Broken Sky by Saurav Dutt

broken skyBroken Sky by Saurav Dutt is a very cerebral and involved mystery, character study, and social commentary. The story begins on the streets of Manhattan as a middle-aged cop stops to talk to a very unique homeless woman. The woman has clearly been on the streets for some time, but is wearing expensive items, such as a minx coat and diamond rings. She carries with her two suitcases, the contents of which she seems to have no memory, as she claims to have amnesia.

The scene soon changes to follow Andie, a young mother recently moved to Manhattan with her son because she is divorcing her husband. Dutt’s portrayal of these characters, their situations, and their world is incredibly detailed. The reader soon becomes engrossed in their stories, wondering what these two seemingly separate situations have to do with each other. The story quickly becomes a mystery as the reader finds out that Andie’s father is a convicted felon, her mother is presumed dead, and the homeless woman is searching for something important, running from something sinister.

The cover of the novel is beautifully done. It depicts the figure of a woman carrying a suitcase back dropped with rich colors. The reader will immediately want to know who the woman is and where she is heading, a question whose answer is not simple or easy, but fraught with danger, hurt, and uncertainty.

Although the formatting has some glitches (sometimes two or three different characters talk in the same paragraph, making it hard to follow conversations, some sections have weird spacing issues, and in the first part of the novel, dialogue is denoted with a single apostrophe instead of two and then it switches, etc.), these errors cannot fully distract from the rich detail of Dutt’s prose and the intricate characterization of the people and their situations.

Despite small editing issues and bits where the timeline gets jumbled and confusing, Dutt spins a beautifully written mystery and commentary on relationships, both familial and otherwise.

Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

Kaylee’s Ghost by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Book Cover Image-1Kaylee’s Ghost by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is a tale full of emotion, history, love, loss, and family. It begins with Miriam awaiting the birth of her first grandchild, Violet. Miriam is a psychic who longs for someone with which to share her gifts. She was incredibly close to her Bubbie because her own mother did not accept Miriam’s abilities. Now, she hopes that Violet will connect with her, as her daughter Cara also shuns her talents.

Violet is born with incredible psychic faculties. Miriam is overjoyed by this and immediately begins to nurture Violet’s premonitions and mind-reading skills. At the same time, however, Miriam is devastated because Cara, her daughter and Violet’s mother, pushes her further and further away. Their disagreement over whether psychic abilities are a gift or a curse causes a huge rift between not only these two, but also the entire family. To make matters worse for Miriam, she must make some tough decisions surrounding a long-time client, which ultimately affects the family as well.

Shapiro writes characters in incredible detail. The reader will be extremely engrossed in these people’s lives.  Their relationships are real, complex, and fraught with such emotion that the reader will be deeply carried along in the story. The reader will laugh, cry, and heave a huge sigh when all is said and done.

Along with intricate characters and relationships, the story is intense and constantly evolving. Will Miriam be able to mend the rift between her daughter and herself? Will Violet be able to live a normal life? How does Kaylee fit into all of this? These questions will not be answered until the very last page and beyond. The reader should carve out a significant chunk of time if she decides to begin this book because she will not be able to put it down!

Kaylee’s Ghost

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Copyright 2012

Mostly Madly by Patrick Fealey

mostly madly cover (4)Mostly Madly by Patrick Fealey is a stream-of-consciousness novel about life, self, and relationships. It begins with Tommy Risk sitting on the beach grieving over a lost love, drinking scotch, and admiring a pretty girl. This sets the tone for the whole story as Tommy spends the course of the book bouncing between multiple women, jobs, and emotional states. He is a journalist who aspires to be a novelist, a man who enjoys having no responsibilities, longing for love, but settling for sex. This is his journey of self as he attempts to repair it in the freedom after a long-term relationship.

Fealey writes an interesting story with many twists and turns. Just when it seems as if Tommy is finally settling down, something else changes his mind. The reader will enjoy learning about the intricacies of the male’s perspective in relationships. The stream-of-consciousness allows the reader to live the story as Tommy, to know exactly what he is thinking at all times. Fealey’s prose is simply beautiful at times—the way he describes landscapes and intimate scenes is lovely.

Though the format of the novel allows the reader to be in the moment, it also has one drawback. There are times when the timeline makes little sense. One second, Tommy is thinking about a date with Felicia or Justine, and the next, the reader is back in time or forward in the future. There are points in the narrative where the reader may be unsure whether Tommy is talking about his past or his present. Moreover, as internal thought, the prose has a tendency to ramble on and the reader may find their mind wandering off as well.

There are benefits as well as drawbacks to the stream-of-consciousness format. In the end, however, Fealey spins a tale of love, loss, and self-awareness that is poignant and relevant.

Mostly Madly

Patrick Fealey

Copyright 2012

Building Long-Term Relationships by John W Leoff

perf6.000x9.000.inddBuilding Long-Term Relationships by John W Leoff is like a textbook for marriage; there is a chapter for almost any topic that can affect your relationship with your spouse, complete with cited research and multiple examples. Leoff tells the reader from the very beginning that this is not a book that you can read cover-to-cover easily; it is better used as a learning tool—working chapter by chapter with your partner and answering the questions provided to better learn about the self and the relationship.

Leoff’s chapters cover almost every aspect of life. He discusses topics that directly affect a marriage, such as communication and problem solving. In addition to the common sense issues, he also deals with aspects that the average person wouldn’t think to associate with their marital problems—family dynamics earlier in life, stages of childhood development, and dealing with change not only in the private sector but the public one as well. Every chapter introduces the topic before explaining in immense detail each aspect and how it relates to a person’s relationships. Leoff cites numerous professionals and follows everything up with examples from society as well as from personal sessions.

Referring to Building Long-Term Relationships as a textbook is the closest analogy the reader can make. This book is packed with information. So much information that at times it can be extremely dense and the reader may find their eyes glazing over. If the reader is looking for a book to provide answers for a “quick-fix” to their marital problems, they will be disappointed. Leoff cautions that there is no quick fix, and he does not waver. When addressing a topic, he exhausts all avenues and sometimes doesn’t even tie in to marriage until the very end of the chapter. This book is for the reader who wishes to fix or sustain their relationship, but who also wishes to know how the self operates, how society operates, and how he or she can reconcile differences that cause tension in marriage as well as internally in the self.

Trigger by Susan Vaught

Trigger by Susan Vaught is a story narrated by Jersey Hatch, a high school senior who has suffered a brain injury and cannot remember the last year or so of his life.  His story begins as he is being released from Carter Brain Injury Center after nearly a year of therapy and rehabilitation. The subsequent tale is a jumble of words, thoughts, emotions, and relationships as Jersey tries to re-establish his identity and continue living his life.

Because Jersey is the one narrating the story, the reader only knows what Jersey knows as he figures it out.  In the first couple of chapters, the reader learns the details of Jersey’s situation.  As Jersey returns home from Carter with his parents, he shares numerous details about his new life.  The reader learns that he must keep a memory book with him so that he can write down ideas that he does not want to forget, that he doesn’t remember the year before his injury and almost a complete year after.  As a result of his brain injury, he has lost motor function in his left leg and arm as well as his eyesight on the right side.  In addition to the physical effects, he also seems to have no filter in his brain and he cannot help but say words that pop into his head – over and over again.  This repetition sometimes makes his conversations hard to follow.

The reader begins to feel sorry for Jersey because of all these hardships; however, as the car approaches his home, the reader learns a shocking fact: Jersey Hatch took his father’s gun and shot himself in the head.  The big mystery – he has no idea why.

Inside the house, the reader learns even more about the situation. Before, Jersey was on the football team, the golf team, an in ROTC. He had a best friend, wanted to be a lawyer, and got straight A’s.  Now, his best friend Todd hates him, his old friends are ignoring him, and his parents are acting strange.  The only two people who seem to accept the new Jersey are Leza, Todd’s younger sister, and Mama Rush, Todd’s grandmother.  As the novel continues, these two seem to be his only functional support.

Vaught has written an extremely poignant novel.  Throughout the entire novel, the reader is inside the head of a young man who decided to take his own life and is now attempting to rebuild it.  It is a novel that attempts to address the question of why anyone would decide to commit suicide and if there are any reasons that would bring closure for surviving loved ones? It is also a novel about moving forward after tragedy – how does one rebuild relationships, trust, and self after something so horrific?  There are times the reader will want to comfort Jersey and there are times when she will want to shake him and ask “why did you put your family and friends through this? Did you mean to be so selfish?”  This entire novel is intense: the emotions are intense, the ideas are intense, and the descriptions are extremely vivid.


Susan Vaught

Copyright 2011