Category Archives: Novel

Daughter Of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! by Honey Parker

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Daughter of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! pulls on readers’ heartstrings. It focuses on a group of young adults who are dealing with the vicissitudes of emotions from being socially isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Honey Parker has created an appealing group of characters who come from diverse backgrounds. Each of the characters has been instilled with their own distinctive likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. The group of friends live in New York and participate in weekly video calls filled with both amusing and serious conversations. Readers get a clear picture of what the characters are going through and the motives behind their reactions to emotionally draining circumstances. Part of the story takes place in Florida as one of the characters travels to Florida to stay with her mother, who is recuperating from an accident. The author does an excellent job of showing the different ways in which the characters deal with the stress of being sidelined when it comes to the deprivation of face-to-face contact.

Daughter of Careful-ish will resonate with readers in this fictional accounting of how people deal with an epidemic that blindsided the population. Parker has crafted a book that artfully shows how unforeseen life-altering events can affect people’s jobs and career choices, lifestyle, and social behaviors and interactions with others. The story will reach readers on a deep level and appeal to their emotions. Throughout the story, the characters are riding on a roller coaster of emotions while they are facing unprecedented challenges both in their socioeconomic status and in the effects on interpersonal relationships.

Henry, Himself: A Novel by Stewart O’Nan

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is quite a different book. No violence, no sex, just very good interesting writing about a 75 year old man and how he lives his life. Henry Maxwell is a retired engineer and former soldier who lives with his wife in the Pittsburgh area and stays busy by “puttering around”.

He is well educated and also is a good do-it-your-selfer. He and his wife, Emily of fifty plus years, have children who are somewhat distant but still relevant in his life. He spends most of his time walking his dog, Rufus, and doing all types of maintenance jobs around his home especially the yard and fence area.

Much of the time his mind is working as to what kind of life did he live and was it a good one for those connected to him. He worries that he wasn’t a good man but all indicators say that he was and is. His children all love him, his wife loves him, and the folks in the neighborhood think highly of him.

The Storm by Val Bardash

Reviewed by Timea Barbaras

The Storm” by Val Bardash is a beautifully written tale about intimacy in its many forms. Intimacy between family, friends, even strangers… and also the empty space between us. But above all else, the void that we all carry around within us. A bottomless black hole that we try to fill with love, tenderness, adventures, or writing.

The book follows two main stories that become interwoven, that of youth and of aging. A young aspiring writer tries to find himself and his estranged father through writing. Perhaps the one thing that connects them, beyond blood. The books written by his famous father, John Stark, become a window through which the son can glance at an image of a father figure. But the figure is distorted. It is uncertain which features are real and which are carefully crafted by the Stark’s pen.

The author showcases throughout the pages how years of life and living transform some raw innate elements while washing over others without leaving a mark. The characters seem to be lost souls aimlessly wandering in the modern wilderness desperate to reach a clearing. For the main protagonists, the coveted clearing was, in fact, a mountain, a place of solitude, rest, and death. They were drawn to this beacon of resolution for similar reasons, and on their journey, they discovered not only themselves but each other as well.

Princess Reigns by Roger Williams

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Princess Reigns is a story that puts all of the seven deadly sins on display. Ava Edwards (aka Princess Ava) is a young, ambitious minister from the city of Del Toray. Her ambitions, however, do not align with any spiritual path of spreading God’s love. Instead, they are ambitions for money and power. Ava does not believe the messages that she preaches. Instead, she sees her place in the church as a stepping stone to greater things.

Ava is guilty of many of the seven deadly sins herself. Her wrath is on display immediately, as the book opens with Ava chasing an employee around the room, attempting to attack him. Her lust takes the form of sleeping with her ex-con church employee, Joe, behind the back of her husband, Henry. Her greed is visible in her desire to get a hold of her stepdaughter’s trust fund. Her envy is clear in her hatred for Reverend Holt, the leader of the church down the road. Her pride is shown in her self-praise for her looks and intellect.

The only two deadly sins that Ava does not display are gluttony and sloth. In fact, with the level of work she puts into her evil plans, sloth is the last sin of which Ava could possibly be accused. While she might not be guilty of these two sins, her ten-year-old son Jimmy certainly is. Mother and child are not the only villains of this story. Ava’s lover Joe and his brother Robbie certainly carry their fair share of wicked intent. Both brothers can check off several of the deadly sins themselves. Even our protagonist, private detective and stepdaughter of Ava, Tori Edwards, is guilty of wrath. She is constantly at odds with Ava over the way Ava treats Tori’s little sister, Susy.

The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig

Reviewed by Teri Takle

How often do you think about your choices that you make every day? You have to decide if you plan to get out of bed, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, etc…

Nora Seed has choices about her life almost every second. Her choice of suicide brings her to another reality. Could you imagine every single possibility you could have taken in your life? Would life be different for you? Could you have had a happier and more fulfilling life, or were you doomed from the start?

What if there exists a book for every possibility you had chose not to take in your life? Endless opportunities for you that could have been your life?

Would you prefer to read about whether you had chosen to marry, have a family, marry someone else, move across the country, or to a different country? The possibilities are endless.

Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrick Backman

Reviewed by Teri Takle

If you ever read a book that was not what you expected, Anxious People could easily be the one.

You have a finite group of people: a bank robber, a real estate agent, an older couple looking for an apartment to flip into a profit, their hired person trying to help them purchase, a two-women couple with one expecting a baby soon looking for a home, an elderly neighbor, an overly-wealthy bank executive, a senior police officer, and his son, a newer police officer following in his dad’s footsteps; all deciding who should and shouldn’t buy the apartment. The exceptions are the policemen who are attempting to arrest the bank robber.

Being human, each person possesses secrets that can change how others perceive them, and no one wants their secrets revealed.

Are you confused yet?

Anxious People is funny with twists as the reader learns about each character, slowly revealing themselves to others. While always making you question what these people are doing and why.
Characterization is phenomenal in Anxious People. You quickly develop a visual person and their personality for each one allowing you to understand their motivations.

Araya by E. Detorres

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

An elite team of Gundogs has been trained by Ellis Fast to hunt down and kill Gluttons for their armor. Gluttons are the deadliest and most ferocious creatures in Hell’s Heart, a Black Forest filled with trees that can influence people through music and lyrics and cause them to lose their sanity. While on a mission, one of the team members is killed in a particularly heinous way by a Glutton. The remaining members make the trek out of the forest before they lose touch with reality. After returning to their mountain abode, they are hired to retrieve an asset that the military believes could change the tide of an ongoing war, and the secretive weapon is located deep in the Black Forest. Ellis along with team members Alex Bright and Smug embark on a mission fraught with threats from sadistic creatures that live in the forest, the trees that invade people’s minds and cause horrifying reactions in behavior against themselves and/or others, and soldiers from warring factions. Will the team find the asset and make it out of the forest to safety or will they succumb to the call of the trees and/or be killed by the minacious life forms before they can complete their mission?

Answering Liberty’s Call: Anna Stone’s Daring Ride to Valley Forge: A Novel by Tracy Stone Lawson

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A very interesting historical yet fictional story of a young woman and her adventures in the late 1700’s as she pulls off a tremendous feat. Anna Stone’s husband, as a member of the Minutemen, is called off to join the other colonials in the revolt against the British. Both Stone and Benjamin, her husband who is a Baptist preacher, knew that this call to duty could come but neither of them looked forward to it. It meant leaving Anna, and her small children, to stay with relatives and fend for themselves pretty much.

However it becomes much more exciting and nerve-racking as Anna hears of the happenings up and around Valley Forge. She gets word that Benjamin and her brothers aren’t doing well. Several brothers have become ill with the pox (one does die) and they are having trouble getting food and other staples. Anna has been helping to fight the disease as she had been treated for it as a small child and was immune to it.

After internal debating with herself Anna makes the decision that she will make the trip from lower Virginia to Valley Forge. She has a horse named Nelly, who is not only well trained but of great stamina; Anna believes Nelly can carry her and supplies to the North.

Though she has very little support from her family and friends she heads north .She really doesn’t understand what is in front of her. She has been given names of some of her uncle’s associates but overall she is going pretty much without contacts or places to stay.

Ellipsis by Kristy McGinnis

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Ellipsis” by Kristy McGinnis is a wonderful piece of fiction that reads like real life. The novel tells the story of a girl becoming a woman. And through this not so out of the ordinary life are presented some of the horrors of ordinary life.

The novel opens up with the blossoming of Nell Sanger, a college student who has all her future mapped out. She took on some side jobs to help support herself, one of which was modeling for art students. That is where she met Narek, a gifted art student from Armenia. The two immediately felt connected by the many things they have in common and were intrigued by each-others cultural and personal differences.

But this is not a simple love story. It is a complex tale about the many forms love can take and the challenges that these bring. The love for and of a boyfriend, former lover, child, mentor, fellow women, the love of self. As you go through the pages of the book, there is an overwhelming sense that tragedy, loss is inescapable. Happiness, on the other hand, is harder to hold on to. Will Nell be able to experience joy, or will all her happiness end up being trapped somewhere in the past?

At Dawn the Simorgh Appears by K.A. Lillehei

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

At Dawn the Simorgh Appears is a gripping story that illustrates the strength and resilience of two women who are thrown into a dreadful situation that appears hopeless. Anna, an American scientist, and her Persian interpreter, Farah, are kidnapped from an archeological site in Iran by armed marauders and held prisoner in a stone hut. They have no idea where they are being held, and the inside of their cell is shrouded in darkness. To keep from becoming overwhelmed by their circumstances, Anna and Farah pass their time together reminiscing about childhood memories.

When an opportunity to escape arises, the two women take advantage of it. A young nomad boy, Samir, who is at the bandits’ hideout, flees with them in a stolen jeep. They get help from a group of nomadic tribespeople, and K.A. Lillehei includes interesting details about people who live a nomadic lifestyle. Anna, Farah, and Samir are guided by one of the young nomads through the Zagros mountain range, which are located in Iran and along the border areas of Iraq and Turkey. The plan is for the three freed prisoners to cross the border into Iran. Will they make it safely to Iran before the dangerous men catch up with them? If they survive, what kind of effect will this horrible ordeal have on their everyday lives?

At the beginning of this enthralling novel, Lillehei captures readers’ attention with an excerpt from a story about the Simorgh, a compassionate female winged creature that appears in Iranian mythology as a benefactor to those in need. In chapter one Anna and Farah are discussing the shock and lack of understanding regarding their kidnapping and incarceration. Readers will empathize with their predicament and want to know the outcome. Throughout the book are excerpts of memories from the lives of the three escapees, along with mythological tales about strong women. All of the recollections and mythic tales play a crucial part in the storyline.

Anna and Farah have experienced far different cultural and lifestyle backgrounds. However, as the two women share their innermost thoughts and feelings about themselves a strong bond of friendship develops between them, which is wonderfully illustrated throughout the story. Anna studies ancient civilizations and converses with Farah in English and Farsi. Persian and Arabic words and/or phrases are used throughout the story, and Lillehei provides translations so there is no confusion about their meanings. Usage of metaphors adds depth to the text that conjures up images, thoughts, and feelings in readers’ minds. This is an outstanding book that shows the strength of femininity in the face of monumental obstacles and how cultural background influences the manner in which people learn, live, and behave.