A Season in Lights by Gregory Phillips

Book Description:

In the colorful artistic underworld off-Broadway, Cammie, a dancer in her mid-thirties, has just landed her first part in a show since coming to New York City. Yet the tug of familial obligation and the guilt of what she sacrificed to be there weigh down her dancing feet. Her lover, Tom, an older piano player, came to the city as a young man in the 1980s with a story eerily in tune with Cammie’s own. Through their triumphs and failures, both learn the fleeting nature of glory, the sweetness of new love, and how a dream come true isn’t cherished until it passes. The bright lights of the stage intoxicate, while degradation and despair lurk close behind the curtain. Their sagas are marred by two pandemics, AIDS in the 1980s and COVID-19 today, which ravaged the performing arts community, leaving a permanent scar on those who lived through them. The poignant intersection of their stories reveals a love affair unbound by time, reaching across decades through the notes of a piano’s remembered song.

A Season in Lights: A Novel in Three Acts by [Gregory Erich Phillips]

My Book Review:

In Gregory Phillips dynamic novel, A Season in Lights, the city of New York is in a constant state of becoming as seen from the perspective of two artists: a stary-eyed dancer named Cammie, come to the city from Lancaster, Pennsylvania in search of Broadway, and Tom, a black piano player from the mean streets of the Bronx, seeking a career as a classical pianist against all odds.  

In language as fluid and graceful as the performers portrayed in alternating chapters, A Season in Lights beckons the reader to New York City’s inner sanctum. The atmosphere is electric, it glows and pulses with vibrancy, and Cammie, a ballet dancer and divorcee in her mid-thirties, sees the opportunity to dance on Broadway as her life’s second chance. Through a Times Square cab window, Cammie remarks, “I eagerly looked out at the neon glow and bustle of activity. The lights! Their glow had lured me here. The stage lights made me feel alive again.”  

Tom, grounded and practical, knows a bit about life’s underbelly having witnessed the mistakes his hoodlum brother made. He takes a job as a ballet studio’s accompanist and plays it safe while keeping his eye out for classical opportunities. The ballet master takes Tom aside and insightfully says of New York City, “You get to choose your class here. It’s not determined by your upbringing. It doesn’t matter that you’re black or that I’m gay. It doesn’t even matter how much money you have. All you’ve got to do is convince people that you belong. You’ve got to tell them who you are before they tell you.” 

A Season in Lights is a layered story. As the main characters struggle to actualize their dreams, each has a backstory to surmount. Small town girl Cammie feels guilty about moving to New York and abandoning her younger sister. She is prone to depression and torn over family obligations, on the fence about where to plant her roots. Of New York’s many merits, Cammie, on a visit back home, says to her sister, “What’s so wonderful about people in New York is that they’re all doing something. Nobody’s in New York by accident, not even people who were born there. Being there takes effort and purpose.” In considering her options of whether to stay in the city or move back home, Cammie realizes, “Ultimately, a good life for a dancer in New York would amount to scraping by and enjoying it.”

Tom, dutiful to his mother, is entrusted with his unpredictable brother’s safe keeping, even as his sibling plays too close to the edge. When push comes to shove, Tom prioritizes, and eventually finds the courage to save himself by walking away from his brother’s drug-related troubles.

What’s so compelling about this well-written New York set story is how well the author knows the city. The reader is taken to restaurants via hidden alleys, guided down side streets for late-night jazz, and taken into celebrated theatres both on Broadway and off. Author Gregory Phillips knows ballet positions and accurately speaks the language. When it comes to music, the writing is such that you can hear the compositions.

A Season in Lights is a modern day, tightly crafted story concerning artists living in the heartbeat of the fabled Big Apple. It’s a human story about passion and ambition; a fantastic foray that explores the myth and magic of New York City.   

The author, Gregory Phillips

Biography

From a prolific literary family, Gregory Erich Phillips tells aspirational stories through strong, relatable characters that transcend time and place. Living in Seattle, Washington, he is also an accomplished tango dancer and musician.

Gregory Erich Phillips

Available online where books are sold!

Gregory Erich Phillips (Author of Love of Finished Years) | Goodreads

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Release Day: The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley!

The Invisible Husband of Frick Island

Image of The Invisible Husband of Frick Island

The Invisible Husband of Frick Island links the modern world with the past on a small island struggling to stay afloat literally and figuratively. It’s a lively, heartwarming story with eccentric characters depicting the lengths a small community will go to in support of one of its own.”

Piper Parrish lives on Frick Island and works at the local deli. At the end of every afternoon, she waits on the marina’s dock for Tom’s boat to come puffing into the harbor after “squeezing in every minute of the government-allotted eight hours of crabbing per day.” Piper and Tom are newlywed, childhood sweethearts, and Piper is patient for her husband’s return. “Time on the rustic Frick Island had always been more of a theoretical concept measured in jiffies or whiles or later ons,” so she is used to delays. When a boat captain tells her Tom radioed for help during a storm earlier that morning, and that his boat is now missing, Piper holds out hope for Tom’s return, even when his boat is found at the bottom of the sea four days later.  

My Full Review is Here:

https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/invisible-husband-frick-island

Colleen Oakley is the USA Today bestselling author of You Were There Too, Close Enough to Touch, Before I Go, and the forthcoming The Invisible Husband of Frick Island (May 2021). Colleen’s novels have been longlisted for the Southern Book Prize twice and Close Enough to Touch won the French Reader’s Prize. Her books have been translated into 21 languages, optioned for film and have received numerous accolades including:

Colleen Oakley

A former magazine editor for Marie Claire and Women’s Health & Fitness, Colleen’s articles and essays have been featured in The New York TimesLadies’ Home JournalWomen’s HealthRedbookParadeWoman’s DayFitnessHealthMarie Claire and Martha Stewart Weddings. A proud graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of journalism, Colleen currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids, four chickens, two guinea pigs, and one fish.

Colleen Oakley
Colleen Oakley’s Website Colleen Oakley | Atlanta-based Writer and Author

Book Description: THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND

Sometimes all you need is one person to really see you. 

Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island—a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay—is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her darling husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?

Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper—but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.

USA Today bestselling author Colleen Oakley delivers an unforgettable love story about an eccentric community, a grieving widow, and an outsider who slowly learns that sometimes faith is more important than the facts.


WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND:

“An utterly charming story brimming with heart and humanity. This is the hopeful book we all need right now. I loved it!” Emily Giffin#1 New York Times bestselling author

“Sweet, quirky, surprising, and altogether lovely, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is everything I long for in a book. I fell in love with Oakley’s sparkling prose, charming characters, and quaint island setting. This is a story I can’t wait to revisit, again and again. A must read.”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read 

“What’s a town to do when a recent widow keeps talking to her husband that no one else can see? Follow along, of course. Colleen Oakley’s captivating The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is populated with quirky characters that stole my heart. Make this your summer read and discover the joys of a delicious Frick Island cake, the sanctuary of a tight-knit community, and the hope of second chances.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

“A gently told story of grief, community and ambition, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is imaginative, lovely and full of surprises.”—Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Always the Last to Know

“This twisty, never-predictable novel is exactly what we’ve come to expect by Oakley—a romantic mystery with a hopeful message and wonderful characters. I was surprised on every page!”W. Bruce Cameron, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose

Available where books are sold!

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You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad

“In lively, descriptive language, Dianna Rostad has penned a heart-warming, epic story built on the premise of a search for belonging that reads as an odyssey in all that it takes to find the heart of one’s family.”

A sweeping, atmospheric story set in cattle country, Bull Mountain, Montana, You Belong Here Now is a heart-tugging, home on the range story told through a wide-view lens with panoramic perfection.

Author Dianna Rostad gives context for this enthralling story in her author’s note on page one: “From 1853 through the early 1900’s, The Children’s Aid Society in New York rescued over 120,000 orphans living on the city streets in the aftermath of war, Spanish Flu, and immigration. The orphan train carried them out to the rick soils of farms and ranches.”  

My Full Review is in the New York Journal of Books: a book review by Claire Fullerton: You Belong Here Now: A Novel (nyjournalofbooks.com)

Dianna Rostad

ABOUT DIANNA

Dianna Rostad was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her parents and extended family come from the ranches of Montana and the farms of Arkansas. Dianna raised three kind, human beings, and when they began to test their wings, she took to writing with a passion, completing Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program in 2009. A favorite task of her creative endeavors is the discovery and research of people and places where her novels are set. She has traveled extensively to pursue the last artifacts of our shared history and breathe life, truth, and hope into her novels. Now living in Florida, Dianna continues to write big-hearted novels for wide audiences everywhere.

May be an image of book and text that says 'love this book, and guarantee you won't find finer debut work anywhere." -William Kent Krueger You Belong Here Now NOVEL "From the moment the reader steps on the train with these orphaned children, You Belong Here Now shows how beauty can emerge from even the darkest places." -Erika Robuck ON SALE NOW DIANNAROSTD DIANNA ROSTAD'

In this brilliant debut, three children take the orphan train from New York City to the Big Sky Country of Montana, hoping for a better life where beautiful wild horses roam free.

Montana: 1925. An Irish boy orphaned by Spanish flu, a tiny girl who won’t speak, and a volatile young man who lies about his age to escape Hell’s Kitchen, are paraded on train platforms across the Midwest to work-worn folks. They journey countless miles, racing the sun westward.

Before they reach the last rejection and stop, the oldest, Charles, comes up with a daring plan, and alone, they set off toward the Yellowstone River and grassy mountains where the wild horses roam.

Fate guides them toward the ranch of a family stricken by loss. Nara, the daughter of a successful cattleman, has grown into a brusque spinster who refuses the kids on sight. She’s worked hard to gain her father’s respect and hopes to run their operation, but if the kids stay, she’ll be stuck in the kitchen.

Nara works them without mercy, hoping they’ll run off, but they buck up and show spirit, and though Nara will never be motherly, she begins to take to them. So, when Charles is jailed for freeing wild horses that were rounded up for slaughter, and an abusive mother from New York shows up to take the youngest, Nara does the unthinkable, risking everything she holds dear to change their lives forever.

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PRAISE FOR YOU BELONG HERE NOW

“Dianna Rostad has written a story in a narrative voice so fine and true it settles over you like a warm comforter. Set against the harsh backdrop of western Montana, You Belong Here Now is a novel as straightforward and powerful as the characters who populate it. I love this book, and I guarantee you won’t find a finer debut work anywhere.”
William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land

“From the moment the reader steps on the train with these orphaned children, You Belong Here Now shows how beauty can emerge from even the darkest places.”
Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl

“Rostad has successfully crafted a heartwarming, unflinching story of orphans, family, and horses, wrought in finely chiseled prose. Timeless, irresistible, You Belong Here Now, set in the wild grasslands of Montana, is for fans of Orphan Train and all of us who long for acceptance. A brilliant debut!”
Weina Dai Randel, award-winning author of The Moon in the Palace

“Rostad’s bighearted debut is full of surprises, and warm with wisdom about what it means to be family.”
Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Train to London

Dianna Rostad’s Website: Dianna Rostad – Author of YOU BELONG HERE NOW

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

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Surviving Savannah is an epic novel that explores the metal of human spirit in crisis. It is an expertly told, fascinating story that runs fathoms deep on multiple levels.”

Fate, chance, choices, and destiny are mere concepts until an inspired author comes along and depicts the essence of each through the power of story. Patti Callahan has done just that in her widely anticipated Surviving Savannah. The New York Times bestselling author sets historical fiction’s stage in a mahogany paneled library before a roaring fire, where six- and eight-year-old sisters, Everly and Allyn Winthrop, sit at their pipe-smoking grandfather’s knee, while he spins yet another fantastic version of the ill-fated, steamship, Pulaski. Haunting imagery of the Pulaski looms in the family’s multi-generational, Georgian style house on Savannah’s historic Jones Street: “Above the fireplace hung an oil painting of a lustrous steamship with its sails spread wide and its wheels churning the water into whipped foam, the sky clear and bluer than the sea as human figures on the deck regarded the vast sea.”

Read My Full Review Here: a book review by Claire Fullerton: Surviving Savannah (nyjournalofbooks.com)

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It was called “The Titanic of the South.”  The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten—until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

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Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Home | Patti Callahan Henry l New York Times Bestselling Author

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New Podcast Series: The Untold Story Behind Surviving Savannah (patticallahanhenry.com)

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A Mariner’s Tale by Joe Palmer

My Book Review:

Sixty-four-year-old, tattooed, and ponytailed Jack Merkel is haunted by past tragedies, ten years gone. A retired career merchant seaman, he’s a seasoned mariner, with “a physical presence as sturdy as an oak” and “the hard-bitten look of an old salt.” Jack lives and works on Morgan’s Island in Ocean County Florida, with his Great Dane, Pogey. A third generation local, he owns a combined North Florida boatyard/marina, with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway. Used to salt air and capricious weather, his life is defined by the accoutrements that make up a mariner’s life. His is a simple life, and looking through his old, Jeep Wagoneer’s window, Jack is spellbound by “the spartina grass, the color of emeralds and worn like a monarch’s cloak in spring and summer, as well as the dull brown peasant’s rags that clad it in the winter.” Appreciative of, and in rhythm with his environment where the marsh’s fragrance is “a distillation that reminded him of the smell of fresh oysters,” and he hears “the maniacal laughter of marsh hens,” Jack can’t imagine living anywhere else.

When an indigent youth vandalizes the cherished sailboat Jack’s been building for the past ten years, Jack’s life takes a twist when he takes the high road. Rather than pressing charges, he reconsiders, when he “looked into the boy’s eyes and saw someone who’d never had a break.”  

Local Circuit Court Judge, J. Harlan Kicklighter is Jack’s good friend, and when Jack makes a plea to personally rehabilitate eighteen-year-old Doug Eleazer, who is charged with resisting arrest, criminal mischief, and petty theft for what he’s done to Jack’s boat, the judge agrees to implement a part-time, work-release program. Bringing Doug out of his shell is a process, but Jack is determined to bring out the good in him, for reasons having everything to do with the tragedy of his family’s past.

Margie Waller is a forty-something, recent divorcee with an athletic figure and audacious laugh. The mother of the two teenage boys on board, she owns and captains her forty-foot, custom-made sailboat named Starshine, which she docks with its damaged rudder at Jack’s marina shortly before Hurricane Brenda is expected to wreak havoc on the area.  

 Unreconciled with and haunted by the ghosts of his past, Jack Merkel is hesitant to let down his guard with Margie, but when Hurricane Brenda lands, the two are thrown together and, in conjunction with Doug and Margie’s two sons, the framework is laid for the possibilities of a blended family.

Author Joe Palmer’s clear knowledge of all things pertaining to mariner life shines throughout this seafaring story, as does his great gift for character development and distinct world-building. Hope lures the reader through this well-paced, humanistic story of characters trying to connect, while seeking triumph over the unlucky parts of their personal narratives. In a wonderfully descriptive setting so finely part and parcel to the story as to exemplify the idea of character as place, Joe Palmer’s A Mariner’s Tale will appeal to readers of Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller, in that the beautiful water-front story touches the heart in a way that resonates.  

Available where books are sold: Publisher : Koehler Books (October 25, 2020)

Photographs courtesy of Joe Palmer.

Praise for A Mariner’s Tale:

A Mariner’s Tale is a stunning debut: a seafaring novel rich with lush imagery and colorful characters from an exciting new voice in Southern fiction. With deft narrative skill, the author takes the protagonist, a cynical middle-aged mariner, and his protege, a troubled young man, on a voyage of self-discovery that begins on an island in Florida and ends in an Irish fishing village. You don’t want to miss this beautifully crafted page-turner!”

– Cassandra King, bestselling author of Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy

“Hard-edged and gripping.  An intriguing mix of hope and fear.  Fans of Pat Conroy’s evocative novels are going to love this stirring debut.”

– Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Protocol

“A Mariner’s Tale is a richly rendered story scented with sea spray and filled with salty characters seeking grace, mercy and second chances. Palmer writes with heart and authenticity, bringing to life an unfortgettable crew worthy of the love and redemption we each hope to find in this life.” –

Nicole Seitz, author of The Cage-Maker

The Author!

Meet Joe Palmer

A native of Waycross, Georgia, Joe Palmer is an award winning former newspaper reporter and longtime columnist, whose folksy newspaper column, Cup of Joe, ran for ten years in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader with a large and enthusiastic following.

He’s written investigative reporting and feature stories for the Bradenton Herald, Macon Telegraph and News and the Florida Times-Union, where he wrote a long series of articles about a plague that was killing massive numbers of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins on the East coast in 1987.

A Navy veteran and medical corpsman, Joe went on to work as a surgeon’s assistant at a major medical center in Jacksonville, Florida, while attending college for his BA in English with an emphasis on literature. He parlayed his investigative reporting skills into a 20-year career as an investigator for the Federal Public Defender’s Office.

A sailor, he got the inspiration for his debut novel, A Mariner’s Tale, while doing sweat labor one scorching August afternoon on an antique sailboat he and his wife painstakingly restored.

Retired since 2012, he spends his days writing, sailing, beach bumming and traveling. He credits his love of writing to his high school English and Creative Writing teacher, Elaine Stephens nee Thomas, whom he says woke his muse. He lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida with his wife, Pam and a room-sized Great Dane named Harley.

Joe Palmer’s Website: Bookstores/Libraries – Joe Palmer (joepalmerauthor.com)

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Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan


“Written with harrowing intimacy in cadence and phrasing so poetically elegant as to be breathtaking, it sings of perseverance in the face of adversity . . .”

A thoroughly realized treatise on the familial ramifications that haunt us, the beauty in Life Sentences comes from Billy O’Callaghan’s deep-probing gift for nuance. Wielding confessional monologues, O’Callaghan unfurls an epic story woven in three compelling parts that could justifiably stand-alone, yet from the sturdy threads of O’Callaghan’s deft crafting, the reader is invested from the start in this multi-generational story.

Read my full review in the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book…(less)
“Billy O’Callaghan’s work is at once subtle and direct, warm and clear-eyed, and never less than beautifully written. He has a moving ability to express the hopes and fears of ‘ordinary’ people, and he knows intimately the ways of the world. He richly reserves an international reputation. This writer is the real thing.”
~ John Banville, Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea
“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan. The stories in The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind are at once harrowing and uplifting, achingly sad and surpassingly beautiful. O’Callaghan is a treasure of the English language.”
~ Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of four short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), and The Boatman (2020, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)), as well as the novels The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)) and My Coney Island Baby, (2019, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)).

His latest novel, Life Sentences, was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2021 to much acclaim. Read more about it on the Books page.

Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honours, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, the Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

More from the author:

Billy O’Callaghan’s Website: The Author – Billy O’Callaghan

The Last Blue by Isla Morley

My Review: 5 Stars!

From the first page, you know you’re reading the words of a masterful storyteller. Isla Morley’s The Last Blue is written from a unique perspective on the Blue’s of Kentucky: a small, secluded culture of people only recently come to light in wider awareness. What is different about this compelling book is that it is a profoundly riveting love story told from many angels, addressing family loyalty, love of one’s homeland, and the triumph of romantic love against all odds. The characters in this story are fully realized to the point where the reader intuits their plausible hubris. The main character’s drive towards the pursuit of happiness chafes against small-minded culture, social mores, and multiple signs of the times. In The Last Blue, we are given a beautiful, unique soul in young Jubilee, who has a genetic skin aberration that’s misunderstood and subjects her to being a community outcast in a small, mountainous region. Superstition, racism, and the worst in human nature confront her, yet through it all, nothing affects the spirit of this child of nature, who has a gift for healing birds. When photographer Havens discovers Jubilee by a creek in the sylvan woods, he is awestruck and captivated, and the high-stakes drama becomes something deeply personal along an unpredictable path where love conquers all. Engrossing, great world-building, compassionate, and poignant, The Last Blue is a memorable, ageless story with a timely message and a satisfying ending.

Book Description:

In this luminous narrative inspired by the fascinating real case of “the Blue People of Kentucky,” Isla Morley probes questions of identity, love, and family in her breathtaking new novel.

In 1937, there are recesses in Appalachia no outsiders have ever explored. Two government-sponsored documentarians from Cincinnati, Ohio—a writer and photographer—are dispatched to penetrate this wilderness and record what they find for President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. For photographer Clay Havens, the assignment is his last chance to reboot his flagging career. So when he and his journalist partner are warned away from the remote Spooklight Holler outside of town, they set off eagerly in search of a headline story. What they see will haunt Clay into his old age: Jubilee Buford, a woman whose skin is a shocking and unmistakable shade of blue. From this happenstance meeting between a woman isolated from society and persecuted her whole life, and a man accustomed to keeping himself at lens distance from others, comes a mesmerizing story in which the dark shades of betrayal, prejudice, fear, and guilt, are refracted along with the incandescent hues of passion and courage. Panning across the rich rural aesthetic of eastern Kentucky, The Last Blue is a captivating love story and an intimate portrait of what it is like to be truly one of a kind.

About the Author:

See the source image

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother.  During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California.  For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children. 

Her debut novel, Come Sunday, won the Janet Heidinger Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize.  It has been translated into seven languages.  Her novel, Above was an IndieNext Pick, a Best Buzz Book and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book.  The Last Blue is her third novel.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu.  Now in Los Angeles, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, three cats and five tortoises.

Isla Morley’s Website: Media (islamorley.com)

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Book Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones is a fathoms-deep exploration of love, loyalty, and the ties that bind, written masterfully from all angles. It’s a laser-sharp look at the underbelly of power and privilege’s repercussions as told through the power of story.”

A gorgeous, deep probing treatise on the myriad manifestations of love, envy, privilege, and longing, The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington begins by holding a mirror to coming of age concerns in light of two young men from disparate backgrounds who overlap in a setting where all that glitters isn’t gold.

Full review here! a book review by Claire Fullerton: The Fortunate Ones (nyjournalofbooks.com)

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Ed Tarkington’s debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Praise for The Fortunate Ones

“Ed Tarkington’s wonderful second novel, The Fortunate Ones, feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one…As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next. ”

— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin

“To the great literature of anointment, of the young person plucked from obscurity and given a place at the glittering table, we can now add Ed Tarkington’s lovely novel of a young man mystified by his good fortune until the reasons behind it are revealed and the cost is extracted.  A beautiful read.“

— Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“Ed Tarkington perfectly captures the heady, conflicted emotions that come with proximity to privilege — both the irresistible longing and the heartbreaking disillusionment. I’m recommending The Fortunate Ones to every book club I know.”

— Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Th Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity by River Jordan

“entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance . . .”

What’s in a name? In this gem of a book, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity, author River Jordan beautifully illustrates that the answer makes all the difference in the world. A trip to Scotland becomes a journey, a journey becomes a pilgrimage, and a pilgrimage is defined by the power of intention.

In first-person, nonfiction narrative readers will think familiar for its intimate, accommodating style, River Jordan combines everything that makes both memoir and travelogue captivating. Her story begins with a nudge. “Sometimes I need to listen to the small voice that is the songline of my soul. To hear the whisper of, ‘This way, follow me.’ For some, it is the voice of God, for others their sixth sense. For me it is both; I see them as one and the same.” 

Following the lure of coincidence, a series of prompts leads to the west coast of Scotland. The ringing lilt of the name Iona spawns research, and as her will to travel grows, Jordan weighs the difficult way against a busy writer’s schedule and challenging circumstances. “A way would have to reveal itself where there was no way at all,” she concludes. In the end, Jordan employs practicality to get her from her Nashville home to Scotland. “Flexibility and a certain no-frills, down-to-earth sensibility can come in handy on the road. And making a pilgrimage to Iona was going to require a certain cowgirl can-do attitude.”

For all the reasons we’re attracted to a hero’s journey, we follow Jordan as she sets her sights on exploration and personal transformation against uncanny odds that verge on comical. Because it is the frugal, off-season month of November, the weather is frigid, ferry schedules are unreliable, and tourist establishments are closed. Aided by a travelling companion she calls her “anam cara,” she’s encumbered by too heavy a backpack and accommodated by strangers she meets through an online travelers’ global community called Couchsurfing. And yet she persists with an eyeful of wonder, a heart full of gratitude, and a string of prayer beads in her pocket to remind us that all is in the attitude. A lesser wanderer would have conceded defeat in the nearest pub.

Without being heavy-handed, this book speaks to the spiritual seeker, denominational or otherwise. The odyssey aligns spirit with intellect, certainty with curiosity, this world with the next, and all that has come before. Jordan writes, “There are dreams and there are destinies, and sometimes they cross over to become one and the same thing. If so, journeying on pilgrimage to Iona was as much God’s plan as it was mine, which meant we were in this thing together.”  

Artfully layering her journey’s steps and missteps with Celtic Christianity’s history, Jordan gifts the reader with perfectly placed fact to heighten her story. “Not all from the history volumes of Celtic Christianity was first kiss, first love, first light. The history of Celtic Christianity is filled with violence, Viking raids, murdered monks, and destroyed monasteries.”

Of the ancient Celts conversion to the Irish monk, Columba’s, novel idea of Christianity, she depicts a melding: “All that was best of their Celtic nature wasn’t lost in translation: they brought it to the table. Reading those histories, I think those monks of Columba’s took a good look at what the Celts had pulled out of their spiritual backpacks and said, ‘Hey, this is good. I think we can use this.’”

A narrative nonfiction book for travelers in search of The Divine, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity takes you from the hills of Tennessee to the hallowed ground of Scotland’s Iona Abbey, on a wing and a prayer, with help from the kindness of strangers. It’s entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance you’ll want to share with your friends, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity encourages you to keep an eye on the sacred along the road to self-discovery.

Claire Fullerton is a staff reviewer at New York Journal of Books.

Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann

I had the immense pleasure of reviewing this book for the New York Journal of Books!

Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann!

“A contemporary novel that tips its hat to multiple genres, Never Turn Back is intriguing, high-stakes fiction.”

A wonderfully unusual, utterly unpredictable twist of a puzzle with an edge, Never Turn Back warns you with its title that you’re in for something, and hints at the problem with a line on page two, when the narrator says, “The twin memories of my parents are like a pair of blades scissoring my heart.”

https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/never-turn-back-novel?fbclid=IwAR3fjraOJQu8tCKxTIHpKkxXnq3sAej7Jk7uZj7zN3Y_YEITsu5SaREclY4