The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens

Reviewed by Lydia Nolan

You may have noticed, I am a fan of Allen Eskens. This is the last review of his novels since he’s written seven and I’ve read and reviewed them all, except this one. I have to wait until he writes another before I can review any more of his books, so here is the last review.

I will say, this one is a favorite of mine, although I say that about them all. I love that he uses characters in his books intermittently, but we recognize them from another of his books, use in point: the defense attorney in this novel–Boady Sanden–is the child in “Nothing More Dangerous.” Max Rupert, the detective is in a lot of his novels, and this one is no different, along with Nila the girlfriend of Joe in the first novel “The Life We Bury.”

This. plot (as pretty much all of his novels) is fast and can be read easily within one sitting, although who wants to do that? It takes the fun out of hanging with the characters you know and finding out who is on their crap list. So here goes.

There is a murder, but it is severely memorable, I wish I didn’t but imagery is pretty clear. The entire plot is between the defense attorney, Boady, his long time friend, Max, and a defense attorney that is being prosecuted for an atrocious reason. I won’t ruin it for you, but I will say, it’s a favorite of mine because the court case is intense and detailed to the point I want to visit court cases just to watch the movements; Eskens is, after all, an attorney.

It’s about the characters’ integrity, friendship broken and never to be mended, or at least not like before, and Max is not the main character here, but he is proven to become the main character in “The Deep Dark Descending.” You will just have to go to Eskens’ website, and try to read these in order. I did not, which is why I had to piece these together after reading them. I will have to read them again, in order as well. I wondered greatly what was meant by the title, “The Heavens May Fall.” I love how it was introduced in the book, fiat justicia ruat caelum (Let justice be done though the heavens may fall.)

You won’t be sorry reading his novels, and it won’t look bad in hardcover in your library of books either. Looks great in mine. Enjoy!

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

Dead Wake, by Erik Larson

by Eric Larson

Reviewed by Jeanne Garrett.

In May of 1915 the British Cunard Line cruise ship, the Lusitania on a return voyage from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Ireland, and sunk. This action led the Germans I boats for a time  to stop  civilian ships as targets on open waters but later German Military reinstituted this practice and that action  led to the United States involvement to help the British in World war One. 

Eric Larson sets the novel of real people’s lives to weave the current events of those 5 days into a story filled with historical personal accounts from newspapers, diaries, museums, the trial transcripts and military dispatches. 

Larson’s heavily researched history turns our focus on the main characters, Captain William Thomas Turner of the Cunard Cruise ship Lusitania and Commander Schwieger of the German U-boat, U-20 and the crew that sunk the Lusitania. The story  paints a picture of their personal lives and the influences they used for the decisions they made that marked history. 

For readers it’s not a dry list of facts from history, it’s a story about people with full characters from all walks of life, soldiers, new parents, children, business men, stowaways, prisoners, Americans, Europeans,British and Irish Citizens, and German spies. Most [of these passengers] experience a terrible fate and die. This story follows the survivors who after the horrific event go on to have world influencing careers during the first half of the 20th century. The footnote section at the end of the novel reads as a timeline of people we know in history from then US President and recently widowed, Woodrow Wilson, to the early military days of Winston Churchill.  There is the amazing rescue of Theodore Riddle a survivor that becomes a great female architect in the early 20th century, and also a description of war departments and political careers formed during the course of World War I.

Unlike the documentary type facts written about descriptions of WWI, Dead Wake allows the reader to think about the real lives of the characters and for us to draw our own conclusions about the actions of the passengers, crews, governments, and military of the day. Further, we are taken to wonder if the cruise ship could have been carrying disguised ammunition that would have made it a target during war. For the military buffs a full description from The German U-boat logs hold the entries describing being cut off from all communications for days at a time.  An excellent book for a book club discussion. An excellent book for an educator’s reference. A book that is hard to put down, entertaining and informative.

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

Reviewed by Lydia Nolan

©January 8, 2023

This novel is a true story, it is a heart wrenching journey of loss and love beyond our wildest imaginations. Hard to believe many people in other places from our own countries and/or lives might be suffering so severely to where their therapist even encourages them to write a true narrative about it, publish it, and see its living form in a reactive state to impact so many people in the world and to caution them in the concept of loving truly and deeply while we can, those that may disappear in an instant. In spite of the fact it will never really heal the author, only remind her endearingly of those who are gone, it still offers us an account of humanity in all its pockets of emotion: surprise, shock, devastation, weakness, disillusionment, anger, strength and resilience, in spite of the fact she might be a lasting wounded soul. After reading her story I must ask; how can any of us ever be so shallow as to live life casually after such an account? 

Beginning with the tragedy, the author gives us a blow-by-blow account of what it is to go through first a traumatic and frightening event, all the stages of its devastation, the shock, the unrealized guilt that creates coercive self-destructive behaviors, and finally toward a semblance of healing through the stages of grief that never really takes the pain away only allays it to some extent. Sonali only learns how to manage that excruciating history and that is as good as it will ever be.

The author’s account gave me a new outlook on what it must be like to truly experience the instant tearing away of a family and people we take for granted because we never suspect it can change in an instant. And not only that. I look at those I love, those I don’t know, those I even don’t care much for, and I see all these lives differently, especially those I love. I relish the interaction with my loved ones, and keep the memories of our interactions in my heart, for we never know when we might experience such a change—such a devastating change—as Sonali’s, in our own future. 

I have always been drawn to psychology and this narrative will give psych students and enthusiasts something to ponder deeply. I am inspired to study the stages of grief and its final stages; the outcome, acceptance, and learning to compartmentalize emotional states, just to function successfully, because of this book. Read it to the end, you will learn how to appreciate yours and others’ lives around you. You will likely read her bio of how she is now fairing, and you will see how such an event can change a person radically.

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

Red Flags, by Lisa Black

Red Flags by Lisa Black

Reviewed by Lydia Nolan

© December 4, 2022

Author Lisa Black has managed to work out a carefully constructed plot, as she moves the tension through, while we learn through foreshadow and deliberate character building, what happens when people create havoc through greed and what happens when people try to remedy their greed with manipulation and secrecy—it never works out as planned.

Dr. Ellie Carr is a Crime Scene Analyst who is called to investigate the case of a missing baby. When she arrives to the scene she is hit by a surprise she never expected. The mother of the missing baby is her long lost cousin, Rebecca Carlisle—Becca. Not that they were estranged, or either one was lost. They simply lost touch for the better part of 6 or 7 years, in which time Becca became a part of a power house couple in Washington D. C. This lends strain immediately to the plot because both Becca and Ellis came from impoverished beginnings, and further, Ellie was orphaned per se and went to live with her aunt and cousins as a young girl. So there are already complications with their relationship to begin. From here, we meet Becca’s husband, who raises the question of his distance—not only by physical and professional distance, but also by emotional support distance. Their daughter who is peculiar to say the least, and who seems troubled by the fact that her mother and father even had a second child, causes the reader to suspect this strange teenager as well as an absent nanny, who has oddly taken a trip to her homeland in south America at this troubled time. 

So you see, there are many characters who we can be suspicious of in regard to this missing child. There are even more characters, but I think suffice to say, it will make a careful reader of anyone of us, if you observe the foreshadows, the character flaws, the tropes, and the plot itself. I believe you will enjoy this read very much, as I did, and Author Lisa Black is a New York Times Bestselling author, so there is that. Convinced yet? Have good reading everyone.

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

The Shadows We Hide, by Allen Eskens

Review by Lydia Nolan

© January 10, 2023

This novel is a sort of, but not exactly, a sequel to “The Life We Bury” because it is about the same protagonist who is found in Allen Eskens’ award winning novel “The Life We Bury.”  It may be similar: a death, murder, discovery of a person’s true history. But where the two novels diverge is at the consequences of the storyteller. Talbert is the protagonist in both stories, only in “Life..” he is helping find answers to a man’s mistaken identity for no other reason than Joe Talbert’s own good journalistic prowess and his curiosity. Whereas in “The Shadows…” he investigates a death and possible murder of a man whose name is the same as his own; he never knew his father, so naturally, he wants to find out if this man has anything to do with him. The story twists and winds and I will tell no further, the people he learns from and the family he finds. The story also helps Talbert understand his mother, from whom he is estranged.

It’s another good read for the windy, rainy, wintry day or night, and a cozy mystery that creates curiosity in the reader as much as the main character. Just read it. You will understand the journalist, Talbert better AFTER you read “The Life we Bury.” I guess in a way, it is a sequel, so says Publisher’s Weekly. Enjoy.

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

The Guise of Another, by Allen Eskens

Review by Lydia Nolan

© January 9, 2023

Author Allen Eskens has a knack for writing fantastic plots. This plot is no different. Eskens draws a unique character of a cop with prestigious history into a questionable character of criminal corruption. While this occurs, much more happens in subplots. The most intense is that this detective has a brother who is also a detective and is trying to find out if his brother’s truly a criminal.

Alexander Rupert was an award winning detective whose character has since been tainted by questionable activity. He has been subpoenaed by a grand jury on suspicion of corruption. Meanwhile he investigates a car-accident whose fatal victim, supposedly named James Putnam, is not in fact the dead man’s true identity, but James Putnam died 15 years earlier. Further, if Detective Rupert can learn the truth, he may be able to sidestep the grand jury’s pursuit and if this turns out to be a major case he solves, it may be just what Detective Rupert needs to regain his respectability. 

But the investigation puts him in harm’s way. A Balkan wars sociopath called “The Beast” has been looking for Putnam for years. Putnam had something Basta wants. Now, Alexander is in The Beast’s radar, making Detective Rupert’s life in grave danger. To make matters worse, Rupert falls for the dead man, Putnam’s former girlfriend. But Alexander’s big brother and fellow police detective Max Rupert will come to his rescue and into a final showdown. No one ever said Allen Eskens only writes happy endings. He can write tragedy too. 

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

The Stolen Hours, by Allen Eskens

Review by Lydia Nolan

© January 9, 2023

A great read, how do I know? When a book keeps your nose in it, the book is worth reading, because it achieves the first step of writing, which I did not claim, but to which I do subscribe: 

“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone” (Author Donna Tartt.)

So I read another one of Allen Eskens’ books, (maybe I’m addicted to the ease and comfort of his themes and characters), which is “The Stolen Hours.” This book has the same amenities as his other books in the way of construct and context, but not content of course. 

Lila Nash is the protagonist of this story, and her boyfriend is the protagonist of the first of Eskens’ books, “The Life We Bury.” While her boyfriend, Joe Talbert, is in the realm of journalism, Lila Nash is an aspiring prosecutor and sees future success coming soon, but various obstacles create havoc for her as well as her becoming focused on a particular case that unearths a trauma in her past. There are a lot of subplots, with characters besides, and this is what makes it all effective, our having to keep a focus on the main plot and watching as well the smaller plots.

Another success story for the author and another good read for the readers–enjoy!

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

Nothing More Dangerous, by Allen Eskens

Review by Lydia Nolan

© January 9, 2023

It occurs to me that I have been reading this author quite a bit. For a couple of reasons. First, his writing–while grammatically and syntactically correct, as well as well-developed plot and characters, Eskens’ writing is not that difficult. I would gauge his content as easy to read for eighth to twelfth grade and beyond. But the plots, being that they are linear and not difficult to follow are rich with adventure, thought provoking, and climactic to a pleasurable end—most of them. Once in a while, we might find tragedy is the end, but not this one. This one is quite a happy ending indeed. 

The young protagonist, Broady is a mid-teenager boy, living in the Ozark Hills with his widowed mother, comfortably and acceptably in the right frame of mind and cultural tradition to that of the people in this small town. Until, Boady meets a young black boy of the same age, Thomas becomes his new best friend not to the joy of the townsmen, unacceptably to the townspeople, except the one neighbor that teaches him about racial bias, biracial love and true neighbor mentality. 

It is told from the perspective of the young Broady in first person. We grow with the young mind, and we see how Broady and his friend Thomas become phenomenal sleuths, as well as close friends to the maximum level, and to the point of near death. And even Broady’s love-life begins to bloom during these years. 

“The sadness–my term for it–had come to our house when my father died. As a child I had no better way to describe why my mother never smiled, why she sometimes shut herself in her room after supper or stared at the blue hum of a television until she fell asleep on the couch, why she never asked me where I was going when I charged out of the house in the mornings or where I had been when I came home late. For my mother, speaking seemed a thing that took effort, as if a heavy weight pressed her into efficiency and each word came with a price.” 

This is not the end of Broady either. He will be brought into another one of the following books. Read this, if you would really like to enjoy a fine book in the leisurely hours of your life. 

Posted in Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens

Review by Elizabeth Hamilton

© January 22, 2022

This novel is a thriller about a college student named Joe Talbert. He must write a biography on an elderly person, so he goes to a nursing home and meets a man named Carl Iverson, a Vietnam veteran who isa convicted murderer and rapist. Iverson served thirty years in prison but was paroled to a nursing home because he has terminal Cancer. Joe Talbert was looking for a hero about which to write. Instead, he finds a villain. Or, does he?

Characters are not necessarily who they seem to be. The plot unfolds with many twists and turns. The author uses imagery to impressive results. I could visualize every character and plot movement. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read about shifting identities and amateur sleuths.

Reviewed by:

Elizabeth Hamilton

Posted in International Intellectuals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Returned, by Jason Mott

 Review by Lydia Nolan, Editor

“The Returned”

by Jason Mott

ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1533-9Copyright 2013 by Jason Mott

Publisher: Harlequin  MIRA

$24.95 US, $27.95 CAN. 352pp.

Nothing is more satisfying than reading a spellbinding book from a new author who knows how to apply all the necessary ingredients to keep you reading. I have had that satisfying experience this weekend.

Author, Jason Mott, is a unique story craftsman, and reveals his exceptional talent in his new book, “The Returned.” I started reading it on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and never put it down until I finished it the same day, at 8:30 p.m. When I came out of the shock of realizing I was finished with the book, and also discovering that I was not there in the book, I cried. Yes. That is how mesmerized I was in the story.

Here are some technical points about the creative mind of the author I wish to point out. There is definitely a well thought out plot, with multiple subplots that could turn into other books in the future. Secondly, the author skillfully injects a cathartic character (read Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments in the back–I always read those first) endearing the reader to that particular character, which serves to compel the reader to forge through the morass of events and see what happens to, and why   that character is so important to the story: is he a string in the unraveling yarn that will carry us to the conclusion? Or–just a good distraction? Finally, one of its major characters is ejected from the story, but since the story itself is not based on natural phenomena, it is possible to see that character again in future books (I hope!). Based on surreal events in the story, and if I had to characterize the book within a genre, I would have to say it is a toss-up between Magical Realism and Gothic or philosophical Horror.

Most old veteran story-makers know how to pull a yarn, and so it is with this new author who works exceptionally well to weave a tale that appeals to the widest audience possible. Here are a couple examples: in the plot, a focused reader can almost count the complications and will feel drawn to make conclusions that seem natural to make. Remember though, this is not a natural story. At the very beginning, Motthijacks the reader’s expectations by throwing an immediate curveball. This is the main string in the plot that pulls the reader headlong into the story with but does not lead you to, the truth of what the reader expects to find out–which is the Phenomenon that runs through the whole story. If one is curious enough to keep pulling the yarn, one thinks oneself astute enough to know what’s next–again–but it is never what the reader expects. Remember: it is not a natural story, but a terrifying phenomenon–yes: terrifying. I use that word deliberately.

And such a terrifying phenomenon is the thematic yarn that pulls you through the story. The Denoument never really happens regarding the Phenomenon, but instead, the author takes us deeper into the minds and hearts of the characters, which is ingeniously structured to make the reader ponder long after the book is over: what would I have done if this happened to me, to us, today? And: Who do I think would go wrong, right, haywire, or die…Or “return” and would I do what Harold or Lucille did? Or instead, would I be like Fred, or would I have been complacent as Bellamy?

In short, the story gets under your skin, into your mind, and pains your heart, exactly as an extraordinary story should do. I refuse to waste time telling you the plot. You need to read the book yourself, then find others that would debate the ending with you. And the ending IS a debate, I can assure you. I am hoping for a sequel, and fast!

Posted in International Intellectuals, Philosophical Musings | Leave a comment