frankie was hiding on the island, who the child was and what she had to do with Lacy, the connection between Sam and all the other characters is well done. I could see this as a movie–it had the feel of watching various scenes play out.

I would be interested in trying other books by this author.

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The Lonely Impulse by Jim Cort

LONELY
The Lonely Impulse by Jim Cort
Publisher: Deaf Dog Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (116 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Years ago Danny Carmody and Willie Dowd,two childhood friends from the slums of Belfast, served in the Provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army. Dowd, slight and studious, gave himself without reservation to the cause and rose through the ranks by his dedication, intelligence, and talent for making bombs. Carmody, a big lad and far from intellectual, joined the Provos not from any political conviction, but out of loyalty to Dowd, following a pattern he had held to all his life.

Together they had planted bombs, staged ambushes and robbed banks in the name of the cause, each risking his life to save the other. But when Dowd forced Danny into a shameful act, Danny felt he had been betrayed. He quit the Provos and fled to America, nursing a bitter hatred of Dowd for what he saw as the wasting of his life. Burned out and plagued by guilt for the destruction and deaths he had caused, Danny drifts along the Eastern seaboard, winding up an unofficial bouncer in a black bar in Newark, New Jersey. He has changed his name to Milo Costigan.

In the meantime, Dowd pursued his IRA career, wounded by his friend’s desertion, but never once questioning the cause or his place in it. When a cease-fire begins, Dowd finds himself a man without a function. His uncompromising dedication and fanatic hatred of the British are no longer wanted. At the urging of a friend, he comes to America. His friend Terry has discovered some shady dealings at the plant where he works. Terry has a plan for hijacking evidence of the plant’s criminal activities, and demanding a million dollars ransom.

The plan goes through and they send a ransom demand to the head of the conglomerate that owns the plant, a ruthless and calculating billionaire named Jason Ackerdyne. Ackerdyne wants the situation dealt with and Dowd eliminated without involving the police. He gives the problem to his chief of security Julia Malcom. Malcom, a devious and fiercely ambitious woman, finds Milo Costigan, (the former Danny Carmody), and uses Costigan’s hatred of Dowd to manipulate him into taking the job, without, however, telling him the whole story.

The Lonely Impulse is a novel of a little under 70,000 words that tells what happens as Dowd tries to get his ransom, and Milo Costigan tries to hunt him down.

They say you can never go home again. If this is true, why does your past always seem to be dogging your heels? Milo Costigan is no doubt asking himself that very question the day Julia Malcom hunts him down in a seedy bar. With the mention of a name he’d long stopped thinking about, it all comes back in a violent rush and pours over into his future. What’s a guy to do but put it back where it belongs?

Milo Costigan is a confounding character. He’s not a nice guy. Not by any means. As an ex-IRA member, he’s no stranger to doing bad things. Yet, on the other hand, you develop a sympathy for him despite the fact he seems almost irredeemable. I found that to be both refreshing and a bit perplexing.

Willie Dowd is a ghost from Milo’s past, one he’d just as soon forget. Willie is even less redeemable than Costigan, if that’s possible. You get the feeling that he never gave up his past and has simply been hiding out, biding his time since his days in Ireland.

There were things I didn’t care for about The Lonely Impulse. At times there seemed to be almost too much going on for me to keep up with and just enough characters to confuse me. On the other hand, there was a lot that I did enjoy. As I mentioned, I really liked (as well as hated) the main character, Costigan. I also appreciated the flashbacks to his days in Ireland as a member of the IRA. It’s a portion of history that I don’t know much about but have always been interested in.

In spite of a few things that left me feeling confused and lost at times, The Lonely Impulse is a fast paced, exciting novel that will give you insight into the history of Ireland’s turbulent times. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a thrilling adventure coupled with an Irish brogue.

Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble

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Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble
Publisher: Posh Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (293 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Rose

Movie star Molly Harper has it all, beauty, success in her field, and a loving family and marriage to actor Ben Delmonico.Norma Wintz, Molly’s mother, has it all, a lovely life style and two children who adore her, and a respite from the battle against cancer she’s been fighting. Anne Sullivan, at age fifty, is optimistic that her move to sunny Santa Barbara, California, will allow her to be closer to her youngest son and his family, and help her start her life anew after the death of her beloved husband.

But all three of these women, despite their considerable blessings, are plunged into turmoil when the most intimate of secrets that ties their lives together is revealed. At this same time, Molly Harper is confronted with the news that her marriage to actor Ben Delmonico is over. As she navigates this heartbreak and tries to keep the personal details of the drama off the front pages of the newspapers, Molly must also find a way to once and forever negotiate a way forward with her ex- lover and best friend, the volatile and compelling Cruz Morales.

How each of these characters handles the resulting upheaval in their own life, and in their relationships with one another, forms the compelling story of family, secrets and trust in the romantic women’s fiction novel, Molly Harper.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be my last! Ms. Gamble does a wonderful job of drawing these characters and making them just leap off the page.

The story starts with Anne waiting in a restaurant to meet with the woman who adopted the child Anne gave up at birth–Anne has discovered some information that she feels the adoptive family needs to know. And, that would have been the end of that except for the fact that Norma passes out and Anne’s training as a nurse brings her into the very home of her biological daughter.

Molly is going through crises of her own–her marriage is breaking up, her best friend seems to be on a self-destruct path, and her mom is very ill.

Ms. Gamble puts us slap-dab in the middle of this and magic happens. I found myself caring for the characters and wanting the best for them. At times I found myself smiling over a bit of very well-done “product placement”—the books/movies talked about are Ms. Gamble’s own. Clever bits, those!!

The one character I had trouble liking 100% was Cruz Morales. And, I’m not sure how much of it was the way the character was drawn or because I kept picturing Cruz Castillo from the old soap opera Santa Barbara and having issues reconciling this character’s behavior with that character. I had trouble seeing what Molly saw in him. Perhaps if I had read the novella that was a prequel to this, I would have understood that better. By the end of the book, however, he had grown on me and I was rooting for him and Molly.

I will definitely be searching out the rest of Ms. Gamble’s works.

Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman

MIND
Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (129 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

How do you escape a stranger when the stranger is you?

Shelby Wright has the life she’s always wanted: a loving marriage to Charlie, her best friend, companion, and lover. She can’t imagine anything ever coming between them. They’re so close, nothing ever could.
But when Shelby’s mind begins to play tricks on her, little annoyances grow. She’s plagued with doubts when she can’t remember whether she’s done something. A voice in her head plants an unease that she can’t ignore. Then at her job, everyday occurrences that never bothered her before seem larger than life. Suddenly, life is more than she can handle. What’s happening to her?

When her thoughts take a dangerous turn, she’s scared out of her wits. And she can’t tell Charlie because the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish has been overtaken by a monster Shelby can’t control.

It’s hard to treat a disease when you can’t even admit you have it.

Charlie is such an affectionate and attentive spouse. The best scenes involve him trying to help his wife in any way he can long before either of them know what is happening to Shelby. The text says they’ve only been married a year, but Charlie and Shelby have such a strong emotional bond that it felt to me like they’ve been together for decades. This isn’t a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination, but his devotion to her brought a much-needed sweetness to Shelby’s tale.

It came as a surprise to me, then, that Charlie takes so long to realize something odd is going on with his wife. Most of the couples I know who are as close and loving as these two would have a difficult time keeping such a big secret from one another. I briefly theorized that he was in denial, as this is a common reaction for friends and family members of people living with mental illness. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise engrossing tale, but I would have appreciated it if a reason was given for why Charlie overlooked so many of the signs that show up early on in the tale. It would have been helpful to know if my theory about why he acted that way was correct.

This short story is an illuminating look at what it’s like to live in a mind that feels like it’s spinning out of control. There are times when it’s extremely difficult to understand why someone living with diseases like the one mentioned in this book say and do certain things . As someone who has a loved one with a similar disorder it was extremely interesting to see what it feels like to experience the more severe symptoms from the perspective of the patient.

Mind of a Stranger is an unforgettable and compassionate snapshot of living with mental illness. I would especially recommend it to friends and family members of people who have been diagnosed with any type of anxiety disorder. This is a must-read!

Latecomers Fan Club by Diane V. Mulligan

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Latecomers Fan Club by Diane V. Mulligan
Publisher: Self Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Womens Fiction
Length: Full (152 pgs)
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Dandelion

What is it about guys with guitars in their hands that makes them so irresistible, even when they are obviously self-centered jerks? If Abby and Maggie could answer that question, maybe they could finally get over Nathaniel. There’s just something about him when he picks up his guitar and gets behind the microphone, something that makes sensible women act like teeny-boppers instead of rational, self-respecting adults.

Abby was first sucked in by Nathaniel’s rock ’n roll swagger four years ago when a drunken fling turned into a series of drunken hook-ups that became something like a relationship. Now, as New Year’s Eve promises a fresh start, she wants to believe he’s finally going to grow up and take their relationship seriously.

What does Nathaniel hope the new year will bring? An escape from the disappointing realities of his life. He’s thirty-four years old and he’s barely making ends meet as an adjunct philosophy professor, which was always only a back up plan anyway. Nathaniel’s real goal was always to make his living as a musician, but his band, The Latecomers, broke up a couple of years ago, and he hasn’t picked up his guitar in months. When he decides to spend the holiday with some high school friends instead of hanging out at the bar where Abby works, he gets the happy surprise of reuniting with his long-lost friend Maggie. Newly divorced, Maggie has just moved back to her mother’s house to regroup.

Nathaniel and Maggie were supposed to be the ones who left Worcester forever to conquer the world. He was going to be a rock star. She was going to take the world of art by storm. He’s never gotten farther than Boston, and her best effots only left her broke and heartbroken. As they ring in the New Year together, Nathaniel decides it’s time to take control of his life and to start making his dreams come true. He thinks the first step will be easy. All he needs to do is break up with Abby and finally admit his feelings for Maggie. But the new year has more surprises in store, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

This was a challenging read that certainly makes you think about choices and how the affect our lives.

Truthfully, I didn’t really care for either party when I first started reading this story. Both seemed so self-absorbed and not into each other. Abby had become involved with Nathanial when she first met him at the bar where she was working. He played his guitar with his band. Abby was interested because of this, and so had been with him for years. She doesn’t really love him, and he doesn’t really love her, but still they stayed together.

Now, on New Year’s Eve, Abby is hoping that Nathanial is finally going to ask her to marry him. But Nathaniel is hoping that soon he can escape from his humdrum existence with someone he barely tolerates. Neither party is really happy with their lives. This seemed really sad to me. Nathanial is struggling financially as an adjunct professor, barely making a living. His original plan in life was to be a musician. But his band, The Latecomers, broke up and he hasn’t picked up his guitar in months.

He decides to go to a party with his old friends instead of hanging out with Abby, and while at the party, he sees his first love, Maggie, from his High school days. Spending time with her makes him realize that he is wasting his time with Abby and he decides to break up with Abby. Seems easy enough, but that’s when stuff starts getting very confused.

Things start to change for all three of them on New Year’s Eve. He is in one town, Abby is in another. This gives them both a chance to look long and hard at their relationship. It is much more involved than that, however, and it was at this point I found myself beginning to really get into the story. It started becoming very interesting as I read about how each person started learning more about themselves and decided to change. It was really way past time for them, and I enjoyed reading about all the choices, good and bad, they made. Finally! Some growth!

Overall, this was a well written story, and I enjoyed the writing style of the author. She has a voice that entertains and keeps the reader interested. This wasn’t an easy read, and sometimes wasn’t pleasant, but it offers a bit of a message to us all and does have a worthwhile and satisfying ending — something I wasn’t sure the author would be able to accomplish, but she pulled it off! Nicely done, Ms. Mulligan.

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The Reasons by Kevin Craig

REASONS
The Reasons by Kevin Craig
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (110 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In the midst of absence, death, and insanity, Tobias longs to make his family whole again.

With a mostly absent father, a deceased older sister, a younger sister on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up quickly. Though he tries to be a surrogate parent to his sister, their broken mother, Maggie, takes up a lot of his time. Annabel falls to the wayside and becomes a ghost in their chaotic existence.

When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family became so shattered. Be careful what you wish for. When his world begins to collapse from the weight of unburied secrets, he focuses on a stranger from his parents’ past. Only by eliminating the past, he believes, can he make his family whole again.

How far would you go to keep your family together?

Tobias’ reaction to growing up in a dysfunctional family is so realistic I briefly wondered if this story was based on true events. Every single member of the family has been damaged by Maggie’s illness in some way, and seeing how each one of them reacts to their chaotic surroundings is utterly fascinating. Despite sharing DNA and the same environmental influences each character’s personality heavily influences his or her reaction to Maggie’s unpredictable nature. This tale was so compelling and well-written that I skipped out on sleep in order to finish it. The author packed a novel’s worth of character development into the first half of this novella alone, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it would end.

It took me a while to figure out that this book was meant to have a contemporary setting. Maggie’s mental illness is so severe that at times I had trouble believing that she was allowed to retain custody of her children without any investigation from The Children’s Aid Society in Ontario or Quebec. She regularly neglects and abuses her kids, and when she does something much worse than that later on the plot I was stunned by how the other adults react to her dangerous choices. While I understand that not every case of abuse is reported to the proper authorities much less prosecuted, it would have been helpful to to know why so many people looked the other way when they noticed something was terribly wrong with the Reason family over the approximately 30 year time span in which Maggie has minor children living with her.

With that being said, Mr. Craig’s decision to write some chapters from Maggie’s point of view was a fantastic one. Due to the severity of her illness not everything Maggie fervently believes actually makes sense, but seeing the world through her eyes gave me valuable clues about her probable diagnosis. It also helped me understand why her mood shifts so quickly and why seemingly innocuous questions make her so furious. Once I understood the nature of the disease I believe she has I gained a great deal of sympathy for someone who otherwise would have been a fairly two-dimensional character.

I was also pleased with how smoothly the plot transitions from past to present. Every flashback serves a vital purpose, most of which are apparent almost immediately. During the course of reading this book I actually wished there could be more flashbacks because they taught me so much about how Tobias and Maggie in particular came to be the people they are in present day.

While reading The Reasons I felt asleep each night wondering what would happen to Tobias and his little sister next. This is a great choice for anyone who loves character-driven plots that keep the reader on his or her toes from beginning to end.

The Empty Chair by James Davis

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The Empty Chair by James Davis
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (295 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

The Empty Chair is a story of friendship shared by four men and their journey of faith. The death of his first girlfriend makes Jake angry toward God. His disbelief further wells in his heart with the merciless killings he has witnessed in several of his Marine missions. An incident in Nigeria changes his idea of God when a chaplain risks his own life to save him. Jake decides to pursue Chaplaincy in Wake Forest, NC thinking he has a debt to pay. His journey takes a twist when he finds himself in Pakistan after finding that his friend Cameron and his wife Lilly, who are on mission in India, are in danger; Jake does his best to save them, even if it means giving up his own life.

Their lives take some twists and turns and the relationships between the four are developed, including exciting and dramatic events that are based on true stories. Jake’s journey for redemption takes him on an emotional ride and leads him to love and hope that he never expected to find.

This novel follows the friendship of four men as they study to become pastors and chaplains. Jake is a very angry young man who lost his mother early in his life and was then raised by his career Marine father. As soon as he is old enough, he too joins the Marines just to get away from his father. He has absolutely no time for God, but when a chaplain risks his life to save Jake, Jake begins to re-think the path that he is on.

James Davis has written a very compelling story with interesting, well-developed characters. I do not normally read inspirational books, but this one did capture my interest because of the dynamics between the characters. The four men, as well as several other characters in the story, arrive in Wake Forest, NC bearing the burdens of troubled pasts. They find strength from each other as well as many members from the area churches.

The plot is filled with action, which at times is very intense. The descriptions of the various settings in the story are vivid, drawing me right into the battle or into the wonders of a garden. Davis does jump back and forth in time which I found a bit disconcerting. The book begins with a prologue describing an attack on an orphanage run by missionaries, but the story then flips back several years. We don’t find out how the attack ended until the conclusion of the book. Everything in between leads up to the conclusion of the attack, and this technique does work well, over all, but it took awhile for me to connect with the flow.

The story is well-written and it is certainly inspiring no matter what one’s religious views may be. Those who enjoy Christian fiction will most assuredly enjoy this very moving account of the lives of these four men and those around them. It will also be enjoyed by any who believe that all lives are interconnected even if we differ about how those connections are made.

Autumn Blessing by Dvora Waysman

BLESSING
Autumn Blessing by Dvora Waysman
Publisher: Prism Book Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (39 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Autumn can be a desolate season. For Dorothy, after losing her husband, the autumn of her life stretches before her lonely and uncertain. But a change, a new hobby, and new friends prove this new season to be bountiful with blessings.

How old is too old to reinvent your life?

Grief can turn an active, 60-year-old woman into someone who acts decades older than her true age. If Dorothy lived in a fairy tale she’d make a wish or find a magical amulet and suddenly feel like her old self, but in real life she has to figure out how to feel better on her own. I was intrigued by her gradual transformation and her occasional tumbles into old thought patterns. The path to recovery is rarely a straightforward one, and it was nice to see a character take two steps forward and one step back as she struggles to find her way out of the fog of grief.

As much as I was rooting for her to find lasting happiness, the change in Dorothy’s habits happens so rapidly that it was a little difficult for me to believe it would be a longterm part of her daily life. When she ignores some troubling information that pops up later on in the plot it had even more trouble believing everything would work out for the best for her. It seems out of character for someone who worries as much as she does earlier on in the plot to ignore the signs that everything might not be as it seems in her world.

Dorothy’s strong relationship with her adult children and grandchildren gives me hope for her future. Ms. Waysman reveals the unbreakable bond between them with such subtle turns of phrases that I felt as if I was eavesdropping onto real conversations. The ending didn’t answer all of my questions, but it was so realistic and heartwarming that it works wonderfully for this tale.

I smiled my way through Autumn Blessing. This warm, gentle story is like a cup of hot tea on a chilly afternoon, and I’d recommend it to anyone who needs to read something to brighten their day.

 

 

The Partner Track by Helen Wan

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The Partner Track by Helen Wan
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mainstream Fiction
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Rated: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A young attorney must choose between the prestige of partnership and the American Dream that she—and her immigrant parents—have come so close to achieving in this riveting debut

In the eyes of her corporate law firm, Ingrid Yung is a “two-fer.” As a Chinese-American woman about to be ushered into the elite rank of partner, she’s the face of Parsons Valentine & Hunt LLP’s recruiting brochures–their treasured “Golden Girl.” But behind the firm’s welcoming façade lies the scotch-sipping, cigar-smoking old-boy network that shuts out lawyers like Ingrid. To compensate, Ingrid gamely plays in the softball league, schmoozes in the corporate cafeteria, and puts in the billable hours—until a horrifically offensive performance at the law firm’s annual summer outing throws the carefully constructed image way out of equilibrium.Scrambling to do damage control, Parsons Valentine announces a new “Diversity Initiative” and commands a reluctant Ingrid to spearhead the effort, taking her priority away from the enormous deal that was to be the final step in securing partnership. For the first time, Ingrid finds herself at odds with her colleagues—including her handsome, golden-boy boyfriend—in a clash of class, race, and sexual politics.

A life according to plan – right up until the corporate sabotage that is. The Partner Track focuses on Ingrid Yung, an ambitious young lawyer with firm goals and highly professional skill. She’s on her way to a partnership… or she thinks she is. She’s sure Parsons Valentine & Hunt LLP is a fantastic firm to work for. She does her time, pays her dues. Friendships and family come a distant second; she’s even being careful of who she dates. However, when it comes right down to it, will she make partner?

We do wonder if this is one of those old-boy corporations where the glass ceiling is practically invisible, but oh-so-there. The firm is a bit stereotypical, but believable. If Ingrid navigates her way to the top carefully, it would be fair to say the firm treats her a bit carefully, too. And the true bad guy is a bit of a sleeper; he’ll surprise you. He sure blindsides Ingrid.

Corporate politics aren’t really the center of this story- Ingrid trying to get a fair shake and getting even are what will hold the reader enthralled. Wan’s is an un-intrusive writing style notable for believable conversations and for every thought or incident moving the plot forward.

The story is gripping and I read this in one sitting: slick and engaging, do add to your reading list.