Category Archives: Novel

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.

La Chimère of Prague: Part II (The Chimera of Prague Book 2) by Rick Pryll

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the largest and most bohemian cities in the European Union. It is important to have an understanding and a sense of Prague to truly appreciate this novel as the majority of it is set there during the late 1990s. Specifically, LA CHIMERE OF PRAGUE spans the length of August – December in the year 1998.

It was not that long before the action of this novel that Czechoslovakia saw a schism referred to as the Velvet Revolution and later the Velvet Divorce which saw the country split into the new Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague is found in the former and by the late ’90s became one of the business and cultural centers in all of the EU. Author Rick Pryll knows all this only too well as he lived in Prague from 1997 to 2002.

Someone who knows and understands Prague even better is the protagonist in this tale, Joseph. He is an American ex-patriot American now living and working in Prague. He is not only leaving behind the U.S.A. but also the memories of his late love. In one of the most interesting love affairs in modern fiction, Joseph was involved with a bi-sexual mermaid who died under mysterious circumstances. He still intends to get to the bottom of her death but for now, must focus on his own life and moving forward.

Dak Ackerthefifth and the Ethics of Heroism by Joshua S. Joseph

Reviewed by Ray Palen

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – The Dark Knight

That quote from filmmaker Christopher Nolan resonated with me as I read this complex and extremely satisfying novel from Joshua S Joseph. The protagonist in this, a young Indian man with the unique name of Dak Ackerthefifth — a name blamed on the same slip of the entry pen used on Ellis Island while in-taking droves of new American citizens to our country.

DAK ACKERTHEFIFTH AND THE ETHICS OF HEROISM is more of a spiritual journey than a work of fiction and the reader is privileged to go along for the ride. Throughout Dak’s life he seeks to understand the precept of what it means to be a hero. We understand that for one to be a hero you must pick a side — hero or villain — but we also learn that life is not that black and white and often times it is not clear as to which side you are on. The story begins with the death of his parents, Richard and Rudy. Our narrator indicates that the death of parents is the way every good hero story starts — but be mindful, this is no Disney tale.

Richard Ackerthefifth was a ballpoint pen magnate who allegedly died during a business trip to the Congo — or so Dak’s mother told him. Rudy was left to raise 8-year-old Dak and his younger sister, Emily. Regrettably, or in keeping with the hero plan, Rudy passes away when Dak is 14. Her death is blamed solely on Crazy Uncle Ji. He was not an actual ‘Uncle’, but was given that honorific title by their mother. Shortly after Rudy was diagnosed with cancer, Crazy Uncle Ji gave her a cocktail of various supplements which initially helped her but then quickly pushed her into a physical nosedive that she never recovered from.

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.