Saturday, September 20, 2014

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach by David J. O'Brien

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach.  David J. O’Brien. Tirgearr Publishing. September 2014. 205 pp. pbk; 1246 KB. E-Book. ASIN #: B00NIVD8K2.

What’s the essence of a satisfying life? Some people journey through life without ever thinking about that pivotal question.  The young men and women vacationing on Ballyboy Beach in the summer of 1996 don’t fit in that niche and that is what makes this story so unique and satisfying!

Derek and his college friends, male and female, are vacationing.  Sure, their conversation frequently returns to intense focus on how much they can drink, what they can drink, who will go to town to get that drink, and of course the proverbial teasing and leaking of true and false bravado about sexual performance.  Yes, they compare and want to know who was a better partner; but interestingly, some associate sex more with a committed (even if temporary) relationship. How old-fashioned and sexy is that?

However, in another part of the novel, they begin to discuss the topic of “destiny.”  They think about the 9 to 5 jobs each has, except Derek, and where those jobs are going.  They talk about what the future holds but gradually wind up realizing what they have for sure is only now and anything else could happen.  Little does the reader realize how pivotal these unusual conversations are.  Oh, and one must recognize that perhaps today’s youth have deeper thoughts than other older people credit them with having.  It adds something special and immediately takes it out of the stereotypical zone of romance and partying commonly generally attributed to college students and young adults.

Derek moves past dreaming of just sex with anyone to beginning to deeply care about one particular young woman. It’s quite a move for him to initiate something beyond a one-night stand but he evolves nicely into this new aspect of his life, opportunity to be real and that draws others to him as a leader.

When the most important scene in the book slams the reader in the gut, he or she is certainly not expecting the ultimate destiny that in a few moments unfolds as well as its aftermath.

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is very good contemporary fiction and nicely crafted.  This reviewer would recommend it for adults and young adults as well.  It’s sexy without being gross and it’s sincere and blunt without being trite.  Read it and discover a great story for yourself!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Penny: Women and War by Ellie Keaton

Penny: Women and War.  Ellie Keaton. Amazon Digital. E-Book. August 2014. 276 pp.  ASIN#: B00N47L8ZC.

Penelope (or Penny as she is called herein) is a French woman who has lost both of her parents due to the cruelty of Alain, the man who controls most of the small French town where Penny lived for most of her life.  It is a neighborly and elderly woman whose kindness to Penny builds up her strength to travel to England and meet the relatives she’s never known in the past.  As Penny has been raised as a farmer’s daughter and is totally unused to the world of aristocracy, she is hard-put to conform to the expectations of her rich Aunt and cousin. However, her grandmother, Meme, is determined to build up Penny with love in the present, disregarding the past in which so much harm was done to so many people in this family. None of this warm and hostile treatment deters Penny from her decision to do what she can for the war effort and to exact revenge on the man responsible for the death of her parents!

This is the story of Penny’s training and activities as a member of the French Resistance during WWII.  She is hired by England because she passes all of the tests, speaks fluent French and passes with great skill the training for her work as a British spy.  During her training she’s attracted to someone she thinks is enlisted as a Royal Air Force member.  Is this real love or just an initial infatuation?  That picture will change during her time in France when she is even more attracted to a fellow spy, Victor.  While in that service, she observes the brutal attacks of German soldiers, the arresting and torture of innocent French men, women and children by Germans and the fact that she can and does kill when the need arises. Penny is challenged further when she is arrested and tortured as a spy.

However, the war story needs to be told.  Penny is a survivor but the obstacles she faces test every mental, physical and emotional ability she possesses.  Even more distressing is the fact that many of her people are traitors in order to survive.  That makes it no less evil to Penny who does what she has to do.  She also learns that she may have to make a choice about her dream for revenge, one that may hurt her more than the one who she hates more than anyone in the entire world.

Penny: Women and War is a great read and shows a maturity in Ellie Keaton’s writing skills as she has crafted a more complex plot than in her previous novel in this series.  Finely written, Ms. Keaton and highly recommended!

Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L Miller

Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America .  Donald L. Miller. Simon and Schuster.  May 2014. 784 pp.  ISBN#: 9781476745640.

New York City’s fame lies in its dynamic people, places and events that have earned it the fame and fascination of the world.  Donald Miller’s tome, however, concentrates on the evolution of that immense growth since the time just preceding the Jazz Age to the present.  Great stories involve vibrant people who usually have a multifaceted presence that most people find intriguing and perhaps praiseworthy or even notorious. 

Our story opens with a long complex, multilayered presentation of New York City’s Mayor Jimmy Walker.  A man who secretly longed to be in the exciting world of acting in New York City’s theater, circumstances led him instead into governance.  He was a man who pushed the development of huge projects, particularly the city’s railroad system and real estate development, while often neglecting to realize that his attention to financial overspending was lacking.  At the same time his personal life was the fodder of tabloids with partying and an extramarital affair.  The world either loved or hated Jimmy Walker; but either way, he remains an outstanding figure in New York City’s history.

The rise and fall of Tammany Hall, the political system that controlled elections and their aftermath in every single segment of NY business, government and society, is a fascinating read.  It was not only focused on local politics but also had an immense influence on national elections.  What began as a group of powerful players that offered protection, jobs, health care, education and so much more to the little-known citizen became a huge organization that bred inescapable corruption.  

The remainder of the text explores diverse areas of New York City’s fame: its highbrow growth in real estate and fashion along Fifth Avenue and other memorable places within the city, its skyscraper and architectural development, its fragrance and beauty industries through the genius of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden respectively, its phenomenal talented and unique music industry beginning with the famed Jazz music evolving from downtown Harlem, its stupendous creation of mammoth transportation entities such as Grand Central Station terminal and the Holland Tunnel, and so much more.  

Supreme City is a fascinating read as Donald Miller has infused each segment with personal interest and factually accurate facts that makes this a highly readable and intriguing study.  He has obviously intensely researched his subject and yet never allows it to become dry or boring. This is a text to not only slowly relish but to keep on one’s coffee table, not as a dust-gathering knickknack but as a book that will draw further interest and reading from all who stop to momentarily and briefly pursue any one of its page – it’s that great and wonderful a book and definitely a classic study of New York City!