Quick listing

  • Victor J. Banis, LIFE & OTHER PASSING MOMENTS: A Collection of Short Writings
  • William B. Bradshaw PH.D., SINISTER AMONG US
  • Ed Brodow, Fixer
  • Herb and Muncy Chapman, The Blue Glass Candy Jar

 

  • Wally, Carlson, Annie's Second Wind
  • Bruce Cooke, THE IRISH RETRIBUTION
  • Whitney J. LeBlanc, BLUES IN THE WIND
  • Whitney LeBlanc, SHADOWS OF THE BLUES
  • Bryce R. Piper, ORLANDO’S VIGIL
  • Dr. Bob Rich, STRIKING BACK FROM DOWN UNDER: an Anthology of Short Stories
  • Dr. Bob Rich, THROUGH OTHER EYES, Twenty-six short stories
  • Susan Walerstein, DANCING ABOVE THE WAVES
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LIFE & OTHER PASSING MOMENTS: A Collection of Short Writings

By Victor J. Banis

Musings on passing moments and thoughts.

Mr. Banis’ “Life & Other Passing Moments” contains a collection of short tales, some based on ideology, some on faith, some snippets of larger works, and still others ask ‘what if.’

I have difficulty reviewing anthologies/collections as each story demands to stand-alone, be read alone, and still I must take turnaround time into consideration.

Mr. Banis’ offers precise writing with no additional wordage; he breathes life into each story.  I picture each as an individual painting showcasing its unique tale.

The stories didn’t grab me, though.  Maybe I needed more time, say one a month, in order to absorb them.  Maybe my mood dampened my mindset.

I do know “Life and Other Passing Moments: A Collection of Short Writings” earns a place in anyone’s escape-moment-reading-pile.  We all have one.  The pile or basket of books and magazines we reach into when we need a quick diversion, something to take our mind away.  Put Mr. Banis’ worthy work in your escape basket.

SINISTER AMONG US
By William B. Bradshaw PH.D.

Is it Satan or normal human greed?

Something wicked is happening in the small Christian Cyprus College located in Indiana and the Chief of the local FBI wants help.  The help he calls upon is educational lawyer, Russell Long.  Long knows just the man to uncover the secrets of Cyprus College.

Sixty-eight year-old, Bradley Green specializes in turning the finances of colleges back to the black.  More importantly, he’s a man who cannot be bought.

It is extremely difficult to write a review when I do not mix with the book.  From the book blurb, I expected a much different story than the one contained within.  Dr. Bradshaw’s style did not engage me.  I prefer more action than the telling of his character’s discoveries.

While SINISTER AMONG US does not work, for me, given Dr. Bradshaw’s bio a non-fiction book of his experience may be a more engaging read.

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Fixer

Ed Brodow

”This man is Harry Leonnoff!”

Harry Leonnoff is “The Fixer.”

“Fixer” is the story of one man’s life, his accomplishments and failures.

“Fixer” takes place during the times of 1898-1961, through various flashbacks.  Beware that during those times politically correct language was not in use.  I would like to say I enjoyed “Fixer” however the story didn’t grab me.  I didn’t understand why I should care about Harry.  For those who know the history of New York and Fiorello La Guardia…yes that La Guardia…you may enjoy this fictional glimpse into this time period.  Possibly think of the movie “Gangs of New York” but not so violent and some lessons learned.  However, I also missed the mark on “Gangs of New York.”

Mr. Brodow’s writing is clear.  His characters are individual and unmistakable.  Mr. Brodow has delivered a distinct feel for his story’s environment.

I will leave the final decision on “Fixer” up to you.

The Blue Glass Candy Jar

Herb and Muncy Chapman

What is more precious:  a mother’s love or her child’s gift?

“The Blue Glass Candy Jar” is a tale surrounding this question.  Spanning the years 1927 through to 1985, from Alabama to Florida, Herb and Muncy Chapman take you through one family’s journey.  A journey of constant learning, unending strength, unconditional love, and giving back.

When TJ wins his mama a blue glass candy jar, he has no idea the changes that simple jar will make in his family’s life.  Like the empty candy jar, TJ’s mama felt empty with the sameness of her life.  Now, this may seem selfish given their family was, not much, but better off than other folks around them.  But, Amelia (TJ’s mama) would like more for her and her family…just like all mothers.

Surprise.  One day, in true husband fashion, Hank (TJ’s daddy) declares they are moving to Florida.  There in Florida, the family fills their blue glass candy jar.

“The Blue Glass Candy Jar” is a beautiful story.  It is a simply written piece of fiction that will move your soul and stay in your heart.  Whether it’s the humour of childhood adventures or fear of depression and war, or the mysteries of love, Herb and Muncy Chapman take you there and leave you breathless and moved.

Thank you.  This is one book I am glad I did not miss.

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Annie's Second Wind

Wally Carlson

Abruptly the wizened figure that had been in a coma for three weeks sat up and pointed a gnarled finger at her sister. "Annie, the island farm is yours now. It is your legacy to guard." Annie winced, A DEATH BED PROMISE. A debt ridden farm in the middle of nowhere. How could it get worse? And then it did.... As the sole surviving relative to twin great-grandbabies, Annie is game, but the state says she's too old, too weird, and the farm still uses an outhouse. Annie needs a little help from her friends, a host of very eccentric aging American heroes with plenty of spunk to burn.

Review:

I know where this story is going and I don't want to go there, but I can't stop.

What makes for a great read? It's not sticking to every writing rule out there and it's not breaking every writing rule out there. It's not even working in the balance of the rules.

Let's be honest, there are few technically perfectly written books. Yes, breaking, bending, not following these rules can hurt a book's read. Would I...if I had been wearing my editor's hat...have offered different editing suggestions to this book, yes. Does that matter or is that part of my review, no. Why mention? Because there are some technical writing elements that did catch my eye.

HOWEVER, I've never cried to the point of not being able to see the page like I did with "Annie's Second Wind."

Eccentric characters...YES

Eclectic characters...YES

Believable characters? Just because I've not met many who I would relate back to Mr. Carlson's group of characters doesn't mean they don't exist. I hope they are out there, somewhere. This fictional group of people made me believe. They made me care. And, cry, they made me cry. They made me feel their loss, remember my own. They made me believe in them.

All that boils down to Mr. Carlson's writing of his story and characters.

This is not my average reading choice. Mr. Carlson's back blurb drew me in and I'm glad it did. I like his word phrasings. His setting and characters are clear.

Prepare for a wild ride...GO TUGBOAT GRANNIES!

On a more personal note, I'm from a family of strong women. I grew up with my aunts, cousins, mom, Nanny, and Great Aunts (and the men in our family). Sadly, I don't remember my maternal great-grandmother, but I know all about her. My daughter knows these women. Mr. Carlson reminded me not to take for granted their strength and impact on me and mine.

For Moby and his daughter. My dad passed away ten years ago from a re-appearing cancer. Nearly ten years before that he battled lung cancer. Now my dad was nowhere near Moby's character, but I envied and lived the fictional Christine's goodbye to her dad, Moby. I didn't get that goodbye as dad died in the ICU somewhat "out of it" medically, but I can recognize the truth in a fictional father/daughter relationship. Thank you, Mr. Carlson.

I'm not giving away story with the above, it's clear in the story what you will be getting, what you should be expecting. And it hurts. All I will say for the character Merriweather...dignity. Mr. Carlson, you brought dignity.

A technically perfectly written book? No.

An emotionally real reading? YES, and sometimes that's all that matters.

Mr. Carlson...thank you. Onward to "Annie's Third Wind."

THE IRISH RETRIBUTION

By Bruce Cooke

Revenge is a dish best served at the hands of an estranged daughter.

This is what Carrie’s Irish IRA Uncle thinks and what he hopes Carrie will do – kill her journalist father.

Tully Sanderson is a hard drinking, women-lover, war correspondent whose daughter believes killed her mother.  Faced with his daughter and her gun, Tully takes his child back through his life, his errors; his lost dreams and lost loves.  Will they survive the telling?

“The Irish Retribution” is, yet again, a very different read for me.  It is, at times, jumpy in its telling; however, Tully’s journey is memorizing.  Mr. Cooke’s writing places you in Tully’s shoes.

Tully’s travels start in his homeland of Australia and leads to the Emerald Isle where he finds love with the sister of a major IRA player.  When she dies, during a blotched IRA attack, her brother waits years for his revenge.

Left with a small child, Tully strikes out earning their living the only way he knows how – as a war correspondent.  Leaving Carrie with his sister and the long years away does not make Carrie’s heart grow fonder.  She feels abandoned, and even though she follows in her father’s footsteps, the unkind years are enough for her to believe an unknown uncle over her father.

Mr. Cooke takes Tully through the tropical heat of Vietnam to the battle weary lands of Sarajevo.  Through Mr. Cooke’s writing you will feel the powerlessness of these areas and learn to like Tully as he struggles with his life.

But, Mr. Cooke doesn’t stop with just a father/daughter tale.  He incorporates those Tully have left behind or who have left him.  Each character’s life is weaved throughout Tully and Carrie’s own existence.  Whomever said what you don’t know can’t hurt you should ask the children of “The Irish Retribution” they might disagree.

Thank you, Mr. Cooke for restoring my faith in mainstream fiction.  You gave me a tale that held my interest and has me wondering what happened after I closed the book.

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BLUES IN THE WIND

By Whitney J. LeBlanc

Life through another’s eyes.

“Blues In The Wind” is the story of one family, which I have no experience to draw on.  It is a story that starts during 1934 in Southern Louisiana and travels through to the early times of the Civil Rights Movement of the USA.  It is a story of a town split by the colour of your skin and even then it is split between who is lighter or darker than a “paper bag.” It is a story surrounding the freedom found in “juke-joints” filled with “gut-bucket music” and it is wonderful.

Mr. LeBlanc writes openly and blatantly; however, he is also subtle in his portrayal of life for African-Americans during this time.  His language is the language of the times, and given the attitude some of his characters have while using the “N” word, well, bigotry has no colour.  Would his main male character, Phillip Fergerson, have his job if he did not ‘gift’ his white boss with pork meat each year?  Would the story’s family have good medical care if Phillip did not ‘gift’ his wife’s white doctor boss with pork meat each year?  This is never said out loud.  It is an understated thought by Phillip’s son, Bobby, during one such trip.  The same trip where Bobby watches the friendship between his father and Stephen, “the only white person with whom Phillip was on a first-name basis,” and learns not everyone sees colour first and the person…not at all.

“Blues In The Wind” is also about a family falling apart at the seams.  Whether it is the mother’s hatred for the Blues (gut-bucket music) and her own snobbery or the child drawn towards the freedom and life within the Blues or the changing of the times, this family is travelling different roads and not all will survive.

And then there is the Blues.  The music that speaks from a person’s soul.  The music that pulls you up and out of your chair and demands you move with it.  The music that crosses all racial lines.  Mr. LeBlanc offers up a brief history of the best Blues singers and musicians and how they wove their way into our hearts and souls.  From Ma Rainey to Leadbelly and Bessie Smith through to B.B. King and his guitar Lucille, Mr. LeBlanc offers his readers the Blues right off the pages.

“Blues In The Wind” is massive in its content; however, Mr. LeBlanc writes with a simplistic telling that will haunt you.  Within these 330 pages I learned more about this time in the USA’s history than I ever did in school, and I felt it more than in anything I’ve read before.  Frankly, it is just a damn great read.

Thank you Mr. LeBlanc.

SHADOWS OF THE BLUES

By Whitney LeBlanc

The family history started in “Blues in the Wind” continues here in the “Shadows of the Blues” and Mr. LeBlanc’s mastery never stops.

Having your family torn apart by their own doings is hard enough to survive, but add the hatred, injustice, and fear of the historic times and it is a miracle anyone survived.  I know it is said – what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger – but just how much can anyone, any family, any group of people overcome.  Through “Shadows of the Blues” I felt I was walking the steps too many black/Creole/white men and women had to fight to walk.  How do you begin to say, Thank You.

And, the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties is only one small measure of fights fought in “Shadows of the Blues.”  The resounding results woven through Mr. LeBlanc’s fictional family had me in tears.  Mr. LeBlanc writes fear all too realistically.  Where his reader can feel the music of the blues wash over the pages, the fear of the times reaches out and grabs you by your guts, causing your blood to freeze and your lungs to cease functioning.

I hated seeing how beloved characters were hurt, changed and unchanged, and finally ended.  Yet, their stories were the poignant assets of the tale.  I loved the challenges, the drive, the fight and passion of these same characters.  Decisions made for the times and for those around them.  In the end, all we have are those we call family.

And then there is the Blues.  The music that started as the work chants of field slaves.  The music that continued to release a freedom locked inside.  Mr. LeBlanc still educates his readers with the Blues Greats and those who sing in the “Shadows of the Blues.”

Mr. LeBlanc is a writer I must share with my child.

Mr. LeBlanc…Thank You.

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ORLANDO’S VIGIL
By Bryce R. Piper

Everyone has a story.

I did not realize Mr. Piper’s story touches lightly on the subject of sexual child abuse.  He handles it with dignity and respect to those who have suffered and for those who find reading about it difficult.  Thankfully, I fall into the latter group.

ORLANDO’S VIGIL is the brief story of one soldier’s experience and how it changes him.  It is, also, the story of a neighbour and her new neighbourhood and how Orlando affects them.

Mr. Piper’s story is one answer to the question…why is that man sitting watching the children?

The answer is one of sadness, hope, and a reminder…we must watch the children.

STRIKING BACK FROM DOWN UNDER: an Anthology of Short Stories

By Dr. Bob Rich

Strength found from not being one of the strong.

Dr. Rich has written a group of short stories that showcase the humanity hidden in us all.  Some are from the perspective of those taken advantage of…bullied, some from the bullies.  Still other stories are seen through the eyes of those who will not accept the act of bullying.

There are also stories of human differences and triumphs over our shared differences.

“Striking Back from Down Under” is a deeply interesting read that at times is very uncomfortable.  I was unable to read it in one sitting, as I can with some anthologies, but over a course of weeks.  I have to admit some stories left me troubled, but all left me thinking.

Dr Rich’s writing is very clear-voiced and candid.  The stories are full and alive in their settings.

“Striking Back from Down Under” is a thinking person’s anthology to be enjoyed by all.

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THROUGH OTHER EYES, Twenty-six short stories

By Dr. Bob Rich

Bob is an unique writer.  His story ideas and thought process come straight from his life experiences and personal observations, more so than other writers.  Bob shares with his readers who he is, what he does and has done.  At the end of most stories he offers up how the story was born.

For “Through Other Eyes” he suggest we don’t or won’t want to read the stories straight through.  Sorry, Bob, I couldn’t stop myself.  I was enjoying them too much.

Heck, I’m hard-pressed to even point out any favourites.  Each story is different and run the gambit of genres.  Bob writes about families and everyday life.  He writes fantasy and science fiction.  Some have quiet reminders of lessons forgotten; some will lift your spirits and remind you to just believe.

Whether it is Bob, himself, or his life as a writer, mudsmith, or psychologist, I’m always in for a surprise when reading him.  By the way, you’ll have to check his website to find out what a mudsmith is.

Enjoy.

DANCING ABOVE THE WAVES
By Susan Walerstein

What do you do when you’ve planned your future and life throws you a curve…hope no one’s watching.

Jack McCalister is not a likeable character.  He’s cheating on his wife, stringing his mistress along, and now he’s pulled a hit and run killing a young woman.  And all he cares is that no one sees him, no one catches him.  Sorry, Jack, someone did see you and they know who you are.  Worse, yet, so did your mistress.

I had high hopes for DANCING ABOVE THE WAVES.  I loved the opening voice; sorry I don’t want to give it away.  I was prepared to have this voice continue through the story and was disappointed it wasn’t, might have made for a more insightful read.  As it is, I didn’t find myself caring for the characters.  I read them as too self-centered, which is probably why I don’t mix with drama shows, either.

I want my lead character’s flaws to be redeemed, at least at some point, to some degree.  DANCING ABOVE THE WAVES didn’t offer this with Jack.  I didn’t see him grow or learn and even the ending (nope, won’t tell) wasn’t enough for me.  As for those who lives were made more chaotic by Jack, I just didn’t find enough to satisfy me.

However, if you’re a fan of drama and fiction writing, you may find DANCING ABOVE THE WAVES a character novel to ponder.

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