Reposting Original Book Review: Rambling with Milton by Richard Siciliano

Rambling with Milton by Richard Siciliano Outskirts Press

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

After a long, successful career as the author of an esoteric newspaper column, “Rambling with Milton,” Jock Petitte finds himself unfulfilled and at loose ends. However, two failed marriages have not diminished his romantic ideals or his youthful desire to become an actor, so he begins composing one-man plays based on historical events and performing them at senior centers and retirement homes.

Prudence Rogers, beautiful and intelligent, has struggled with clinical depression and chronic anxiety throughout her life. So, when Jock meets her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recovering from an overdose, and he is performing a Christmas play, he is instantly smitten. Rambling with Milton is the deeply touching story of their romance and their attempt to save each other . . . and themselves.

REVIEW:

Rambling with Milton opens with a unique dedication, informing readers that the book was inspired by and contained excerpts from Senator Charles Sumner’s “Rape of Kansas” speech on the Senate Floor in 1856. This speech, also known as the “Crime of Kansas” speech, was delivered by Sumner in response to the “Bleeding Kansas” crisis, a series of deadly disputes over Kansas’s boundaries and slavery-related policies. (There’s a lot of history here, and I went waaay down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia reading up on the context.) Sumner, a fiery abolitionist, specifically denounced one particular (and influential) slaveholder who happened to be directly related to another senator, Preston Brooks, who went the extra mile in supporting South Carolina’s official stance on politics––by viciously attacking Sumner on the Senate Floor and stopping barely short of killing him. The incident helped inflame the intense emotions and political divisions of the wider American population in the years leading up to the Civil War. Nevertheless, the event was considered symbolic in 1856, and Richard Siciliano utilized excerpts from Sumner’s speech symbolically in Rambling with Milton in 2020.

With such an opening, you can be confident that I was hooked . . . even before I’d started the first page! If there’s something that I love, it’s a great historic textual reference, and even more specifically, a reference to a historic speech, as well as a reference to abolition, the Founding Fathers, and the hard work of shaping a new way of living. That I happen to be rewatching the drama John Adams on DVD with my father for the third time (a number that does not include my own personal private rewatches) is entirely incidental. (Ha!)

I am happy to report that Rambling with Milton more than lives up to its source material. And for those coming from the same place as me––not quite convinced that there’s a romance book out there for you––I would argue that this book is the perfect introduction. It’s a beautifully written, incredibly detailed, and thoroughly compelling novel about triumphing in the midst of a truly difficult moment of life. It follows many characters but centers on Prudence and Jock. They meet when he is living the life of a starving artist, performing one-man plays at community centers like retirement homes––and rehabilitation facilities. At one of these rehab facilities, he stumbles across Prudence, a patient recovering from an overdose. He, an author whose bestseller days are far behind him, connects with her, a former librarian who remembers having seen his book on one of the library’s displays and read his newspaper column, “Rambling with Milton”––way back in the days before they became who they are at the book’s start: two people very far from the golden days of youth.

But having found each other, they also find that their lives are filled with opportunities they had never before expected and that there is still the possibility of finding joy, no matter how difficult the present moment. Having found each other, they find a way forward. What follows is itself a bit of a ramble but a pleasant and delightful one that elevates “ramble” to the heights of a slow-but-steady romance of the highest quality. It is a romance that cares about its characters and in so doing, convinces its readers to love them as well. And that’s the kind of romance I can unabashedly and publicly recommend!

I’ve previously mentioned in one of my reviews that I am somewhat at a loss when reviewing romance novels, simply because I haven’t read many of them to date. For many years, I deliberately steered clear, thinking that the genre was limited when it came to the literary qualities that I look for in books. However, I have since learned that even old dogs can learn to like new genres and to both honor and celebrate the sheer diversity of books and qualities that appear in and are specific to the romance genre. Of course, all of this is an awkward way of explaining that: if a romance novel impresses me, the grumpy hermit with a really high bar when it comes to new things and changing my mind about something, it truly is a remarkable book.

IN SUMMARY:

A well-plotted romance with more than the average novel’s quality of backstory and character development, Rambling with Milton is a thoughtful look at everything that can go wrong in life—and everything that can go right.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can also learn more about Richard Siciliano’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press Author Page.

*Courtesy of Barnes & Noble book listing.

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, and extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve the most to be heard.

Reposting Original Book Review: “A New Lease on Life” by James Ocansey

A New Lease on Life by James Ocansey

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

We all have only one life to live. It is safe to assume that we all want to live a long, healthy life free from pain, disease, and untimely death. A New Lease on Life helps us to do that based on research by various authorities, primarily in holistic medicine. It shows you how the body works and what you can do to help it do its work of self-repair or healing. We learn that the body balances its alkalinity and acidity at an 80/20 percent ratio. The foods we eat need to follow that ratio of 80 percent alkaline and 20 percent acid-forming foods. Because we cannot follow this 4:1 ratio, the body must break down healthy structures and tissues in a process called catabolism. This is needed to keep us within 7.4 pH (slightly alkaline range), especially in our inner cavity, to keep our vital organs from dying. In addition, every fat, mostly cellulose, is pushed out and stored elsewhere in the body to keep us from dying prematurely.

Since health depends on detoxification and nourishment, we must find the best means to detox and nourish our system. Detoxification is best achieved by ionized, alkaline, microstructured hexagonal water, which can easily penetrate our cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients while cleansing them on their way out. Without good water—not just any water—the cells cannot receive nutrients easily and keep them clean. This results in excess tissue acid waste, the root cause of pain and numerous diseases. It also deprives our cells of needed nutrients that cause nutritional deficiency diseases leading to untimely death. Therefore, your longevity depends on how well you take care of your cells since the cells are not supposed to die, and you could live to over 100 years, as is known in Japan and many other cultures.

REVIEW:

Oh boy, am I not drinking the right water?

This, my friends, is precisely what went through my head when I first picked up James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life, which is blurbed entirely accurately in the description from Bookshop.org that I’ve included above, which is where I first found this book.

But first, to back up a minute: Those of you who have read my last review will remember that my response to that book was primarily the product of my recent experiences in and out of area health facilities as my family battled its way through a long, strenuous, and even to some extent, ongoing medical emergencies of the most dramatic kind. As with many people, it took something of such medical gravity to force me to reevaluate my own life choices, particularly in what I eat and drink. And while there are plenty of books on the former, the latter doesn’t seem to be talked about or researched to the same extent, outside of studies about known toxins and “please drink in moderation” sorts of drinks, such as those containing alcohol or caffeine. But if a person were to wonder, as I indeed have found myself wondering, whether there might be something more fundamental and elementary going on when it comes to “drinking well” in the same way that nutrition is essential and elemental to “eating well,” that person might find a compelling answer in James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life.

This is a research-based take on water, the most basic of all molecules necessary to life barring only the carbon atom, which enables complex life. Water is where we all started, the science seems to say, whether we’re talking literally or in a profound metaphorical sense. Our bodies are primarily made up of water, after all. I could drill down into the protean images of the womb and of creation narratives featuring a separation of land and sky from water—but I’ve only budgeted one on-the-nose metaphor for this review. I don’t want to try your patience before even getting to the real, er, elemental components of this review.

I know, I’m the absolute worst when it comes to puns, irony, and dad jokes. If our bodies are made of 90 percent (or some large percentage) of water, my soul is made of 90 percent dad jokes—terrible, awful, unbearable dad jokes.

Luckily, Ocansey is made of sterner, more academically reliable stuff than dad jokes, and I mean what I say. This book draws upon the results of a 12+ year study of pollution’s effects on the cellular level, a study involving scientists and researchers across multiple fields and disciplines. Dr. Joel Wallach was the chief pathologist. He conducted autopsies on 17,500 animals of 454 species and 3.000 humans for comparison. He concluded that “it was apparent that every animal and every human who dies of natural causes dies of a nutritional deficiency disease” and that this malnutrition is the result not of poor food quality or quantity but rather the water these unfortunate creatures consumed.

As we millennials like to say, this is mind-blowing stuff!

As Ocansey puts it, water is the “missing link” to good health, and the fundamental component missing in a world devoid of strong water knowledge (much less good water quality and infrastructure). I am, of course, no water expert (or true scientist, much as I love to participate in citizen science research and promote STEM learning for all). Still, the science in A New Lease on Life is well presented and easy enough to understand, particularly if a reader is already familiar with the scientific method.

picture showing water molecules H2O

“You’re not only thirsty but starving,” declares Ocansey in the subtitle to A New Lease on Life. This is the basis of the book’s argument: Water detoxifies, and water nourishes. It not only washes the body clean of toxins, but it also can contribute significantly to good nutrition if consumed in the right way and if made up of the right kind of water. I’m still parsing some of the finer points of Ocansey’s argument, but the research does seem clear on what it is indicating. There is such a thing as “hexagonal water,” a specific molecular arrangement of ordinary H2O which can potentially make a difference in longevity and general quality of life.

A New Lease on Life also contains arguments for several other potential health-boosting supplements and aids, but it is primarily concerned with the H2O mentioned above. It has everything from a doctor to patient to scientific testimony about the efficacy of all of the above. It is well worth a read if you are looking to delve into a brave new world of nutrition dramatically different from those diets, regimens, and other fads that come and go with the years. You may or not find yourself convinced—that is always a risk when it comes to an argument-based book—but you will most definitely find yourself asking important questions that need to be asked about the ways we have been doing things and where we want to go from here, healthwise.

WHERE TO BUY IT?

You can find A New Lease on Life on the Outskirts Press Author Page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, and extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve the most to be heard.

Reposting Original Book Review: “I’ll Fix America Tonight” by Nathan Andrew Roberts

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION

If you are tired of Democrats and Republicans making empty promises and their followers dogmatically choosing sides on every debate and issue so their guys can remain in power, you’re a lot like the author of this book. Tackling tough issues like the immigration debate, slavery reparations, minimum wage, taxes, college tuition, the insurance industry, business, the role of government in ordering our lives, prisons, the relationship of society to police, and many more, he proposes revolutionary solutions instead of choosing to spend 70,000 words needlessly criticizing. Coming from the view that every human is an image-bearer of God and that all man-made structures and agendas are open for debate, he offers solutions to some of America’s most burdensome problems that can be considered and implemented to make both sides happy. Understanding that too many people nowadays take themselves far too seriously, he gives the reader many self-deprecating and humorous asides (something sorely lacking in political and social debate). Buy this book and join the fight against poverty . . . namely, his poverty.

REVIEW:

What an unexpectedly timely book!

It just so happens that Nathan Andrew Roberts’s I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend) hit the top of my reading pile at the same time as the peak of America’s chaotic situation a few weeks ago. That means I’m posting this review in a bit of a changed world from the one that existed beforehand. I sense that feelings are still running extremely high among both Republicans and Democrats here in the USA and that not everyone is quite ready to open their minds to entertain the many exciting and interesting thought experiments that Roberts describes in his book. But I hope and even truly believe (by force of will, maybe) that just as many if not more people are eager to reconcile with their friends and family on the other side of the aisle. Perhaps a book such as this one has a real and useful function as we move forward into our brave new world.

Speaking of, I find our cultural associations with that Shakespeare reference (see below) quite useful indeed. It comes from The Tempest, my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, and is spoken by a young woman named Miranda, who has been sequestered on an island since infancy. When she meets outsiders for the first time, her reaction is:

In the eons since Shakespeare penned those lines, we have also seen the reference given quite the negative connotation, thanks in no small part to the British pessimist Aldous Huxley, who published Brave New World in 1932. Both Shakespeare’s play and Huxley’s dystopic novel are replete with social commentary, particularly on the nature of different worldviews.

For my part, I’ve always been drawn to Miranda’s approach. She falls in love with everything she meets and is willing to suspend judgment, where others leap to the worst conclusions about one another around her.

Nathan Andrew Roberts’s recent book is more or less designed for us Mirandas. He asks us to suspend our judgment of one another, work toward common goals, and make daring attempts to heal the breaches between our American political parties.

In his introduction, Roberts writes:

Government (including education and municipalities), business, places of worship, and other societal groupings are the pillars of society. Family is the foundation. When the foundation crumbles, so do the pillars. What I propose is drastic changes to all of these. Mind you, many of my ideas come from a morally conservative Christian viewpoint (if you can’t even bear to listen to my words past this sentence, I would be happy to provide you a refund), but I take a centrist and liberal stance on many different political and societal issues.

I’ll Fix America Tonight by Nathan Andrew Roberts (2020), p. iii

Having framed his own personal stance in this way, Roberts says: “Now, there are some ideas pertaining to a lot of facets of our society contained herein.” So far, so good. But Roberts also has a request of his readers! “What I would ask of even the most unreasonable of readers is that if you detest one idea or belief of mine that you refrain from waving off all others.” He describes the book as a buffet, full of various thought experiments from which a reader can pick and choose what appeals and leave the rest.

And, wow, does he cover quite a few topics! It’s worth noting here that my family too is fractured between two (or three, or four, or more) radically different worldviews and certainly represents both sides of the current political system. Running down Roberts’s table of contents is a lot like looking at a list of conversation topics we try not to bring up over the dinner table: the military, reparations, welfare, and education, among them. We are not so invested in some of the other topics he covers, like foreign aid––but as this is a buffet, I didn’t feel as though I had to have a clear opinion on what the “fix” should be by the end of that chapter; I was merely curious what radical changes Roberts might suggest, and what funny anecdotes he might share. For some of the chapters that have been topics of serious disagreement among my family and friends, I found myself paying more attention to the suggested “fix” than the humorous bits. Knowing that I had Roberts’s, how shall I put this, permission to move back and forth meant that I didn’t set the book down when I disagreed with a point (or ten). I simply made a note (and probably said huh! out loud) and moved on, knowing that I’m not being asked to carry the burden of forming a set opinion just to entertain a possible future by way of a thought experiment.

As my father would say, Roberts is something of a “goofball.” He loves a good pun, cracks himself up with his own “dad jokes” and stories, and generally keeps the entire book lighthearted. (“That question isn’t rhetorical,” he writes at one point. “I want you to compose your answer in a well-worded essay and mail it to me. Route it through my temporary office at the North Pole.”) That said, he always clearly signals when he wants his readers to take him seriously. I really appreciated that. He’s seen and been through enough to more than fill out a straight memoir, but he chose to take on this project because he wants to help this country heal. I love that about this book: its intentions are so pure.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Roberts also writes well! His language is accessible, and the book has been edited well. It doesn’t dither around but rather is nicely streamlined. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book (any book!) dealing with politics under 400 pages––and Nathan Andrew Roberts gets all his work done in fewer than 300. My wrist (and attention span) is eternally grateful. And he ends the book on such a positive note: “I believe in us. Ready?” Yes, wolf pack supervisor, I am ready. Let’s build some bridges.

IN SUMMARY:

In a world riven with civil unrest (and sometimes, uncivil unrest), there is absolutely a need for more books like Nathan Andrew Roberts’s I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend). His goal of providing fresh ideas to address social and political inequities that all parties can agree on is fabulous. I enjoyed the thought experiments he describes in this book, and I have the feeling this will be a book that lands well among people already willing to reconcile and make compromises to improve public discourse.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find out more on the Outskirts Press Author Page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

 

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Forgotten But Not Gone” by Barbara Peckham

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Forgotten But Not Gone is an interwoven story about a married housewife and part-time librarian living in coastal Massachusetts in 1965. She is happy and very active in her life there. However, she has a background that no one knows about except her husband, George, and even he doesn’t know anywhere near the whole story. He knows that she has amnesia about her early childhood, but very little else.

All Liz really remembers is that, at the age of about fourteen or fifteen, she found herself running, panicked, down an Appalachian mountainside. She had no idea then, nor did she now have any memory of what had happened before that, what she was running from, or what had frightened her so much. Now she seldom thought about it. She had managed to get on with her life and what was past was past.

That is, until, one day a strange letter arrives in her mailbox. It appears that someone know things about her that she doesn’t even know, and it frightens her. Not long after, other occurrences begin, and they escalate more and more in intensity and danger. She is sure all this has to do with the past she can’t remember, and she begins to fear for her life. She has had, ever since she can remember, some silver teaspoons with initials engraved on them, and a diamond ring, but she has no idea whose they were or what the initials mean. Did she steal them? Is someone finally going to find her? Then a teaspoon exactly like hers turns up in the collection of a friend. Where did she get it? How are they connected?

Still, try as she might, all she can remember is that she ran until she came across a hardscrabble farm, where an elderly couple took her in. They treated her like the daughter they had lost. She stayed and worked the farm with them until, after a few years, they died, one shortly after the other, and she was forced to leave the only home she remembered to go out on her own with few resources and little education. The years following were years of hard work and night school.

The story weaves back and forth between the present, [with] Liz revealing more of her past, a mysterious man who has come to town with a vengeance, and a young woman who has in her possession another of the silver spoons. All comes together at the end with a terrible fire, and the truth comes out.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time, a girl stumbled out of the thickly forested Appalachian foothills and into the lives of an elderly couple on a small farm. Uncertain of what had happened before she entered the forest, her exact age, and even her own name, the girl is dubbed “Nell” and nurtured by the Ekburgs until their deaths send her out into the world, ready to make a new life for herself under a new name, and equally determined to make new memories to replace the ones she’d lost.

Thus begins the story of Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons, a new cross-genre historical fiction plus mystery novel from Barbara Peckham. The novel leaps twenty-odd years into the future, and catches up with Nell, now Mrs. Elizabeth (“Liz”) Everson, living a calm life as a part-time librarian and housewife just prior to Halloween in 1965. And yes, a set of silver spoons really does connect the dots between the stories of Nell/Liz/? and those of the book’s other point-of-view characters, including her husband George, the young Joyce, Liz’s new friend Elaine, the local police chief, and an unnamed mystery man who thinks he knows exactly what happened during Liz’s forgotten years––and is determined to punish her for it.

Told in a combination of straightforward narrative and flashbacks from their prior lives, Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons perfectly melds those elements it borrows from historical fiction and cozy mystery genres. Peckham has an eye for detail, walking her readers back through the years to a time when phones were analog and had those spiral cords (you still can find them for sale as ‘antiques’ on Etsy, which makes me feel absolutely ancient), and when people sent letters that were made of actual paper. She also embraces all of the pomp and circumstance (and obsessive planning) behind many a community celebration of the variety still common in older, tourist-friendly East Coast shore towns. As a librarian, Liz enlists Elaine and her other Book Club friends to assist in organizing Seaside’s Christmas parade and neighborhood gathering––a subplot that is blessedly free of the sinister elements that are becoming routine in the Everson household all of a sudden. It is here, with her friends around her and a project to complete, that Liz’s fundamental personality really shines––and her natural aptitude for winning people over. It’s only when Liz returns home that she is haunted by danger, and the nagging feeling that someone is out to get her for things she can’t even remember begins to sink its claws into her mind.

So, what happened in those years she’s forgotten? I can’t tell you exactly, since to do so would be an unforgivable spoiler, but Peckham weaves together the various elements of the novel into one, cohesive, and compelling story of fractured and found families, suspense and seeking sanctuary, and the making of a whole and complete life.

At a time when the world seems to be either on fire or consumed by some other tragic breaking news, Peckham invokes an era when the local police were also neighbors and friends, when daily life felt comfortable like a favorite sweater, and when libraries were the surest place to discover critical information in a mystery so old the trail is beyond cold––it’s pure ice. And I find this somewhat ironic, given that fire and ice (or at least, icing bruises) are common themes in Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons. I heartily encourage you to take a peek at this novel if you liked Big Little Lies but wished that people would just talk to each other and figure out a solution together, or if you find yourself hankering for a seasonally appropriate read in the months between Halloween and Christmas. After all, we all need a satisfying spook every now and then.

IN SUMMARY:

Compassionately written characters learn crucial details about their own lives in this cozy, genre-bending novel from Barbara Peckman. Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons is exactly the right book at the right time for those of us who love old houses and old towns and old memories relived.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Forgotten But Not Gone: The Silver Spoons wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and WalMart. You can also find out more about Joseph Bylinski’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m digging into Rambling With Milton next, a novel that follows a journalist and columnist whose youthful ideals about romance remain unfulfilled after a long and successful career. A significant chunk of this romantic work of fiction is set around a Christmas play and the long road to recovery one woman faces as she falls in love. The premise is exactly the sort of thing to have me restocking my kleenex supplies, so I will update you with more information in the days to come!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “A Sense of Urgency” by Patrick McLean (Fiction)

A SENSE OF URGENCY by Patrick McLean

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Baseball franchise moves can break your heart.

Mark Weber, President & CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals, thought he landed his dream job. Little did he know it would turn into a nightmare shortly after management changes at parent company Rheinhold Brewing Company.

Christina Rheinhold, newly installed President & CEO of the company that bears her name, is anxious to keep the small brewery afloat. What better way than to shed non-beer assets? Especially if you don’t even care about the team, purchased by her father when In-Bev acquired Anheuser-Busch and they also were in an off-loading situation. Christina [is] well aware of the 125 year plus tradition of the team in St. Louis, but it [is] very tempting to sell the team to out of town parties for top dollar.

Can Mark, with the help of natural and even supernatural support, save the team for the city and their fans?

REVIEW:

Baseball! So many different aspects of my life seem to be telling me I should brush up on my (nearly nonexistent) knowledge of the sport. I spent my middle and high school years abroad in a country where baseball doesn’t exist, which probably explains why I know so little about the sport–including its history and why it is of such significant importance to Americans today. There are some similarities across sports: baseball and cricket, for example, are both considered “gentlemens’ sports” in that competition coexists with camaraderie and umpires are as important as the players, their calls are of the utmost importance, and sassing an umpire is as gross a misdemeanor as exists. In many other ways, though, baseball and the culture that has formed around it is utterly unique. In A Sense of Urgency, Patrick McLean captures much of the detail and texture of daily life with baseball and infuses his book with the spirit of the same.

Like the sport itself, A Sense of Urgency is a dialogue-driven read. Thumb your way through the book and you’re liable to land on a series of pages where the majority of the text printed on that page is being spoken aloud by one character or another. McLean is somewhat unusual in this–in writing, I mean. My personal addiction when writing is to scenic description (sometimes I think it’s all I know how to write) and that was fairly common among the writers I became acquainted with back in my college years. There are also plenty of authors who are addicted to what you might call the Infodump, or in some genres worldbuilding without much action. In moderation both worldbuilding and scenic description can be useful, but as most of you can probably attest, something needs to happen in a book in order to keep the momentum going and readers engaged. Too much summary description of action as it unfolds, though, can come off as distant. (“He ran, then he stopped. He ate a sandwich. Then he moved to Alaska to learn how to muster sled dogs.”) It’s almost as if some writers (me included) can completely forget about the power of dialogue–but not Patrick McLean.

One of the benefits of a dialogue-driven book is that it doesn’t come off as teasing or deliberately disingenuous to withhold certain information until the critical moments in which those details are important; a third person omnipresent narrator, however, knows everything the character knows and can therefore be something of a tease in books that depend on the timing of those details for plot momentum and reader interest. (If an author knows that it was Lady Scarlett in the dining room with the candlestick but asks me to consider the butler and Colonel Mustard as primary suspects, I start to wonder what else the narrator is hiding from me. And then I start skimming ahead. Because sometimes I’m a very impatient reader! Whoops.) With dialogue, though, an author is fully justified in only conveying what the characters themselves know or are willing to share in the moment, since their voices are the only (or at least the dominant) voices on the page. This comes in very handy in A Sense of Urgency.

Dialogue also conveys personality and regionality in a way like no other text can. Speech patterns, dialect, and idiom tell people who we are when we speak, more than even our clothes and our resumés, since we can put on costumes and brag as much as we like, but how we speak and how we speak to each other will always reveal who we are underneath the affectations and behavioral habits we acquire.

When it comes to plot, there’s not much I can tell you about A Sense of Urgency that’s not already in the description without spoiling key details, but as the omnipresent narrator of this review I’m going to tease you with hints at what you’ll discover when you crack open a copy for yourself. McLean’s command of the details is exquisite. (Who wears loafers without socks??! Who are these people? My mother would be mortified if she were caught out of doors without socks in her sneakers. I, meanwhile, wear sandals until the snow is thicker than the soles of my sandals. Then I switch to boots. I do not loaf. You’ll have to read on in order to discover why this is important in the book.) The little things aren’t always little in this book. But that could also be a hint of misdirection; a Colonel Mustard moment of mine, if you will. (See? Don’t you hate it when a narrator tortures you? McLean doesn’t do this thanks to his dialogue-driven approach.) The Cardinals are more than just a team. Security is called to escort people out … and there are several moments where things get “a little dicey,” to steal an expression from the book. There’s plenty of drama to go around, but I won’t embarrass myself by trying to replicate McLean’s command of how baseball works and will simply state instead that this is a book that is focused on the game and what the game makes possible in the lives of those people who are involved in it.

If you like baseball, or even if you know nothing about baseball but enjoy seeing just desserts dished out by characters who are knowledgable and passionate, this is a book to add to your reading list.

IN SUMMARY:

While the world keeps reminding me that Americans play baseball and not cricket, A Sense of Urgency pairs the sport with storytelling that is bound to appeal to fans and newcomers alike. And yes, Patrick McLean really does convey … a sense of urgency … in this compelling slice of life narrative.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find A Sense of Urgency  wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Patrick McLean’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

The year 2020 being what it is, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to Integrity Based Policing by Dan Barry, which is an insider’s perspective based on Barry’s thirty or so years in law enforcement for the City of Las Vegas. Personal opinions aside, I think it’s an important moment to be seeking out stories from all perspectives on this topic in order to better understand what’s going on in the world (specifically America) today.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.