Falling up in the City of Angels by Connor Judson Garrett Book Review

Connor Garrett’s Falling Up in The City of Angels sings like a manifesto of youth seen through the eyes of one who misses nothing. It’s a travelogue through the spinning vortex of LA, written from the edge of innocence by an author whose voice is so personal, you want to reach out and hold his hand.

Fresh from college graduation, in a time when the sky is the limit, narrator Tony leaves his Georgia home with little to recommend him than his dream of being a writer. Thinking magic can happen with little in his pocket in a town where anything goes, blind optimism leads Tony from one eye-opening episode to the next as he hits all the highpoints in the City of Angels. The reader visits the Venice Canals, meets posers, and actors, and spiritual seekers; commiserates with Tony through the laws of romantic attraction, pauses at his insights on the back end.

Like a fledgling meeting chance in an odyssey of discovery, Tony’s beginner’s luck navigates west LA without a filter. He is young, resourceful, adventurous, and optimistic. He is resilient, insightful, surefooted, and not a quitter.

Falling up in the City of Angels is a fresh take on an age-old experience. It reads like a roadmap of a young man’s coming into being while avoiding the campy pitfalls of a fish-out-of-water story. With language both accessible and profoundly sophisticated, author Connor Garrett depicts the blossoming of youth in all its first-impression, awestruck wonder.


Life’s Rich Tapestry by Sally Cronin

Life’s Rich Tapestry by Sally Cronin

We come to know a person’s mind through the words they speak; their personality through what they create, and their heart through what they write. Put this all together and you’ve been gifted a glimpse into an artist’s soul. This is how Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words impressed me. Author Sally Cronin’s precious gem of a book is nothing short of fluid insight into all that it means to be human in a round-robin way as to address the entire sphere in bits and pieces that leave a lasting impression. These are musings delivered artfully, the perfect melding of heart, mind, and soul. In sharing her personal views, the author invites us to examine our own impressions of the day-today by shining light on life’s rich nuance. There is something profound in these meditative pages, something joyous and real that takes nothing for granted by sheer virtue of the fact that Sally Cronin has called them by name. In addressing the natural world, celebrating pets, seasons of the year, and random thoughts, Cronin speaks to the reader conversationally in such a manner that told me I’d revisit the pages. Her flash fiction, speculative fiction, and short stories are vignettes to savor—all told, this book is a work of art at its finest. All praise to author Sally Cronin, who has earned a constant and significant place in the blogging world by selflessly serving as the fulcrum of focus for so very many. That she has stepped forth by assembling and publishing this collection of letters has gifted us all with the awe-striking opportunity to see a writer’s career shine at its brightest.

Visit Sally Cronin on Word Press, Smorgasbord!


Second Wind by Alison Henderson: Book 1 in the Cypress Coast Book Series.

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I loved every page of this exceptional book. It is action-packed, wonderfully paced, and full of gripping suspense. The story opens with 32-year-old Laurel on the run from her abusive fiance.  In a definitive move, she packs her cat in her car and hits the road from Seattle to the sanctuary of Big Sur, California, where her mother owns and operates a cliffside, vegetarian restaurant, and her two sisters live close by. But home is not an immediate sanctuary, for the truth of her fiance’s hidden life follows her to the coast and unfurls in threatening unforeseen episodes that keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Cleverly written with spot-on dialogue, the breathtaking setting of Big Sur, California and the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea as described by Henderson is much of what’s to love in this delightful story. The Monterey Peninsula is the perfect setting for the life the artistic Laurel hopes to create, but when she is met by one obstacle after another, she is unwittingly helped by a rugged FBI agent named Jake. This story is wonderfully told. I believe it will greatly appeal to all readers because it is so very engaging. It is the kind of book you’ll look forward to returning to until its climactic end. You’ll love the characters, and will feel as if you’re spending time in the expertly drawn Big Sur, California. Five Stars! I look forward to reading the next book in the Cypress Coast Book series!     

Malibu Burning: Nonfiction book review

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I’m sharing my book review here of the wildly popular book, Malibu Burning: the real-life Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire. This book is making waves in my seaside, hometown.
I live in Malibu, and this time last year, my husband and I, our two German shepherds and our 15-year-old black cat evacuated in haste, when the Woolsey Fire, which started in Thousand Oaks, California, traveled through the Santa Monica Mountains behind our house and reached the ridge of our property. In frantic urgency, we turned left on the Pacific Coast Highway and headed north, away from Malibu’s town center. It was here we discovered that the 320 acres of the state park near our home were violently up in flames. We were evacuated for 24 days, the first four of which we had no information as to whether our house was standing. It was total chaos in Malibu. The small coastal town was overwhelmed and ill-prepared for a wildfire of such swift, epic proportions. In some ways, it was every man for himself. In others, it was the ultimate exercise of a heroic feat as neighbor helped neighbor.
Once they allowed Malibu’s anxious and traumatized citizens back to their homes to assess the fallout, locals assembled at relief centers, sharing their stories. Among them, writer Robert Kerbeck, who took it upon himself to do a bit of investigative reporting as to how the fire started, then set about the business of collecting the first-person stories of many who refused evacuation orders and remained in the thick of the heinous drama in an effort at protecting their neighborhood.
The stories in Malibu Burning are staggering. Malibu local, Robert Kerbeck, has done a magnificent job in writing this book and getting it published in such a short span of time. Many in Malibu were so independently blindsided, there was little way of telling what went on behind our backs. We now have a larger story.
Book Review:


When tragedy engulfs a community, the media report the overarching highlights, typically from an aerial view. In Malibu Burning, author Robert Kerbeck portrays the hidden story—the nuanced blow-by-blow minutia told with such investigative reporting skills as to lend immediate urgency with a sense of present tense. It can’t be easy to shake oneself off and get organized, after surviving what can only be called the surreal worst, which is what Kerbeck basically did in writing this riveting book. Malibu Burning is a boots-on-the-ground story; an impassioned order from chaos, cohesive treatise told with a clear-eyed, objective voice. Weaving facts with vivid personal accounts in this cause and effect human interest story, this is a book so well-wrought as to hold one’s attention with all the characteristics of a gripping novel. It takes a deft hand to avoid judgment or accusation in a painstakingly researched nonfiction book. Robert Kerbeck’s Malibu Burning is a book with a resonating heartbeat. It sobers by threading the true stories of Malibu’s citizens who navigated the devastating Woolsey wildfire and simultaneously warms the heart by depicting the power of spirit.

Malibu Burning by Robert Kerbeck is available at independent book stores and all online book outlets.





Never Sit If You Can Dance: Book Review

Who among us hasn’t said, “I could write a book about my mother!” We often say such things in jest, though the quip’s foundation is actually complimentary. We study our mothers throughout most of our lives trying to piece together the enigmatic variables that result in their particular formula. For many, it takes a lifetime, yet author Jo Giese has done just this in her delightful book, Never Sit If You Can Dance, which, as you might suspect, is a line she learned from her mother.
It is baby-boomer times, simpler times that began in innocence only to explode into the roar of changing times, and author Jo Giese is raised by a stay-at-home mom named Babe. She plans to rise above her mother’s station and believes she has actually done so until later years give her the time to pause and reflect.
It is the little things in this collection of first-person stories that weave nostalgia so touchingly and seamlessly. It is the commonplace, the every day, the mortar of life that matters, and author Jo Giese tells us why in a series of chapter heading, numbered lessons as demonstrated by her mother—“Don’t be Drab;” “Never Show Up Empty-Handed;” “Go While You Can;” and “The Happiness of Giving and Receiving Flowers” are cases in point.
A wonderfully written, quick paced gem of a book, Never Sit If You Can Dance strikes the middle ground between heartwarming and entertaining. It is an important book in that it gifts the reader with the opportunity to ponder their own mother. In the hands of any book club, there is much fodder to discuss.

An enjoyable book trailer is here: https://youtu.be/LzNj97Rs-pE



The River by Starlight by Ellen Notbohm

Every well-wrought sentence in The River by Starlight is as beautiful as the Henry David Thoreau inspired title. Author Ellen Notbohm has penned a breathlessly epic, masterful story set in early 1900’s Montana in language so lyrically elevated you’ll want to commit much of it to memory but will have to get back to it later—you’ll be too busy turning the pages.
The River by Starlight is a starkly humanistic story. It’s an historical novel intimately and engagingly written in present tense concerning the sweeping life story of dark-haired and diminutive Annie Rushton, whose young marriage is permanently marred by what might be the time’s inchoate perceptions of post-partum depression. There are repercussions to Annie’s malady that propel her to leave everything behind in her home state of Iowa and hop a train to join her bachelor brother in the wilds of homesteading Montana, where she risks starting a new life. Shouldering her heartbreak, Annie applies her headstrong, fierce independence to helping her brother prosper, so when charismatic businessman Adam Fielding, a colleague of her brother’s, enters her life, theirs is a relationship forged on mutual ambition, but as the years wear on, they become two desperate souls unwittingly tossed by the unpredictable storms of life.
Life’s choices come into play, in The River by Starlight. Though Annie and Adam begin with hope and the best intentions, there is only so much one can weather in hope’s defeat by repetitious wounds that won’t heal. Through the years, communication errors and individual judgement calls are made that usher in divergent aims, and all the while is the roiling concern of Annie’s mercurial sanity.
Resiliency, perseverance, love of one’s children, and where to appropriately place one’s pledge are threads that weave the tapestry of this thoroughly realized story, whose themes, I believe, are timeless and universal.
The River by Starlight is a book for the ages. In my mind, it stands with the classics. The novel’s voice and three-part pacing are seamlessly crafted; its tone and mood are deep and oftentimes heart wrenching, so much so that the reader can’t help but be lured by emotional investment in characters so viscerally drawn they come to life on the pages.
The River by Starlight is for those discerning readers who demand excellence in language, craft, and story. It is a plausible, finely researched, resonant book ultimately about the taming of the spirit, set in tumultuous, untamed times.



Colorado Mandala by Brian Francis Heffron: Review


22964699A gorgeous, fully realized, generously crafted story on male friendship and the deep wounds motivating main character, Michael, as told through the perspective of his intimately effected best friend and business partner, Paul.
Michael is a Vietnam war vet, with a festering secret underscoring his high-living, swaggering behavior. He is a man’s man to his core: streetwise and wary, cocksure and battle-scarred with his own code of honor. It is post-war 1970’s Manitou Springs, Colorado, and author Brain Francis Heffron captivates the reader with such panoramic descriptions of the Pike’s Peak area at such a finely-tuned altitude as to cast the environment as sacred, while the reader all but breathes the clear mountain air.
The title of this book is inspired by Sarah, the wispy and vulnerable single mother at the center of a lover’s triangle, who paints batik images on silk and twists her long flaxen hair in a bun. Michael is protective of Sarah from an unfolding hidden agenda. Paul struggles with the duality of his building feelings for Sarah and loyalty to Michael. In the expert hands of writer Heffron, each character plays off the others with such reasonable impetus, Colorado Mandala reads like a treatise in deep-seated psychological motivation.
This book is astoundingly action-packed and character-driven. It takes the reader into dark caves and sets them in the gambling center of a mountain party’s cockfight. It is seamlessly paced and weaves minute visual images with poetically descriptive narratives and uncommon use of language. I understand Mr. Heffron is a poet, and it shows. There isn’t a weak sentence in the engaging Colorado Mandala, and I held my breath at its end, during one of the best literary denouements I’ve ever read. Colorado Mandala is the very definition of a page-turner. It will make you a fan of author Brian Francis Heffron, and is the kind of book you’ll recommend to your friends.

Book Review: Saints in Limbo by River Jordan

In Saints in Limbo, author River Jordan’s immediate establishment of the incredible as credible serves as the foundation of this wonderfully unique novel, which takes nostalgia and wishful thinking and makes it the undercurrent of a now plausible story involving an old woman in possession of a supernaturally empowered rock that enables her to revisit her past. Saints in Limbo transcends a neat, paranormal story by gifting the reader with a cast of characters imbued with nuanced layers: they have character defects, unrealized dreams, and unfulfilled potential even as they seek a meaningful life. An enthralling page-turner written in poetic language, I found this riveting book an insightful commentary on the power of perception and the importance of longing and connection. I recommend this book to those who love to read literary fiction tinged with an intelligent use of the uncanny. Rich in setting, character, and prose, Saints in Limbo will make every reader a fan of the author River Jordan.


Saints in Limbo Book Description:

Ever since her husband, Joe, died, Velma True’s world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her rural home outside Echo, Florida.

Then one day a stranger appears at her door. Without knowing why, the agoraphobic widow welcomes him into her kitchen for coffee while she tells him stories of how life used to be, before her purposes were “all dried up.” Just before disappearing as suddenly as he came, the man presents Velma with a special gift, one that allows her to literally step back into the past through her own memories to a place where Joe still lives and the beginning is closer than the end.

While Velma is consumed with the man’s gift, her son Rudy is also being presented with a challenge to his self-centered beer drinking, skirt chasing ways, while his memories unravel like the webs that haunt him.

winds her way to Echo, determined to unravel the mysteries her dead mother left behind. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma finds herself unmoored from the fears of the past and feeling her way toward freedom.

This lyrical, Southern novel weaves mystical elements with tangible touches of God’s redemptive grace to reveal a pattern of irresistible hope

Look into River Jordan at:  http://www.riverjordanink.com/

The Chanticleer Review’s Conference in Bellingham Washington

Suite T: Southern Writers Magazine:

Monday, June 24, 2019
The Chanticleer Reviews Conference

By Claire Fullerton

My writer’s life is an insular life. Months are stretched together wherein I look for a reason to schedule opportunities outside my office, in an attempt at leaving my desk to live a balanced life. It’s not that I’m unduly obsessed with my work, it’s only that I recognize the merits of seeing a project through once I’ve started. I’ve heard it said that once one begins a writing project, it’s best to work on it every day, lest a break in the work changes one’s voice. I do write every day, yet every so often I take the opportunity to attend a writer’s conference, which does me good because it gets me out in the “real world.” Always the adventure is worth the logistics of setting aside my work, packing, getting to the airport, and staying in what feels like a beehive for three days or more.

I recently returned from the Chanticleer Reviews Conference in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a short enough journey from my home in Malibu, California. When I received the news that my book, Mourning Dove, was a finalist in the Chanticleer contest, I reviewed the conference’s online schedule, considered that Bellingham and Malibu are on the same time zone, and decided it would be well worth my while to attend the conference.

There are great advantages to attending a writer’s conference. Everyone who attends is there for the same reason. Though authors who write in different genres are assembled, we all share the same passions and interests. Writers conferences are geared toward imparting information that pertains to the craft and business of writing. It is one thing to read about this in a book or online, and quite another to listen to individual speakers address subjects ranging from writing a series, to character development, to book marketing and promotion, and the current trends in publishing. When a personality is front and center, and the audience is invited to ask questions, a writer’s conference is a great opportunity to learn as well as compare notes about how we as writers engage with our career.
And then there’s the social aspect to attending a writer’s conference. A writer is gifted with meeting fellow authors from different parts of the country. It is typical for authors who have books out in the world to cross paths with each other on social media, and through this, relationships are formed in cyberspace yet all there is to go on are pictures. Meeting fellow authors in person solidifies a sense of writer’s community, and when a conference holds a contest, the camaraderie is intensified by an award ceremony. In the case of the Chanticleer conference, a fully-realized banquet was held in the beautiful ballroom of the historic Hotel Bellwether, and the festive, water-front atmosphere was the perfect setting to handle the suspense followed by heartfelt congratulations as awards in fourteen categories were announced.

I spent three days at the breathtaking Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, Washington listening to one speaker after another alongside a jury of my peers. The conference was organized and eye-opening. It was a wonderful place to meet fellow authors and the award given for Mourning Dove, as well as the information I acquired invigorated my enthusiasm for staying the course of my writing career.

Claire Fullerton is from Memphis, TN., and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga set in the genteel side of Memphis. Mourning Dove won a First Place blue ribbon in the Somerset Awards of The Chanticleer Reviews Conference. It is the 2018 Literary Classics Words on Wings award winner for Book of the Year. It is the 2018 bronze medal winner for Southern Fiction by Readers’ Favorite, a finalist in the 2018 Independent Authors Network Book of the Year, and was listed in the International Faulkner Society’s 2018 William Wisdom competition in the novel category. Claire is the author of Kindle Book Review’s 2016 award for Cultural Fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and paranormal mystery, A Portal in Time. She contributed to the book, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window. Her work has appeared in Southern Writers Magazine, and was listed in 2017 and 2018 in their Top Ten Short Stories of the Year. Claire’s work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Celtic Life International; The Wild Geese, and The Glorious Table. The manuscript for her next novel, Little Tea, is a finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Society’s William Wisdom competition. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.

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Book Review: Clover Blue by Eldonna Edwards

A perfectly paced, thoroughly realized, refreshingly unique story that takes the concept of world-building to expert proportions. Author Eldonna Edwards sets her standout novel in a 1970s, Northern Califonia commune’s bucolic setting and regals the reader with an unusual story from the perspective of the eponymous narrator, Clover Blue, who has a personal history, unlike all others. In a coming of age story, Edwards layers her art with the subtle fine-tuning of what it also means to come into awareness. The Saffron Freedom Community’s earthy setting is tangible, it’s free-spirited, well-intentioned residents so finely drawn as to elicit the reader’s acceptance of a lifestyle so beautifully and minutely depicted, one can’t help but become emotionally invested. At the heart of this story is the adolescent Clover Blue’s search for identity within the confines of his deep-rooted sense of place. Once the reader is hooked by Clover Blue’s story, a mystery creeps in to suggest all is not as it seems, in this idyllic world apart from the world, spearheaded by a mesmeric leader whose past is so covert, it’s no wonder his counsel is centered on nonjudgement and living in the present. Clover Blue is a story that rolls, unfurls, and deepens in seemingly simple complexity. It is a resonating, engaging story true to the spirit of its times and satisfying in its unpredictable end.