Category Archives: 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.

Saw the Forest: A Novel by Patrick L. McConnell

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A read which keeps your heart as invested as your mind, Patrick L. McConnell’s Saw the Forest explores life through a multi-faceted lens, bringing attention to aspects of the human condition, wrapped in layers of emotion and motive through the experiences of life. Presented with a grove of eclectic characters, each on their own life’s journey but whose paths cross in dynamic and life-altering ways.

A deft storyteller, author Patrick L. McConnell, captures the attention quickly with his literate narrative, which features a well-drawn cast of characters, each as interesting as the next to meet, as well as somehow entangled within the same web of a diverse community collective. Moreover, the story divulges uniquely posed aspects of human nature, exemplified through the characters, inclusive of traits like love, bravado, religion, violence, as well as politics. Moreover, skillfully presented amidst relatable interactions which create an interwoven mosaic of human frailty and strengths, making exciting fuel for this evocative, character driven read.

Immediately, this literate, detail focused narrative brings into view the Right family; father, Artemus a doctor, Mother Taniaz, and their sons, Philip and Adam. The brothers are a unique pair, in that, younger brother Adam takes care of his elder brother Philip, who is considerably larger and stronger than him, but his mind is that of a child. As the family dynamic changes over time, after having lost both parents, the pair of brothers live humble lives as adults, still sharing a close bond. Adam, quietly stalwart, socially awkward, even reticent but well-meaning remains his brother’s faithful keeper who at times can become an unintentionally aggressive and intimidating handful.

The Killing of Faith: This is a suspense/thriller you won’t soon forget by William Holms

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking for a fresh suspense/thriller, you should look no further than “The Killing of Faith” by William Holms. This book will take you on a thrilling journey of the rise and fall of a woman.

It all starts and ends with Faith. The story, narrated in the first person by Faith herself, opens to a very grim but vague present setting. A setting that is periodically revisited throughout the chapters and which is in stark contrast to the past. She takes us back to her childhood and patiently goes through the main events of her life: engagement, marriage, motherhood.

Faith is the kind of beautiful girl that is well aware of her good looks and does not hold back from using this to her advantage. She finds little interest in school, instead, she prefers hanging out with her friends, shopping, and boys. One boy in particular. So, she enters into a tumultuous relationship that eventually leads her to drop out of school and move out from her parents’ place to a different city. Faith leaves everything for a man and a fresh start. But she doesn’t get either. Her dreams crumble and so does she. At least until another man walks into her life and she rebuilds herself through him. This becomes a pattern that repeats with some minor variation. Faith seems to have an innate drive to seek out completion in somebody else and this drives her to the edge of life.

The brilliant thing about the book is its growing suspense. And this suspense is a testament to the skills of William Holms. It all starts with the title, “The Killing of Faith”. So, naturally, the reader expects Faith to be killed at some point. But there are so many questions that arise: why? How? By whom? And as the pages of the book seem to run out and Faith is still very much alive, one starts to wonder if it will still actually happen or was it all just a ruse. This tense anticipation is the main driving force that keeps you flipping page after page.

This is not one of those books that get you hooked by a nurtured love for the main character, quite the contrary… yet the author manages to elicit feelings of sympathy and compassion for Faith as she is met with hardships. Also, her childish naiveté remains an endearing quality. The character carefully balances on the verge of a charicaturistic depiction of women and this is one of the elements that awaken such strong feelings of ambivalence toward her.

The Killing of Faith” is a captivating read, but it is not a book for all ages, as there are some explicit scenes and vulgar language. What is more, the sequel is already in preparation by William Holmes.

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.

bLU Talks – Business, Life and the Universe Compiled by Corey Poirier

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

More than just an assortment of self-help lectures, BLU Talks Presents: Business Life and the Universe offers a thoughtfully produced collection of unpretentious, coaching soul-help discourses. Compiled by Corey Poirier, this is the first book in the series, which contains an expansive variety of lectures and intimate anecdotes which together culminate into an overall varietal hosting of meaty subjects created to guide, edify and inspire.

Brimming with sparks of cogent knowledge, each “talk” primarily focuses on a different element, situation, or practice in life. The inspiring lessons come across powerfully but are related in such a warm and welcoming style that allows for easy and authentic resonance between the author and reader.

Additionally, the expertise involved is vast, your instructors come from all walks of life, including mothers, authors, business owners, advisors, leaders, spiritualists, Reiki masters, overall intelligent thinkers, and go-getters, with many of them wielding expertise in multiple disciplines. Some narratives are based on life experiences that touch the heart as well as expand the self, such as Alli Mackenzie’s A Day We Will Remember Forever or Carey Lowe’s chapter which presents character flaw identification titled, Self – Improvement. Others sharpen the business acumen from a very different perspective like The Secrets They don’t Teach You at Business School by Dr. Allen Lycka. Similarly, the Universal element emanates from the enlightened perspective in Aurora Light’s Intention, Synchronicity, and Love Co-Creation with the Universe, which is absolutely one of my favorites. Likewise with lectures like Grow by Jennifer Eckel which discusses stopping negative attachments or Caroline Stewart’s Radical Honesty as well as Cultivating Resilience Through Trauma by Gary Benoit.

The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life: Two Survivors Reveal the 13 Golden Pearls They’ve Discovered by Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life by Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka is a very inspirational and thought-provoking book written by two people who lived through extremely traumatic and trying experiences. The authors learned from those experiences and grew to understand that they did not have to allow what happened to them to influence the rest of their lives negatively. Instead, they both chose to move on and have successful careers and happy lives, and decided to collaborate and write a book to help others also live “fantastic lives.”

The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life is subtitled “Two Survivors Reveal the 13 Golden Pearls They’ve Discovered.” Those “golden pearls,” or life lessons, aided them to get past the traumatic events in their lives and to move on. The self-help book that they wrote, detailing what those 13 golden pearls are, is full of revelations that the authors hope will inspire readers of the book. The negative things that everybody experiences in their lives, to one extent or the other, do not have to define who we are as people.

I really liked it that Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka opened up in The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life and revealed the nature of the traumatic experiences they went through. Dr. Lycka was diagnosed as having Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and he was told he only had six months to live. Harriet Tinka was a fashion model and a Woman of Distinction who lived through the terror of being kidnapped by someone she knew, stabbed by the man, and left for dead. Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka could have let these things embitter them and alter the course of their lives and careers for the worse. Instead, they moved on, grew, and didn’t let the negative things they went through define them.

What are the 13 golden pearls that the authors discovered and relate to their readers in The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life? Being an author myself, I don’t want to reveal too many “spoilers.” I’d rather that potential readers of the book get the pleasure of checking out what the pearls are on their own, by reading Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka’s book. They reveal what the pearls are in a captivating and entertaining manner by both telling stories from their own lives and also by utilizing a myriad of quotes from famous authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Christopher Reeve, and Bruce Lee.

I will mention a couple of the pearls that I loved reading about the most, though, and those are the importance of forgiveness and laughter. I will talk more about a few of the other pearls with Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka in an interview that they graciously agreed to do with me, which can be read elsewhere at this same site.

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.

The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be by Drake E. Taylor

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Drake E. Taylor, an officer in the United States Air Force, advocates four types of hats that will help individuals become effective and successful leaders. The Preface is an excellent tool for drawing readers into The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be. The four types of hats are The Farmer’s Hat, The Drill Instructor’s Hat, The Psychologist’s Hat, and The Self-Care Hat. Taylor does an excellent job of providing an analogy between a farmer’s job and that of leading a team of people, describing the role of when it is appropriate to use the drill instructor’s hat in a civilian environment, the value of the psychologist hat and ways to help people with their emotional well-being, and the importance of the self-care hat for a leader’s mental health.

The File: A Mother & Child’s Life-Changing Reunion

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

It is very frightening for a teenage girl to find out she is pregnant but just imagine if this pregnant girl is the daughter of a pastor.

Anita had a loving family; they were close and supportive. Her father was the pastor and her mother was the church musician. Being the child of the pastor had advantages and disadvantages; Anita could sleep a little later because the church was right next-door but on the other hand if her father caught Anita talking during the sermon, he would call her to the front of the church and make her sit by herself.

Anita was friends with Allison and Brent. Brent was in love with Allison but she wanted to keep their relationship as friends only. Anita and Brent had a class together during their senior year and they went out on a date. They became bored at a party and left to be alone so they could talk more. They ended up in a place where a lot of the kids went to make-out. They also ended up doing more than talking and things went a little too far.

Anita soon discovered that she was pregnant. There was a difficult decision to be made. She could keep the baby, have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. Her first thought was to have an abortion because it seemed the easiest. No one would know. Her parents wanted her to make the decision but offered some advice. They told her that an abortion would be hard for her to live with since she would be taking a life.

Anita went into her closet and began to cry. After a lot of praying and crying, she decided to give the baby up for adoption. Little by little she started to tell her siblings and her best friend of her pregnancy. They were all supportive. Her father was the pastor of a new church and he asked the bishop if he should step down. The news was given to the congregation and Anita asked if she could speak. She told them how truly sorry she was for bringing this upon the church.

As time went on, Anita began to feel her baby kicking. She was starting to have second thoughts as she was feeling emotionally attached to the baby. She signed up for a couple of college courses to take her mind off things.

The day had finally arrived. Anita went into labor. She had to make another difficult decision. Did she want to see the baby after it was born? Would it be easier to give the baby up if she did not see the child? She decided it would be easier to not see the child. She heard the doctor say it is a little girl. They did tell her how much the baby weighed. They moved Anita to a room away from other mothers who would be taking their child home.

After Anita returned home from the hospital, she had to make arrangements to sign more paperwork. The adoption was not final yet. She, again, began to have second thoughts. Her parents, once again, offered their support if she wanted to keep the baby. This only made it more difficult.

Once everything was finalized, Anita began to feel a little better. The judge assured her that the adoptive parents had the same spiritual beliefs as her and that they would provide a good home.

As Anita tried to get her life back to normal, she received a call from a young man she had met before. He asked her out. She soon realized that he was the one for her and it did not take long for them to get married.

Even though she seemed happy, she hardly had a day go by without thinking of her daughter. Anita knew she could not have any contact with her daughter until she reached the age of 18.
Anita and her husband had four children but she still wondered about the daughter she gave up for adoption.

The one thing Anita could do for her adopted daughter was to place items in “the file” at the agency. When her daughter turned 18, she could ask to see the file.

Will Anita’s adopted daughter ask to see the file?

I am not going to say anything more because this would be giving away “spoilers”. I want readers to find out for themselves what happens.

The File is a book that shows the heartbreak a mother has when she makes the decision to do what is best for her child. You could feel the pain in every decision that Anita had to make. On the other hand, this book also shows how happy an adoptive family can be when they have the opportunity to bring a baby into their loving home.

The author has done a wonderful job in weaving every piece of this story together. From sad emotions to joyous ones, the reader will feel like Anita is sitting right beside them as she tells her story. The File also shows how important spiritual beliefs can help in the process of making very difficult decisions.

On a personal note, I attended a workshop where Anita Keagy was the speaker. She spoke about giving her baby up for adoption. Her emotion and tears told the audience everything they needed to know. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anita Keagy speak, please do yourself a favor and sign-up.

On The Corner: A Novel of Lifelong Friendship by S.J. Tagliareni

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

On the CornerDid you have a best friend who was there for you during the good times and difficult times in your life? This is the story of On the Corner.

Sal and his childhood friend, Michael have been there for each other. It is difficult to imagine what would have happened had they not been there to provide the emotional support to each other during the many events that took place over the years.

The reader will follow the story of these two men as they face many situations in life; marriage, deaths of loved ones, going their separate ways to college and reconnecting again.

Once you read On the Corner, it will make you really appreciate someone you might have known like Sal and Michael. Sometimes we take friends for granted but this story will make you take a second look at your close friends. Even if you have lost contact with a close friend, On the Corner will make you want to search for that person so you can reconnect again.