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.

Look Away Dixieland by Marona Posey

LOOK
Look Away Dixieland by Marona Posey
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (355 pages)
rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Jenna left her life of punishing poverty behind, finding success, romance, wealth and an Oscar nomination in Hollywood but what she wanted most was the forgiveness of her mother for a terrible wrong she committed against her. Her dark secret put the man she loved in a hidden grave while his brother searched to find him. Only the love of a mother, who would go to the ends of the earth for her daughter, gave Jenna the redemption she sought. Follow Skye Campbell and her daughters from a mountain cabin in Alabama to a vineyard in Napa and a mansion in Beverly Hills.

1941, a frigid December night in the mountains of north Alabama sparks an event that changed several lives. The death of Skye Campbell’s second husband will haunt Skye and her two daughters, Jenna and Carrie, for years to come. With the news of Pearl Harbor being bombed, Owen Campbell’s disappearance wasn’t so mysterious, until he didn’t return home from the war, nor did the army have him shown as enlisted. Owen’s younger brother, Colin isn’t too happy about the brother that took care of him during his youth disappearing without any word. He knows Skye and her daughters had something to do with his brother’s absence.

Seventeen year old Jenna took a hundred dollars of her mother’s money and caught the first train leaving Decatur, Alabama. She ends up in the cold big city of Chicago. With her past a haunting memory, Jenna changes her name, finds a job and a place to stay. Other than a daily reminder of her step-father Owen, life for Jenna is going pretty good. As with life nothing is perfect and Jenna will find herself having to make another quick escape during the night.

Skye remains in Alabama and continues to be questioned about Owen’s where abouts. With the war coming to an end Skye thinks it’s best to leave the state before Owen’s body washes up along the Tennessee River and she will have to surely answer how her husband ended up murdered. Skye, with her children in tow, journeys west to California.

Marona Posey delivers a magnificent start to the “Look Away” series. The first novel in the series is highly entertaining, and a fascinating mix of history and mystery. I found the novel very impressive and difficult to put down.  The characters are well developed and given likable personalities. Even though they were near poverty in the beginning of the book and things worked out financially well for them during their journey, their lives weren’t perfect. They did have to endure hardship in other ways. This to me made their lives more realistic and believable.

I do have to mention that the novel did have more than a few editorial typos through out the book.

Looking at the Hallmark picturesque bookcover I would not think this novel would be packed with such action and attention grabbing adventure. I am a happy reader and thank Mrs. Posey for an astonishingly exciting experience with characters that I look forward to following in the next installment of the Look Away series.

Please grab a copy of Look Away Dixieland I’d hate for you to miss out on a start to a great new series.

The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults by Jean-Pierre Weill

WELL
The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults by Jean-Pierre Weill
Publisher: Jean-Pierre Weill Studios
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (216 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Well of Being: a children’s book for adults is an illustrated inquiry into the pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be radically alive in our daily moments. This adult picture book takes its reader on a quest for well‐being and self‐acceptance, following the story of a wondering everyman. The projective tale summons the reader’s inner child as a complimentary vehicle to drive the plot through bold reflection and earnest doubt. Assisted by cosmic perspective, the faceless protagonist sets out to retrieve the deep self-comfort and inner wellness lost along life’s way.

Is happiness a choice? Come take a contemplative journey through lessons children know but adults have long since forgotten as you explore this question.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading this tale. The blurb piqued my curiosity as soon as I read it, though, and within a few pages I knew this is something I will be revisiting over and over again. I was especially interested in how open the author is to people from any religion. His message transcends the normal boundaries between religions and seems to be specifically designed to appeal to anyone who has ever attempted to improve the world around them.

My sole criticism of an otherwise wonderful story has to do with how quickly the author assumes that what he has to say won’t be useful to people who don’t believe in any gods. Given how inclusive his later discussions are about how to reframe our perceptions and quell our anxieties, I see no reason not to market this message to everyone. The few sections that assume a shared belief in the supernatural can easily be reframed for those who don’t agree with them due to how flexible the definitions of terms like Oneness have already become.

The illustrations that accompany each page are absolutely beautiful. They fit the understated tone and peaceful theme perfectly. Looking at them make me wish I had a hardcover copy of it because it’s the type of book that deserves to be proudly displayed in one’s home.

Take the time to explore the endnotes after the final scene ends. Some of the notes in it are about topics that virtually every adult has heard of, but others mention people, places, and things that were new to this reader. It was a real pleasure to thumb through it and catch references that I missed the first time around.

Don’t be fooled by the word count. The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults can easily be read in one sitting. Like all timeless picture books, it’s as mesmerizing the second, third, and fourth time around as it was the first.

Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor by Eldonna Edwards

LOST
Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor by Eldonna Edwards
Publisher: Whole Heart Publications
Genre: Autobiography, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (249 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One Gently Used Kidney, Free to a Good Home.

When 48 year-old single mother, massage therapist and returning student Ellie meets a young woman with kidney disease, she decides to make it her mission to save the girl. Unfortunately, outdated rules made it difficult for altruistic donors, and besides, the woman doesn’t want a savior. Does this stop Ellie from her quest to “be the change” one seeks in the world? Not a chance.

Told with humor and self-reflection, this inspirational memoir of courage and compassion is interwoven with anecdotal stories that help the reader identify what kind of person commits the selfless act of organ donation. Ellie,a self-described devout agnostic, is kind but often irreverent. She is generous, but she is no saint. Ultimately, becoming a kidney donor has given her a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. Lost in Transplantation asserts that we are all capable of altering a human being’s life for the better, including our own.

How much would you risk to save the life of someone you’ve never met? It’s easy to talk about altruism as an abstract term, but it’s much more difficult to live in out in such a personal manner.

Ms. Edwards decision fascinates me, but it is her honest, wry sense of humour that made this story so enjoyable for this reader. She has the uncanny ability to find the light side of even the most serious topics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the beginning of her journey when she realizes that a classmate has kidney disease. Her spontaneous offer to give her classmate one of her kidneys gave me an early glimpse into the author’s character as well as provided some of the funniest moments in this tale.

As interesting as it was to read about everything else that was going on in the author’s life while she was in the process of donating her kidney, all of these subplots bog down the gist of her memoir. This is especially true when it came to all of the information I learned about her childhood and young adulthood. The tales were interesting, but some of them were off-topic for this particular book.

With that being said, Ms. Edwards descriptions of the donation and recovery processes are absolutely fascinating. By far my favorite sections focused on all of physical and mental health tests one must pass in order to be considered as a candidate. I wish more time had been spent discussing this part of the donation process because, at least for me, the risks weigh heavily on my mind when I think about the possibility of being a live donor. While the vast majority of donors recover without any complications, there is always a chance of developing an infection or having a bad reaction to the anesthesia with any surgical procedure.

Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor is a thought-provoking look at one woman’s unorthodox decision to save a stranger’s life. I’d recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest whiff of curiosity about this subject.

2013 Best Book of the Year Poll

LASR HEADER 2013 BEST BOOK copy

Vote for the book you like the best out of the books our reviewers rated as “Best Books” in 2013.

Poll runs from February 1 – 14, 2014.

NOTE: We’re aware the formatting of this poll is difficult to read on mobile devices. We’ve tried, with no success, to fix this problem and apologize.  We’ll continue to attempt to get this problem corrected.

Angel Heart by Cornelia Funke, Narrated by Jeremy Irons

HEART
Angel Heart by Cornelia Funke
a music storybook
narrated by Jeremy Irons
music by Luna Pearl Woolf
Publisher: Mirada Studios
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: n/a – audio
Age recommendation: Any
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Drawing on the tradition of great music-and-story works like Peter and the Wolf, Angel Heart is a music storybook in deluxe CD packaging, featuring best-selling young-adult author Cornelia Funke (Inkheart), and composer Luna Pearl Woolf (Après moi, le déluge) with an A-list cast of performers such as Jeremy Irons, Matt Haimovitz& Uccello, Frederica von Stade and more, with artwork by the award-winning Mirada.

The story: A girl whose heart has broken into a thousand pieces meets an angel. During their travels in the night, the angel enlists the help of spirits of the East, North, West, and South on his quest to mend her heart.

In addition to Angel Heart, (story by Cornelia Funke, music by Luna Pearl Woolf, narrated by Jeremy Irons); the work combines well known songs from The Beatles, classical music and folk music. The visual storytelling design is by Mirada, a multi-platform company that was founded by Mathew Cullen and Pan s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro.

This is a charming audio book suitable for all ages… but it’s even more. In alternating tracks, Jeremy Irons shares the story of an angel and a girl whose heart is broken into thousand pieces. Between each segment of the story is a track of beautiful music to go along with the storyline.

I love the way each track is clearly defined as it allows this gem to be played in multiple ways. You can just hear the story, just the music, or you can listen to the entire piece. I admit, the first time I listened to it, I skipped the musical interludes because I wanted to know what happened in the storyline. With subsequent listenings, however, I’ve let the CD play on through and have thoroughly enjoyed the blending of the two art forms.

The story is beautifully told (and equally beautifully read by the talented Jeremy Irons—he can read the telephone book to me any time!!). Ms. Funke’s other works are a lot of fun to read–this one is hauntingly evocative of tenderness and pain-healed. It’s a story I have listened to more than once (and as I’m not normally a re-reader, that’s saying something).

Kudos to everyone involved. 5 stars.  Thanks to the producers for trying something new!

Secrets of the Velvet Closet by Lena Rai

CLOSET
Secrets of the Velvet Closet by Lena Rai
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Autobiography, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (284 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Secrets of the Velvet Closet starts with the tale of a young girl who struggles with abuse and must somehow manage to find her way into adulthood, as well as find herself, through hardships, questionable choices, trials and tribulations, humor, and of course, love. A true coming-of-age story with heartfelt memories and laughter. This autobiographical account is truly an emotional roller-coaster with a highly inspirational message to follow your dreams, and most of all, your heart!

Terrible secrets lose power when they’re exposed to the light of day.

The best sections of this book involve memories about things that most people don’t like to recall due to embarrassment or the worry that other people will judge them. Ms. Rai readily admits to these things, though, and she isn’t ashamed by anything that has happened to her. I get the impression that she is the sort of person who has long since learned to stop caring what others think about her, and when combined with her extraordinary storytelling abilities this makes it difficult to put Secrets of the Velvet Closet down.

The narrative jumps around a bit, and sometimes I found it hard to keep track of what was happening. The inclusion of anecdotes about such a large list of friends and family members was also occasionally confusing because there was so little space to get to know these individuals better. Ms. Rai has had such an interesting life that this tale could have been easily split up into a series. This would have also given her more time to delve into the backstories of the men, women, and children who have emotionally impacted her.

There are plenty of colloquial expressions in the plot that I’d never heard of before. I really enjoyed the author’s use of them as well as of slang terms in order to paint a vivid picture of her social circles. Ms. Rai has a wonderfully creative way with words that makes it very easy to envision exactly how her adventures take place.

Grammatical and punctuation errors did occasionally make it difficult for me to understand what she was saying, though. While most of them were easy to decipher there were a few instances in which I was stumped. Had this not been the case this book would have earned a higher rating as the anecdotes themselves were quite entertaining!

What I liked the most was Ms. Rai’s ability to pick herself up and try again no matter what happened to her. As a small child she was exposed to a lot of things that are extremely harmful to children, yet she seems to harbour no ill will against the people in her life who should have been protecting her from those experiences. It takes a lot of courage to reach this point, and I admire her honesty about the painful times as well as as the happy ones.

Secrets of the Velvet Closet made me laugh and cry. This is a good choice for anyone looking for an uplifting autobiography.

Tales from the Fountain Pen by E. Lynn Hooghiemstra

PEN
Tales from the Fountain Pen by E. Lynn Hooghiemstra
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (59 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Maggie was ready to embrace life and enjoy attending vocational college when the war came to her village in the Netherlands and changed everything. In a series of interconnected stories Maggie struggles with fear, shortages, the resistance, the dangers of falling in love and who to trust. Nothing is as it had been and, as the holder of the fountain pen learns from her comfortable office in the present day, fear and uncertainty are ever-present companions.

As the narrator fills and refills the inherited fountain pen from the 1940s, the pen takes on a life of its own as it relates the details of the events that shaped Maggie’s life, and strengthens the bond between Maggie and her future daughter.

Some memories never dim over time.

Imagine what it would be like to step into a chapter of your mother’s life that she did her very best to erase for good. Maggie’s young adulthood was spent living in unrelenting fear and deprivation, and she thought she was doing the right thing by shielding her daughter from the harsh reality of her formative years. By far the most powerful scenes show how this decision affects not only the rest of her life but her daughter’s experiences as well.

It was in these moments that I wished Tales from the Fountain Pen was either a few hundred pages longer or the first in a long series of novellas. The author’s depiction of how the quiet scars from emotional trauma can be inadvertently passed down to the next generation is as heartbreaking as it is stunningly accurate.

The first transition from present day to the past is a little difficult to pick out at first because the narration continues to be written in first person, but this is a very minor criticism of an otherwise enthralling tale. As soon as I adjusted to it I had no problem slipping from one time period to the next as Maggie’s daughter discovers some of her mother’s deepest secrets.

The historical details in this piece are what solidified my decision to give it such a high rating. From the inherent messiness of old-fashioned fountain pens to the sweet and slightly flowery taste of Elderflower tea, I felt like I, too, had been transported back to the middle of last century. Some facts are difficult to tease out unless one has personal experience with household goods that have since become quite rare in modern society, but all of the antiques that I have personal experience with were described in impeccable detail during the course of Maggie’s adventures.

I never wanted Tales from the Fountain Pen to end. This is an unforgettable story that I’d highly recommend to anyone who loves mainstream fiction with a paranormal flair.

Elvis Has Left The Building by Charity Tahmaseb

ELVIS
Elvis Has Left The Building by Charity Tahmaseb
Publisher: Untreed Reeds
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (11 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Second generation Elvis impersonator, Elliot, is content with his small-town circuit and regular gigs at the Holiday Inn, until he attracts a fan who has never heard of the King. But stepping free of the shadow cast by both his father and Elvis may prove to be impossible.

The title of this story sort of sums up the theme and feel of it; part nostalgia, and part humor. For such a short read, Ms. Tahmaseb did a wonderful job offering some detail to the background of the main character, Elliot, and how he came to be an Elvis impersonator. It doesn’t drag on but dives right into the action about Elliot and the woman who came to see him perform.

In a way it’s a bittersweet tale, about a father and son, of tradition and things that bind us together forever.

If you’re looking for a short, very well written and lighthearted-read then this might be a good one for you.

The Empty Chair by James Davis

CHAIR
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.