Category Archives: Literary Fiction

New Book for Review: Island Girl by Lynda Simmons

Island GirlLynda Simmons is touring in June 2011 with her fiction literary novel, Island Girl. What Would You Do If You Were Told You Had Alzheimer’s? Island Girl is the emotionally riveting story of a 55 year old mother, Ruby Donaldson, fighting to reunite her family as she struggles with the diagnosis of early on-set Alzheimer’s. Ruby refuses to let the disease control her future, but first she must find a way to convince her older daughter Liz to grow up and come home; to take her place as head of the family thereby securing the future of their home on the Island, and ensuring that Liz’s younger sister, Grace, will be cared for in the only place that is safe for her. But there are good reasons why Liz and Ruby have been estranged for years, and Liz can only wonder why she should forgive her mother a lifetime of sins just because she’s sick. Does Alzheimer’s grant Ruby instant immunity, a moral get-out-of-jail-free card? Ruby always thought she’d have a lifetime to make things right, but suddenly time is running out.

435 pages

You can visit her website at www.lyndasimmons.com.

If you would like to review Island Girl, email us by clicking here or email Dorothy Thompson at thewriterslife@yahoo.com. Deadline for inquiries end May 25 or until the tour is filled. Thank you!

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Saffron Dreams

saffron_dreams

Saffron Dreams 
Author: Shaila Abdullah
Publisher: Modern History Press
Rating: 
Reviewed by:  Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah is an eloquently written and moving story of a Muslim woman living in America, whose world is turned upside down on September 11th.

Arissa Illahi is a Muslim artist and writer living in New York City with her husband Faizan. Expecting their first child, they are happy with life. But on the morning of September 11, 2001, Faizan would go to work in the World Trade Center…and never return.

Always free to live as a Muslim in America, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Great American Melting Pot doesn’t seem to blend so well. People who greeted Arissa with a smile before that fateful day, barely look at her. Feeling adrift after her loss, Arissa wanders through the days awaiting the birth of her unborn son, a son Faizan would never hold. The discovery of her husband’s unfinished manuscript may be the key to her survival. And perhaps by finishing Faizan’s legacy, Arissa will redeem a race.

If ever there was a book more eloquently written than Saffron Dreams, I would like to see it. The words simply fly off the page and float into your consciousness; their power touching you in a way like no other book might ever touch you again. The struggles of being a 9/11 widow and a Muslim, come together in a moving story that will find you filled with every emotion ever experienced by a human being.

Abdullah’s masterful storytelling draws you in from the very first moment and does not release you until you’ve turned the very last page. Anyone who has ever loved and lost will be touched by this heartrending, yet triumphant story of one woman’s difficult journey to pick up the pieces of her shattered life in a country that has suddenly put her and an entire race under a microscope in order to make sense of a monumental tragedy. The descriptions and details put you right alongside Arissa so that you are totally captivated by her world, her dreams, her struggles, and her triumphs.

The stunning cover art must be seen up close, as it is even lovelier and more striking in your hands than what you see posted here.

Saffron Dreams is destined to add more awards to Abdullah’s portfolio. This is a must read book for 2009!

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Bleach/Blackout

bleach-blackout-coverBleach/Blackout
Author: David S. Grant
Publisher: Offense Mechanisms

Rating:   + half
Reviewed by:  Gary Mack

This raw, irreverent, raunchy, and vile saga on the party exploits of a Harvard graduate and his nitwit friends reads like the daily script from a Howard Stern radio show. With most of the dialogue beginning with the word, “Dude”, and the scenes taking place inside Wisconsin bars, the dual novel, “Bleach/Blackout,” is limited in its scope to character observations and juvenile sex talk. Though David S. Grant’s intent is to parody the social circuits of our latest generation, there are only so many tavern and sex scenes one can take in a row! On top of that, with the amount of legal and illegal drugs the main character popped in his mouth, I felt like I lapsed into a drug-induced coma by the fifth chapter.

 

It’s clear that Grant has the ability to be funny but he doesn’t know when to stop. He often over uses a line, like when he makes an observation about a woman at the airport who claims she will only drink Starbucks. The first time around, the insight left me with a scant chuckle. After the airport scene, every time a person ordered a coffee in the book, I had a strong hunch that the next line was going to make some reference to Starbucks. How funny can that be the tenth time around?

 

There are many other instances of this overplay, like the constant jabs at the band, “Wham,” George Michael, Gap shirts and married homeowners. Worst of all, there’s a running commentary from the narrator, though you clearly know it’s the author’s view, on the post 9/11 terror alerts. These attempts at satire sorely stick out and are as butchered as a joke on amateur night.

 

Grant decides to write the story in the first person present tense – always the most difficult of tasks. Often he mixes his verb tenses, like when his friend is shot and he writes, “… she was dead by the time she hit the floor.” Interspersed within the story are past tense vignettes on the drinking, smoking, and sexual exploits of the gang at New Year Eve parties. Though the parties are chronicled by the year, to me, they all seemed pretty much the same. 

 

Without a plot, the ending is a stretch. Though Grant is capable of writing believable conversations and he flushes out his characters fairly well, his writing lacks any lyrical or metaphorical buoyancy.

 

Simply put, this is not a novel that emerges on any front. Yes, Mr. Grant shows glimpses of brilliance and wit but he needs to contain himself and polish up his craft before he publishes again.      

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The River, By Moonlight

The+River+By+MoonlightThe River, By Moonlight
Author: Camille Marchetta
Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing, Inc. 

Rating: 
Reviewed by:  Cheryl Malandrinos 

 

There are times as a reviewer that I feel inadequate. That no matter how eloquently I string together words, they fail to convey all that I found within the pages of a book. Such is the case with The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta.

On a rainy, gloomy night in April 1917, young artist Lily Canning falls to her death, drowning in New York City’s Hudson River. The vagrant who jumped in to try and save her tells police he doesn’t think it was an accident. As Lily’s family and friends try to come to terms with her death, they question why she would consider suicide at a time when her life was finally coming together. Having lived through the loss of her beloved father and a short, but horrific marriage, Lily’s first art show was coming up soon. It seems incomprehensible that she would choose to end it all now. But could she have done it? And what would this sudden loss mean to those who were left behind to go on living without her?

The River, By Moonlight is one of the finest pieces of literary work I have read in years. Told from the perspectives of family, friends, and the men who loved her–and there are many of those–the complex person who was Lily Canning unfolds like a blooming rose, starting off small, until it fully opens to reveal all its hidden treasures.

This story invokes strong emotions from the reader: the sense of loss felt by those left behind, the angst felt by the men who loved Lily–feelings she did not return, except once (and that ended terribly for both Lily and the man), the anger and confusion from those who suspected what Lily might have done, the constant torment Lily always dealt with until she was finally at peace, and the uncertainty of a country on the brink of entering World War I.

In an ingenious move, the last chapter is told from Lily’s perspective. Up to this point, the reader has only experienced Lily’s life secondhand. Now, they get to hear Lily’s story and understand the decisions she made and the mistakes she had come to live with.

What will make this story a winner with readers is the thorough development of the characters. Henrietta (Etta), Lily’s heartbroken mother, Edmund, the despised husband, Louis, the cousin secretly in love with Lily, Nuala, the servant girl and friend, and many others who allow the reader to experience the full gamut of emotions as Lily’s tale unfolds.

The River, By Moonlight is a powerful, gripping story. Exquisitely written, filled with diverse, well developed characters, and brimming with rich descriptions, Lily’s story is one that you will never forget.

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Emotionless Souls


Emotionless Souls
Author: David S. Grant
Publisher: Brown Paper Publishing
Rating: 
Reviewed by: Elaine Raterman

 

 

 

 

Emotionless Souls by David S. Grant is a wonderful collection of 20 vaguely surreal short stories, written in succinct, tight prose that perfectly sets the mood for each and every one.  The collection starts with the account of two couples spending New Year’s Eve in Dublin and ends with the account of one couple vacationing in Paris.  Between these two we encounter (among others) a poker game gone wrong, an office prankster who goes to extremes, a one-hit-wonder, a white-collar pickpocket, and an accountant who isn’t quite as boring as she first appears.  Unexpected plot twists abound and make each of the stories truly remarkable.

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St. John of the Midfield


St. John of the Midfield
Author: Garasamo Maccagnone
Publisher: Booksurge
Rating:
Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos

Powerful, thought-provoking, and filled with the love of the game, St. John of the Midfield by Garasamo Maccagnone is a literary fiction lover’s dream.

Told entirely as a flashback, Mario Santini begins by retelling the story of the night Bulgarian soccer great Georgi “Bobo” Stoikov shared with him how he and his brother Jordan, jumped from a speeding train to escape from Communist Bulgaria in the hopes of living the American Dream. All is lost when Jordan and Bobo are injured during the escape, but Bobo satisfies his love of the game by teaching youth soccer to travel teams. When Mario’s son Luca joins Bobo’s team, it sets in motion an intense one-sided rivalry between Bobo and a man from his past, which ultimately leads to Bobo’s death.

As a parent to a son who played youth sports, I can attest to the realism found within the pages of St. John of the Midfield–when the desire to win is so strong, that people do unspeakable things all in the name of victory. Opening the story with Bobo telling the story of his defection to Mario is pure genius, as it immediately draws the reader in and makes Bobo a sympathetic character. And the challenges Mario deals with as he tries to be a good man despite the ties to his Sicilian crime family, speak eloquently to the struggles all people deal with as they move through life. While a little heavy on the similies for my taste, this is an excellent read.

In St. John of the Midfield Garasamo Maccagnone combines youth soccer, the Sicilian mob, and the frailities of the human condition to create an entertaining and all too realistic portrait of youth sports that all adults will enjoy.

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