Category Archives: Novel

Acts of Faith: Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The British Jewish historian Cecil Roth, who was educated at Oxford, wrote a book that was of special interest to author Martin Elsant. The book was entitled History Of the Marranos and of the many figures covered in it was one Diego Lopes of Pinancos in Coimbra, Portugal. Ironically, Mr. Elsant is a former radiologist living in Jerusalem and Mr. Roth died in Jerusalem in the year 1970.

While much of ACTS OF FAITH is dedicated to the descendants of Diego Lopes, Martin Elsant includes two quotes prior to his Author’s Notes from different sources. One in particular I found quite interesting: “Folded under the dark wing of the Inquisition…the influence of an eye that never slumbered, of an unseen arm ever raised to strike. How could there be freedom of thought, where there was no freedom of utterance? Or freedom of utterance, where it was as dangerous to say too little as too much? Freedom cannot go along with fear.” – William H. Prescott, The Age of Phillip II and the Supremacy of the Spanish Empire, 1858.

It is easy to pick up a history book or click on Wikipedia to find out about Diego Lopes. I prefer, whenever possible, to read historical fiction — an infusion of actual history within the opportunities that allow for creativity when re-examining historical events. I believe that this is what Martin Elsant is doing with ACTS OF FAITH, retelling historical events during one of the most difficult times in human and religious history — The Inquisitions — in such a way that it feels as if the reader is enjoying a book of fiction, filled with all the expected plot twists and turns.

Joe’s Odyssey by Nick LaTorre

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

When it comes to a road trip brimming with outrageous escapades and misconduct, Joe’s Odyssey by author Nick LaTorre definitely makes an impression. Fueled by testosterone, the overall narrative refreshes the college road trip genre by taking readers along on an action-filled tale with a quartet of hedonistic, pleasure-seeking friends, which includes adventure on the open seas, world travel, mobsters, hitmen, and college prankster antics.

Frustrated and angst-riddled for middle-aged Joe Kerson, life in general, has him in a bad place, perspectively. He finds himself stuck working for a company at a job with no room for advancement and a boss he deeply resents. Also feeling deeply unhappy with his marriage, he no longer desires intimacy with his wife, as well as being frustrated with the stressful financial necessities of caring for teenaged children. As an escape he finds solace in alcohol and his lamentations at the bar he frequents.

However, one pivotal fateful day, Joe’s boss comes to him with a special assignment to meet with a new potential client, Luciano Galdonchino, (a known mobster) on his yacht. Initially, unenthused, Joe meets Luciano and while witnessing some the aspects of his wealth, power, and success decides to seize the opportunity of a lifetime. Joe pushes Luciano overboard, steals his yacht and money, and thusly embarks on the adventure of his life in the stolen yacht on the open sea. However, Joe does not opt to do this excursion alone; he finds himself a crew of three college friends also acquaintances of his kids, known as the Schmorde, Ron, Pirate, and Brute. Together with this mixed bag of oddball, immature characters, he launches a journey to chaos, danger, sex, drugs, and all-encompassing juvenilistic behavior, making stops in Vegas, San Francisco, and Jamaica. Having no remorse Joe easily keeps the adventure going for months leaving his family and old life behind while occasionally sending a nasty letter to his wife.

Lies She Never Told Me: A Novel (Historical Fiction Book 3) by John Ellsworth

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A historical type story that begins on the Great Lakes in July of 1915 when an excursion steamer capsizes and sinks. Hundreds of people are thrown into the water and many drown. However quite a few are saved and many by Knowles Graham a seventeen year old who jumped from his motorcycle right into the water to help out.

Strangely enough his bike and clothes had already caught the eyes of a group of “not too law abiding” cops. They ended up stopping Knowles and not only arrested him but pretty well beat the tar out of him before throwing him in jail. Shortly thereafter the same cops brought in another young man and threw him into the cell with Knowles after beating him pretty badly also. Knowles gave a lot of aid to the new man and together they made it through the night.

The other young man was Alphonse Capone who would later in life again run into Knowles Graham when they were each on opposite sides of the law. Knowles through some more good work that he does in saving a cop becomes not only a cop but moves all the way up through the system of government to eventually become Senator Graham from Illinois.

Endless Incarnation Sorrows: A Spiritual Odyssey of Mortal Imprints on Earth by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Endless Incarnation Sorrows is a daring literary feat of an intergenerational tale that closely follows a soul across its rebirths. Triggered by true events, Lucia Mann shares her personal insights into what was and what might come to be. Following repeated resuscitations, she starts un-forgetting her previous selves. Thus many seemingly disconnected lives scattered across time and space are connected by an invisible string that pulsates throughout the pages of the book. Lucia Mann takes us on an inspirational inward journey, by unveiling the darkest corners of her past and present.

One of the features that makes the read stand out is how gripping all the characters are. Since, the main players shift between the scenes of this play of life, the reader has a narrow window of opportunity to become emotionally invested. Yet, Lucia Mann successfully outlines convincing and enticing personages that faithfully act out their destiny in front of our eyes. And through these harsh lives we can see and to a certain extent even feel some of the hardships that plagued humanity and continue to do so. The first incarnation, Lala bares the burden of her parents’ incest and her desert exile ends in enslavement; Lyveva surpasses her victim status branded upon her by Vikings to become a healer; Lucja experiences the lowest and highest of humanity within the Auschwitz fences.

The sands of time uncover various taboo subjects, ushered away by our consciousness, such sensible subjects that we would much rather turn a blind eye to. While these practices are presented in a contextual fashion, as an integral part of a certain period in history, some survived into our present under various forms, themselves being subjected to a string of reincarnations. Behind the front narrative of survival and redemption of a lost soul, there is a strong underlying outcry for the incarnation of social practices that embrace numerous souls.

All in all, Endless Incarnation Sorrows is hard to put down; there is always an immediate sense of peril or surprise on the next page. While, the subject and the writing style makes the read appealing to a wide audience, there are some details that steer the direction toward an adult or young adult group. Lucia Mann does not shy away from topics that are now deemed taboo and this piercing truthfulness might just be the secret ingredient that keeps the reader on this magically painful and eye-opening journey that the author initiates.

Breaking Point: A Novel of the Battle of Britain by John Rhodes

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

I had a feeling I might enjoy this book. It was published on my birthday. Which is, I admit, entirely beside the point but one looks for, or is looked at by, signs, nicht wahr?

I finished reading Breaking Point last night at about 1 a.m. I wasn’t planning to finish it; for the last two weeks, I’ve been enjoying it in snippets. Vignettes, if you prefer. And often it was a lot to take in, mentally and emotionally, if you became invested in the characters, the situations, and the stakes, which I did.

The story is essentially told through the perspectives of an RAF pilot and a girl he once knew in college who early on in the book becomes a key player in Britain’s development of strategic defense. They are both quite young—in their twenties, if I read right—and both under a tremendous amount of strain, albeit of different varieties. Eleanor has been tasked, due to her extraordinary brain and capacity for applied mathematics and logic, with assisting the powers that be in their analysis of the Luftwaffe’s attack on southern England. John Shaux is tasked with flying his Spitfire, killing as many of the Luftwaffe as he can, eventually leading his squadron (of which most perish with alarming regularity), and staying alive.

Only the first of these comes easily to him; the man does love to fly.

I read a review of this book on Amazon that poo-poo’ed it because it contained too much romance, too much love. This from a reviewer who admitted plainly he had not read the book (!). And there was romance, I agree. But not of the sort one would expect. Sure, Eleanor and John end up together in some fashion. I ruin nothing for the reader by including that spoiler, however, because their romance is incidental. Instead, the central romance in this book occurs between the author and Great Britain. This story could not have been told without a deep, passionate love of country, not to mention history, and an unwavering admiration for the few humans who defended, against insane odds, the most heinous military power this world has, to date, ever seen.

The Eye That Never Sleeps by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Traversing back in time to New York City circa the late nineteenth century, Clifford Browder’s The Eye That Never Sleeps poses a decidedly brilliant take on the historical crime thriller with an enticingly twisted narrative that brings together history, mystery, and masterfully fleshed out characters.

A growing mystery is afoot in the expanding metropolis of 1869 New York City when three banks are robbed within a nine-month period. Of particular concern is the robbery of the Bank of Trade which is considered the heist of the century. Moreover, the thief has the gall to brag about the robberies by way of sending to the president of each bank gloating rhyming verses and a key to the bank within days of the wake of each masterminded robbery.

Meanwhile, unfortunately for the bankers, the police department has been overwhelmed by the heavy caseloads of other criminal investigations which leaves the city’s bankers in growing desperation. Looking for answers, they turn to private operative/ detective Sheldon Minick who agrees to take on the case for a substantial retainer which enables the financially strapped detective to pay bills and bring meat to his table.

The Furies by Corey Croft

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The FuriesThis is a book that has it all; friendship, love, violence, and drugs. The Furies by Corey Croft follows the story of a group of Fury friends. In their final year of high school they are faced with a series of tough decisions. It is about them making it just one more year; it is about figuring out what comes next when worlds of possibilities open up in front of them. Or do they? But above all, it is a story about different ways of coming to terms with oneself.

Set amidst the 90’s drug boom, the narrative faithfully encapsulates the spirit of the time. The plot oozes cultural references specific to that period which takes the reader on a playful journey back in time. The city of Fury is where it all happens. It is a city, not unlike any other, where social and racial divide fills the air. And so does the smell of weed. Corey Croft takes you beyond a picture-perfect layout of middle class life which leads you down some dark alleys and shows you what lurks behind closed doors. The Furies is all about forms of struggle and adaptation to what life throws at you. And the furions sure know how to throw back a punch. But there is also a softer side to their wild nature – a childhood naivete that lingers on in their adolescence.

Augie’s War by John H. Brown

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Pretty interesting story about Augie Compton who though he is in Vietnam seems to spend a lot of “thinking” time about his life back in Riverview, West Virginia. As the days and weeks go by away from home he continues to go back in his mind to his very close Italian family and his adventures growing up while working part time in his grandfather’s bakery. Those “lookbacks” do a lot for developing this story and keep it moving. Anyone who has spent time not only in the military but also out of the United States while in the service knows how often the reminiscing goes on in the mind.

Augie lucked out in many ways when after graduating from college with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. First off he was quickly drafted into the Army. Because of his background, however, after basic training he was assigned to Advanced Individual Training. On completion he attained the rank of quartermaster. He had hopes of going to Germany or someplace like that but as he feared he got assigned to Vietnam. Along the way to make matters worse two of his former friends who were already over in Nam were killed and this really made his thoughts grow even darker.

The Ashorne’s Ingress by Seamus Eaton

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Truly a prolific read, Seamus Eaton’s The Ashorne’s Ingress excites the imagination with a multifaceted, and complex fantasy epic which proffers to readers an enticing narrative rich with the craftily blended elements of fantasy, horror, gore, magic, science fiction, and sex.

Initially, events start out on earth, the year is 2020 and we are introduced to the focal character William Gentry, who is in the midst of a softball game when his whole world comes tumbling down as he receives the news that his family was severely injured in a freak kitchen accident, that leaves his wife and son dead, and his daughter’s life hanging in the balance. Meanwhile, as he struggles with his emotions and the devastation of the loss, William finds himself approached by two beings claiming to be ambassadors from a land called Arba, located on another world. Claiming to have knowledge of his true identity and legacy, they extend to him a very odd offer, that if accepted would lead to saving his daughter’s life, and possibly more, they only catch is he has to drown himself in a specific river, at a specific time and carry with him an odd triangle they left with him called the Germ of Reismyl. Distraught, in disbelief and teetering on the edge of insanity, he initially misses the opportunity to take the plunge, resulting in the unfortunate death of his daughter.

Don’t Wake Up: A Novel by Liz Lawler

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine waking up stripped of your clothes, strapped to an operating table, and threatened with unimaginable physical cruelty. This is what happens to Dr. Alex Taylor, who works at a hospital in Bath, England. After Alex’s terrifying experience, she is convinced that she was violated, however, no physical proof exists that supports her story. Alex’s life takes a downward spiral, as she tries to convince everyone the attack was real and not a delusion. She starts drinking too much. When a pregnant nurse dies, Alex is convinced the same person who tortured her is responsible. No one believes Alex’s allegation. It appears as if Alex needs psychological help, and deadly incidents involving her only make things worse. Relationships with her colleagues and boyfriend suffer, and Alex worries she is losing her grip on reality.

In Don’t Wake Up, Liz Lawler expertly utilizes multiple third person point of view. Lawler only switches character perspectives between chapters or scenes, and it is clear whose eyes readers are looking through. The majority of this engrossing story is told from Alex’s perspective, but readers are also shown the viewpoints of key characters and their reactions to Alex’s claim of an attack. The different viewpoints pull readers deeper into the heart of the story in which Lawler skillfully interweaves not only things such as criminal acts, police investigations, prejudice, disloyalty, jealousy, violence, and dedication but also the effects of psychological trauma, overindulgence in alcohol, and reliance on anxiety medication.