Written by B. Lynn Goodwin and Reviewed by Ann McCauley
This Kid Has Got Talent!
B. Lynn Goodwin’s formidable debut Young Adult novel, Talent, is told through the voice of 15 year old Sandee Mason. It is about the challenges she faces as she attempts to establish a separate identity from the life-force left by her big brother, Bri.
When Bri leaves for the army she feels like a miserable only child living under his shadow. Yet, she misses him more every day, especially since he went missing in Afghanistan seven months ago. She hears Bri whispering encouragement to her but when she turns around, there is never anyone there.
The author’s insight into the thought processes of teenagers is evident throughout the novel. Wit and stark honesty make Talent an incredibly gripping novel. Complicated layered characters and compelling plot twists maintains the reader’s interest. I wanted to know what would happen, but I didn’t want the book to end. I want to know what happened after the story ended. I hope this is the introductory novel of a Coming of Age series about Sandee.
Slightly on the chubby side, Sandee munches M&M’s on her way throughout the novel. It is her way of dealing with stress. And stress she has to the umpteenth degree. Teen drinking, petty jealousies regarding boys and parts for the high school musical Oklahoma, dysfunctional parents who are totally preoccupied with her missing brother, underage driving, her brother, Bri’s high school girlfriend’s disloyalty, being scapegoated unfairly and somehow coming through it all a stronger more confident person. Bri is with her more in spirit than while he was the high school super star athlete and honor student.
Sandee didn’t want anything except a singing part in Oklahoma, instead she becomes the assistant stage manager. Mystery and intrigue almost curse the musical. Resourceful Sandee saves the day with the help of the stalwart Mrs. G. Sandee’s resolute courage made her my new hero in much the same way Katniss Evergreen did in the Hunger Games. The target reading group for this novel is high schoolers. But don’t let the age thing stop you; this book is for anyone who likes great writing and a powerful pageSandee didn’t want anything except a singing part in Oklahoma, instead she becomes the assistant stage manager. Mystery and intrigue almost curse the musical. Resourceful Sandee saves the day with the help of the stalwart Mrs. G. Sandee became my new hero in much the same way Katniss Evergreen did in the Hunger Games. The target reading group for this novel is high schoolers. But don’t let the age thing stop you; this book is for anyone who likes great writing and a powerful page turner.
THE MISSING KENNEDY: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women
Written by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff and reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 978-1610881746
The Mistake that Led to Grace
Rosemary Kennedy’s father was promised that a lobotomy would normalize his daughter. It would get rid of her violent outbursts. Instead she became paralyzed and unable to speak. Through the care and love of the Sisters of Coletta, Rosemary came into a life of acceptance and peace, despite the fact that life as she had known it was gone forever. The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women is a story that only Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff could write. Her aunt, Sister Paulus, became Rosemary Kennedy’s caregiver after the surgery and was available to help Rosemary until she died at the age of 86.
After the procedure, Joe Kennedy sent Rosie to Saint Coletta, a Catholic-run home for the mentally disabled in rural Wisconsin. For the next two decades, she never saw her siblings, her parents, or any other relative. The doctors insisted that family visits would be emotionally disruptive to Rosie.
Following Joseph Kennedy’s stroke in 1961, however, the Kennedy family, led by mother Rose and sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, resumed face to face contact with Rosie.
Part memoir and part biography, this book explores similarities in the experience of both the narrator and Rosemary Kennedy. Both felt like outsiders. Both dealt with misunderstandings about mental and emotional challenges. Both came from a strong Catholic background. The similarities outweighed the socio-economic differences. The narrator became aware of the similarities when she visited her aunt, Sister Paulus, who was Rosemary’s favorite caregiver.
Special Olympics was born because of Rosemary Kennedy’s situation. The author traces how, entirely because of Rosie, the Kennedy and Shriver families embarked on a far-reaching campaign advancing the cause of the developmentally disabled.
Both Rosemary Kennedy and her aunt Sister Paulus gave far more to the world than they could have imagined, and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff shares their stories and many photos from her personal collection that help us see behind the scenes. If you’d like to know more about Rosemary Kennedy, the Kennedy legend, disabilities and dignity, or Special Olympics, don’t miss this book.
A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS
Written by Alice Orr and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 9781511796866
Alice Orr Books
Whatever Became of Hailey and Julia?
What keeps a friendship alive and what interference can bury it? Alice Orr explores this and much more in her eleventh novel, A Year of Summer Shadows.
Hailey Lambert and Julia Hargate are friends until Julia’s mother interferes in their girlhood secrets. Hailey’s father works as an investigator for Julia’s father, an attorney. When Hailey goes to law school and Julia plays the role of bad girl, just to see how her mother will react, the two drift apart. Julia falls into a path of self-destruction that leads to a murder charge, and she needs her former best friend Hailey to rescue her. To do so, she must examine the haunting memories of both their doomed fathers. Hailey’s father was burned to death. Julia’s drowned. Hailey troubleshoots and theorizes with Mark Kalli. The sexual tension between them is palpable. Hailey secretly longs for a relationship, even though she is outwardly resistant because his family has so much more money than hers does. Their tensions, expectations, and eventual surrender keep the reader rooting for them.
Orr artfully develops plot twists. As she moves toward the conclusion, her tension escalates. She pulls readers in with her descriptive, sensory details, her clues planted chapter by chapter, and her sympathetic, complex characters. She keeps you guessing at outcomes and turning pages until the very end.
Orr is a former book editor and literary agent who teaches the craft of writing. She is the author of 13 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No Now she lives her dream as a full-time writer of romantic suspense stories. If you love romance and suspense, you won’t want to miss this mixture of the two.
WOMAN WITH A SECRET
Written by Sophie Hannah and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Secrets Within Secrets
Sophie Hannah’s WOMAN WITH A SECRET is an extraordinary thriller with an exceptionally unreliable narrator. Maybe it’s not her narrator, Nicki Clement’s fault that she’s unreliable, as you’ll discover when you read tje story. Maybe Nicki does the best with what she has. Nicki will keep you entertained, absorbed, and perhaps a little shocked. You may even want to rescue her.
Housewife Nicki Clements keeps secrets—from her husband, her kids, her family—secrets she shares with only one person: a stranger she’s never seen, whose voice she’s never heard. One day she is arrested for the murder of a man she’s never met because she was seen driving on his street once too often. As the investigation deepens, all Nicki’s secrets are revealed—but even the truth might not be enough to save her now. Because although Nicki isn’t guilty of murder, she’s far from innocent.
With WOMAN WITH A SECRET, Hannah has created a unique locked room mystery that questions the very nature of secrets. Asking, are all secrets inherently bad? Must we be completely truthful with those closest in our lives? Or, is it important to keep secrets—for self-preservation or to protect those you love? Her writing and the pace at which she reveals details will keep you mesmerized. So will her fascination with secrets, dissatisfaction, and unwise coping skills.
Hannah keeps readers guessing at every turn—no one is who they seem to be and everyone has a secret to tell. This is a must-read for those who love contemporary psychological thrillers.
THE BEST SMALL FICTIONS
Guest Editor: Robert Olen Butler, Series Editor: Tara L. Masih, Reviewer: B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 978-1-938466-62-5
Queen’s Ferry Press
A Source of Inspiration
Good flash fiction is like an image that has been photo shopped. It’s a moment tinted by the perception of a specific point of view. It’s reality as it is remembered, perceived, or distorted. It can be a sentence or 50 words or 500 or 1000. It often makes the reader say either “Wow” or “What?”
Guest Editor Robert Olen Butler and Series Editor Tara Masih, have collected 105 pieces by skilled authors from around the world and published them in the first edition of Best Small Fictions of 2015. The subject matter varies from spelling lessons to ghosts to marriage to unbirths and beyond. Each one stretches the mind with a blend of lyrical phrasing and unexpected meanings. Even the pieces that are grounded in reality take surprising turns somewhere, and those that deliberately distort reality with a fever, a dream, or a dive into a field of emotions make readers appreciate the power of each writer’s poetic instincts.
James Keegan’s “Last Exit Before Toll” explores right and wrong when a young girl asks the narrator for gas and toll money. Lindsey Drager’s “Reasons for Elevators” is look at a son’s unbirth (read it to learn what that means), while Randall Brown’s “Lithopedion” is an unusual and extreme look at the loss of a baby. George Choundas writes about clean hands, flecking lights, and a doctor delivering bad news in “You Will Excuse Me.”
All authors should be proud that their work was chosen for Best Small Fictions of 2015 It is a new enterprise that will grow in importance and a source of inspiration for any writer who feels overwhelmed or burned out. A couple of Q&A’s at the end inform us about the craft and make this an excellent book for poets and prose writers taking their writing to the next level. Pick up a copy and savor the diversity.