Review: A Lovely, Indecent Departure by Steven Lee Gilbert

51LNWMb7gDLReview by Manda Disley

Anna Miller is a mother who is desperate to be with her young son, Oliver, and keep him safe. Unfortunately, her abusive ex-husband has primary custody of him and does everything he can to keep them apart. The court system has failed her, and on one of her days with Oliver she decides to take drastic measures – they flee the country to live in Italy, where Anna is from. A Lovely, Indecent Departure tells the sequence of events that follows this decision.

The book is written in third person and switches with each chapter between three characters: Anna, her ex-husband Evan, and Monroe, the town sheriff. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of promise; his sentences flow together easily and the overall writing style stays consistent through the book. One of the first things the reader will notice, however, is that the dialogue lacks any quotation marks. If this is a stylistic choice that the author has made, it’s not a very good one. There is a reason we use quotation marks to denote dialogue. Without it the book reads like endless prose, and endless prose can get quite tiresome. The lack of quotation marks also makes it difficult at times to tell what is and isn’t dialogue, while also making whatever is being said seem unimportant. Quotation marks are a type of punctuation, and punctuation tells us how significant something is – without it, the dialogue falls flat.

Another issue with the book is its wordiness. While some readers might enjoy the extra descriptions, this book has a lot of extraneous details that just aren’t important to the storyline. You could argue that these details add to mood of the book, but mostly they just take away from the actual plot.

The story itself is interesting, though; a great exploration into the tragic privates lives of this family. The characters are complex and read like real people. Although Anna technically kidnapped her son, seeing the situation through her eyes gives us the chance to recognize that she only did it out of love. We’re also get to be inside of Evan’s head, and it becomes very clear, very quickly that he is not the kind of man you would want to leave your child with. It’s hard for the reader to fault Anna for what she did, despite breaking the law.

Overall, the book could have used some work, including the addition of quotation marks, but it’s not a bad piece of fiction. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of potential and he writes characters very well. It will be interesting to see what he writes in the future.

Title: A Lovely, Indecent Departure

Author: Steven Lee Gilbert

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publication: Steven Lee Gilbert (March 23, 2012)

Price: $2.99 (e-book, all formats), $9.13 (paperback )

Author’s Website:


Review: Lexi Goes on Vacation to the Outer Banks by Janice Wills Kingsbury

Lexi Goes on VacationReview by Éowyn Arendt

“Ms. Janice and Mr. Rob have vacationed in the seashore town of Duck in North Carolina for 10 years. Duck is a friendly place with sandy beaches where children and dogs romp to their hearts content. This year Lexi, a new addition to their dog family, will come too. But the vacation will be like no other and as the sun sets on the beach it promises to be a long night, one the family will never forget!” –

If you like dogs, I recommend this book.  I like that it got a little scary in the middle and then everything was okay.

The dogs are very well drawn! Lexi’s expressions told me what he was feeling, and he looked very nice and cuddly. The parents looked a lot younger than they sounded in the writing, though. There could maybe be more dog stuff in the car or on top when they’re driving to their vacation. I love how the illustrator added shadows to the pictures!

I like that there are real photos in the back of the book to show that it was a real story. I also like that they show how the family of dogs has grown! (The Chihuahua is my favorite.)

This was a really good book and I would love to read more about Lexi’s adventures or about the other dogs.

Title: Lexi Goes on Vacation to the Outer Banks

Author: Janice Wills Kingsbury

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publication: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, October 21, 2014

Price: $3.99 (Kindle), $10.79 (paperback)

Author’s Website:

REVIEW: Sound of Sirens (Tales of Skylge, Book One) by Jen Minkman

“On the island of Skylge, electricity is only for the Currents – the rich ruling class who once came from across the sea and brought the holy fire of St. Brandan to Skylge. Ever since, the light in the Brandaris Tower has protected the islanders. Heeding the Siren’s call will drown your body and steal your soul, but the sacred light in the Tower will chase the merfolk away.

When Skylger girl Enna welcomes her brother back from a long sea voyage, he gives her a special present from the mainland – an electronic record only playable on a Current device. The problem is that Royce Bolton, Current heartthrob and the town’s most gifted pianist, wants it too. After she stubbornly refuses to sell the LP featuring his favorite artist, he suggests sharing the record by secretly meeting up in his private summer house. Taken aback yet thrilled, Enna agrees – and discovers that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Current society and the history of Skylge. Why do the Sirens tempt the islanders to give themselves up to the sea? And where does the Currents’ monopoly on electricity really come from?

While struggling with these questions, Enna begins to fall for Royce, risking everything to be with a guy who is clearly wrong for her. She will learn that the sound of Sirens isn’t the most treacherous thing out there to haunt her dreams.”  –

soundofsirensOne of the most interesting things about Sound of Sirens is the juxtaposition of modern and traditional Nordic cultures existing side by side.  The lifestyle of the Currents is familiar, with technological advances seemingly on par with Western society circa at least the 1980s.  The Skylgers, on the other hand, have a much more pre-industrial way of life, although they seem to benefit from some non-electrically based Current products.  The two societies also have their own religions.  Not much is revealed about the Currents’ worship of St. Brandan, but the Skylgers clearly have their own traditions and history, although much of it is suppressed by the ruling class.

Minkman’s writing seems to skim lightly over some very deep waters.  The story serves to set up the conflict between the Currents and the Skylgers, and introduces the relationship between Enna and Royce, but it never goes into much detail. In particular, we see very little of the Currents’ lifestyle, which is understandable since the book is told entirely from Enna’s point of view. My hope is that their side of the story, as well as the history and mythology of the Skylgers, will be explored in more depth throughout the series.

For the most part these missing pieces only engaged my curiosity, but in one respect the shortage of detail did do a disservice to the story – the book lacks atmosphere.  This is unfortunate, because both the setting and the mysterious, sinister quality of the Nixen could have provided a great deal of emotional depth to the story with just a little more description and sensory detail.  I would like to have had a better mental image of the island, as well, in order to fully engage with the story.

This is an intriguing start to what promises to be an original dystopian series.  I’m looking forward to the next installment!


Title:  Sound of Sirens (Tales of Skylge, Book One)

Author:  Jen Minkman

Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult

Publication: Dutch Venture Publishing (November 27, 2014)

Price: $0.99 (Kindle and Nook), $5.69 (paperback)

Author’s Website:


NEW RELEASE! Funeral with a View by Matt Schiariti

About the Book
Title: Funeral with a View

Author: Matt Schiariti

Published: September 28th, 2014

Word Count: 101,000

Genre: Romance

Content Warning: Mild sexual content, minor profanity and adult themes

Age Recommendation: 18+

Thirty-two-year-old Richard Franchitti didn’t believe in love at first sight until he met free-spirited Catherine and started a brand new life. A devoted father and husband, Richard fought to keep his family together when it would have been easier to walk away.

Tragedy left him with unfinished business.

Now a disembodied spirit, Richard relives his most important days. From the beginnings of unconditional love, to the joy of his daughter’s birth, and all of the difficult times in between, each treasured moment brings him closer to answering the question:

“Why am I still here?”

He was born Richard Franchitti, but his friends call him Ricky. Welcome to his funeral.

About the Author
Matt Schiariti is an Engineeer by profession, guitar legend in his own mind, and would-be author, time permitting. When he’s not writing, he’s reading. When he’s not reading, he’s enjoying a beer sporting a fancy name on the label. When he’s not enjoying a fancy-named beer, he’s most likely reading some more. Sometimes he does all three at once, to disastrous effect.

Matt lives in southern New Jersey with his wife, two children, and insane dog. Funeral with a View is his second published novel, but not his last.

You have been warned.


I’d met Catherine Maddox (now the widow Catherine Frachitti) through a friend of mine. My best friend, in point of fact. Bill Henly.
While they were dating.
That tidbit must sound inherently evil. There are rules, especially among guys. The Man Code, to be more specific. Every male on the planet is born with these rules branded into his DNA. Don’t date a friend’s ex, don’t have sex with a friend’s girlfriend, so on and so forth.
Let the record show that I am no home wrecker! Bill and Catherine had been seeing each other when I met her. Nothing serious, and for reasons only known to them, their relationship didn’t last. After Bill did the requisite guy thing (read: talked post-breakup smack about her), I did the right thing and asked him if he’d be okay with me asking her out.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: So, you’re not dating Cat anymore, huh?
Bill: Nope.
Me: Um, would it be cool if I asked her out?
Bill: Yeah, sure.
It was a conversation for the ages. A manly conversation of epic proportions. It may seem flimsy to an outsider, but to guys it was volumes’ worth.
I let the breakup embers fade, and a few weeks later, when I’d mustered up the testicular fortitude, I asked Catherine out. After a moment’s thought, she said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Dating Catherine put no apparent stress on my relationship with Bill. Good looking in an All-American way, he never lacked for female companionship. At six-foot-five and almost as broad, he towered over my meager five-foot-eight. He’d played football in high school and college, earning an athletic scholarship to Princeton University, but blew out his knee in his second year. His spare time no longer filled with practices and games, he hunkered down and focused on his studies which paved the way to his future career as a financial advisor. Still, he remained an ever faithful workout freak. The combination of good looks, muscular build, and his large salary lured many a willing woman into his bed. Catherine was no exception, but that wasn’t entirely Bill’s doing.
The story is a simple one. Back in the day the three of us were nigh inseparable. Catherine and I were always double-dating with Bill and his love du jour. Even if he wasn’t seeing anybody (the exception to the rule), the three of us would go out to eat, see movies, hang out on lawn chairs in the summer drinking concoctions with little umbrellas in them.
It was on one such occasion when things took a change for the pornographic. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. Or as long as I’m dead.
That day is where this story truly starts.

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REVIEW: Black Face, White Face by Mara Li

blackfacewhitefaceNineteen-year-old Juliet has been suffering from nightmares ever since she survived a brutal attack on the Fallhallow National Bank. But she hopes to put those terrifying memories behind her on the day of the court trial. After all, with the criminal known as the Half-Face locked in chains, she will be perfectly safe… Until he manages to break free, that is, and grab the nearest hostage he can get his hands on.

What follows for Juliet is a long, exhausting journey through the harsh and unknown plains of Mongolia, forced to accompany a man who is as unreasonably violent as he is obsessively searching for his redemption.

Is the Half-Face insane and beyond hopes of rehabilitation? Or should she believe his own words, supported by the traditional shamans that this tattooed man seeks to consult, and accept that he is possessed by a dangerous spirit? –

Black Face, White Face is as much an internal journey as an external one. Half-Face sees Juliet as his savior, while Juliet shifts between anger at him and compassion.  There’s a lot of push and pull in their relationship, naturally, but I found their relationship to be believable and fascinating.

The pacing is perfect, which is impressive because it would have been easy for the traveling part of the narrative to drag. Li manages to work in enough drama, both internal and external, that this is not a problem.  Her writing is beautiful, at once evocative and simple. I was impressed with her execution of Half-Face’s signature speech pattern. It gave a unique color to his character, without being used often enough to be distracting.

This book never takes the easy way out. Li doesn’t cut corners in her character development or in the relationship between Juliet and Half-Face. It would have been easy to fall into the familiar tropes of kidnappings: Stockholm Syndrome, a tragically misunderstood captor, or even “fated” love. Li gracefully sidesteps all these pitfalls, presenting us with a complex, all-too-human dance of good and evil, hatred and compassion.


Title:  Black Face, White Face

Author:  Mara Li

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

Publication: Dutch Venture Publishing (April 1, 2014)

Price: $2.99 (ebook, all formats), $6.29 (paperback)

Author’s Website:

REVIEW: Lights, Camera, Poltergeist! by Nell Dixon

LCP“As the presenter for Ghost UK, the leading TV show investigating paranormal activity, Fae thought she’d seen it all. Until a Valentine’s Eve live show from Scotland’s Fingelly Manor upsets both her preconceptions and her love life.” –

This was a really fun book.  It’s a short, quick read, and the plot and characters are pretty simple, but it’s very entertaining and well-written.  I read it through in one go.  I like ghost stories of any kind, and it’s hard to find them these days!  This is the perfect book to pick up when you just need a little brain candy.


Title:  Lights, Camera, Poltergeist

Author:  Nell Dixon

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Ghost Story

Publication:  Astraea Press (January 2, 2013)

Price:  $0.99 (Kindle, Nook)

Author’s Website:

Review: Spinward Fringe, Broadcast 0: Origins by Randolph Lalonde

Review by Scott Arendt
Randolph Lalonde has created an enticing space opera in Spinward Fringe that begins in Origins – Broadcast Zero.  The story moves forward at cruising speed that keeps you moving through the universe as you flip the pages, always excited for what comes next.  The action starts early and keeps up throughout, slowing down just enough for the space farers to take half a breath along with the reader before plunging into the next battle.  He doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining his universe, but there is a steady stream of technical jargon to keep the engineers happy.  

Jonas Valent, the main character, is portrayed realistically, though the lifespan of humans has increased to the point where characters tend to be more well-rounded than our traditional world would allow.  Randolph weaves in other characters and plots as the story sails along with barely a tremor, but all in a believable and compelling way.  Best of all, he masterfully leaves plot threads dangling to tease the stories to come in future broadcasts!

If you are a fan of space shooters or space operas I highly recommend checking out Origins. It’s available as a free download from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Title:  Spinward Fringe, Broadcast 0: Origins

Author:  Randolph Lalonde

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publication: Randolph Lalonde (Aug. 02, 2009)

Price: $0.00 (ebook, all formats), $13.49 (paperback)

Author’s Website: