Reviewing Indie Authors One Book at a Time

Archive for the ‘Literary Fiction’ Category

The Grey Forest – Maureen A. Griswold

grey-forest-griswoldThis collection swells with well-written, thought-provoking narratives of the lives of the everyday characters. Griswold lends captivating language to describe the daily situations both ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary and, in the process, touches on social and political issues.

Each story blends realism and symbolism into a consumable packet and creates a feast of meaningful literature I am so often starving for.

5 Stars





The Passion of Jazz – Nicholas Bridgman

The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories contains five short stories of mainstream fiction. Beginning with a tale of a love affair at a highly selective summer music program, these stories study the whims and follies of human nature. The stories are easy to read and took little time to consume.Passion of Jazz

I found the stories pedestrian and predictable, akin to reading assignments from a high school creative writing class. The language was flat and the dialogue came out sounding forced and overly planned. Each theme and its progression were telegraphed in the first few lines of the story in a formulaic manner. I was lost in one story, much like its characters, and wondered about the purpose when I suddenly reached the end with no sense of having gotten anywhere on the meandering path. The least predictable and the one with the most potential is “Grandfather’s Gift” – while the main character’s  change in outlook was predictable, the path on which he arrived at this change was not.

Bridgman possesses potential for writing interesting pieces of literature. These felt like early works in need of revising and revisiting or like non-fiction essays rather than fictional narratives. They lacked any color and spark that would hold my interest.

Amazon, Smashwords





The Dreaming – Barbara Wood

TheDreamingBarbara Wood uses meticulous research and elegant writing to create novels with believable characters and realistic settings that transport the reader to exotic countries and far off times. The Dreaming takes us to Australia in the Victorian Era, when Darwin is an upstart scientist and Jules Verne is writing his inspiring novels.

Young Joanna Drury of colonial India has lost both parents within days of each other and has made a promise to her mother to go to Australia in search of answers to the woman’s missing history. On her own and with only a tattered and water-stained deed to guide her, Joanna arrives in Australia looking for an obscure piece of land on a continent that has not yet been completely mapped. She carries with her a few belongings and a haunting set of dreams.

Joanna’s character is one you hope will prevail through a strong sense of sheer will, but I found that it was more the idea of keeping a promise that kept her going despite tremendous obstacles thrown up in her path. She might have given up on her pursuit of finding out her mother’s past if not for the pleading of her dying mother and the pressure of the confusing nightly images.

Each character introduced in this novel is written with purpose, whether it is to further Joanna’s goal, to define the history of Austalia’s native people and its colonists, or to block the young woman from finding the truth. The author’s rendering of character and setting exhibits extensive time and energy to get the details precise. Having recently completed a course on Australian literature, I was not disappointed by the interweaving of Aboriginal beliefs with the invasion of the white man into their lands creating a subtext of cultural destruction.

Sharyn Doolan offers her voice to this audiobook and adds to the enjoyment of the novel with her talented voice.

5 Stars – Elegantly writing and well-researched, a novel that takes you back in time.

From Cherry Hill Publishing and available on Amazon.







Retail Therapy – Nick Owen

Short Stories Banner

The short story “Retail Therapy” watches the decline of a human relationship over a matter of hours from the point of view of household goods in a warehouse store. Each segment anthropomorphizes daily objects – a pepper grinder, a sofa, a toilet brush, a meatball, among others –  giving them unique personalities to match each one’s perspective of the world. Covering an array of emotions from start to finish, the story is interlaced with humor, embarrassment, trauma and a sense of awakening, mirrored by the objects and their new owners.

Find the story on Nick’s Blog.




Two for the Heart – Stories in Pairs: Set One

tfh-egby Ekta R. Garg

Two for the Heart features two novella-length stories with emotional content. The first is romantic in nature and takes the reader on a journey faced by a young woman and the man she married, a marriage set up for convenience.  The second examines the toll of emotional trauma on a woman’s life and her struggle to regain lost memories.  Both are well-written and will keep you turning the page to find out what happens next.

4 Stars – Intriguing stories with strong emotional elements.


Available on Amazon.





Shaky Man – Mark S. Parker

“Life sure could get complicated for a sixth grader.”

Coming of age in the 1960s in Central Texas includes learning about racism and the unfair treatment of people of varying colors and backgrounds. Told from the point of view of an 11-year-old, Shaky Man takes us through the growth and maturing of a young boy growing up in a small town.SMMSP

Thomas Oliver Parsley, or “Topper” for short, just wants to win the  championship baseball game, watch Star Trek, and play basketball with his friends. New in town, he learns by word-of-mouth about Shaky Man, a mysterious recluse who lives alone, his existence tainted by rumors that he killed his own family and that he eats children. Topper takes a chance to discover what the man is really all about. At the same time, he experiences vicariously through his best friend Mickey Jackson, a black kid from Waco, how some people are treated differently just because they look different.  Topper comes through both lessons all the richer.

For middle grade readers, this short novel teaches that relying on anecdotal stories about people isn’t always the best way to learn about someone. If a story sounds unbelievable, it’s best to check the facts. If Topper hadn’t taken the time to talk to Shaky Man, also known as Dr. Boone, he never would have learned some fun and valuable skills or have found a mentor willing to explain some of the big problems in life.

“My papa taught me not to let other folks put their malfunctions on me. You shouldn’t, either.” ~Mickey Jackson

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble







Weekly Spotlight – The Ivory Caribou

The Ivory Caribou by Caroline McCullagh ic-cm

Fiction – Romance and Adventure – Inuit Culture

What Others are Saying

Is it a love story? Or is it an adventure story? Or is it a commentary on the tragedy of war? It is all of these, and more.  Caroline McCullagh weaves a thrilling and dynamic story around Anne O’Malley’s genealogical search for the story of her late husband’s father that takes her to the far North of Canada to find new relatives among the Inuit culture, to Europe behind the lines in World War I, and back to the small Inuit village where she finds romance. The Ivory Caribou won Best Unpublished Novel in the San Diego Book Awards.

In The Ivory Caribou, Caroline McCullagh has created an enduring love story between a sixty-year-old woman and a man of unusual ethnicity. The author’s real love, though, is of anthropology, history, and language. She is a luminous storyteller and wordsmith of the highest order.

Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English and Amazing Words


I haven’t had this much fun reading prose in a while. The story moves well, the characters are deftly drawn and the plots are so easily interwoven you won’t believe your mind.

Jim Bennett, Poet and Kindle Book Reviewer


About the Author

Caroline McCullagh, award-winning author of The Ivory Caribou, coauthor of American Trivia & American Trivia Quiz Book with Richard Lederer, earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Her diverse writing projects include five novels, a cookbook, a memoir, a student opera (under the auspices of San Diego Opera), fourteen years of monthly book reviews for the San Diego Horticultural Society, and one year as Books Editor for The American Mensa Bulletin.  For the past three years, Caroline has written a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune with Richard Lederer. As a professional editor, she teaches creative writing two days a week.  The Ivory Caribou, then titled Fire and Ice, was a past Winner at the San Diego Book Awards as Best Unpublished Novel. Caroline has won twice and has been a finalist once.



A Little Q&A

YA? NA? ADULT? Not specifically YA but suitable for Teens through Adult

Is it standalone or part of series?  Standalone but it is the first book in the Anne O’Malley Arctic Adventures

How would you describe your book?  Romance/Adventure/Genealogy Mystery  A fast read with a lot of information about Inuit Culture

How would you describe the main characters?   Anne is strong and grows Stronger.  Jack is a riddle wrapped in a mystery in an enigma

What do you think are the possible elements that will spark my interests?  
The anthropological detail that Anne conveys in a captivating way.

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