Spectrum ISBN: 9780998964805, published, copyright and written by Shelia M. Sullivan.

The story opens with Frances Olar Kavenaugh, one of the children of a large devout Irish Catholic family living in Missouri, who is completely grounded in the edicts of the church. Her first career love was art but was severely frowned upon and cancelled by her parents. She obtained a PhD in economics and began a career in consulting. Successful but unhappy with the choice and in spite of gaining a very lucrative career, she decided to become an artist, abandoned her lucrative career, and moved to San Francisco and rented a studio. She married a man who began to control her life, a partner selection probably influenced to a greater or lesser extent by her mother’s controlling tendency and the strength of the religious influence. Now finally divorced she has moved into a loft converted it to a studio, and rejoins friends she deserted during the two-year period of marriage. The friends in her “Buena Vista Irish Coffee Club are a motley group consisting of husband and wife Russell and Simon, Cheryl and Winter who was supposed to help her reenter the dating game. The group discuss the various prospects, although Winter’s help is somewhat curtailed with her involvement with Jason. The discussion leads to further thought on Francis’ part, Nathan, a highly successful art dealer accepts her work and the story continues following her journey to ‘find the true Francis and a satisfying way of life and love.’ Along the way she finds a number of interesting characters of both sexes, experiences ecstatic love and disappointment, discovers unrealized facts about members of her family and is threatened by a matter that she had completely overlooked.

Discussion: This is the first book in the F.O.K. (Francis Olar Kavanaugh) series. It follows the life of this young woman from a seemingly somewhat dysfunctional family as she, accompanied by zany friends, moves through life in a rather confused manner discovering alternative romantic attachments and unsuspected danger along the way. It is well written, providing often amusing incidents and interesting characters. At times it is a little slow moving and contains many ‘side issues’ that, although not seemingly pertinent to the plot, do contribute to the entire tale.

4* A well done tale of a young woman’s alternative life style investigation.

Cascading Petals

Cascading Petals ISBN: 9781775067627, Huntson Press, an e-book by Jane C. Brady.

Jewel Hart is an attractive student entering her senior year in high school. She has a 2-year older brother who is a tease but loves her and a sister she is responsible for collecting from her pre-school and taking care of until her mother returns from the office where she is officer manager for her husband’s very successful law firm. Her parents still a loving couple, also attempt to be good parents providing not only for the children’s desires but a healthy home life as well. Her brother, now in college, is pretty much a ‘loner’, never acquiring or needing friends. Contrarily, Jewel has a deep need for close friends and dreads this senior year because she has none. In spite of her seemingly ideal background, she has an extremely fragile ego that was first fractured thirteen years previously by acts of bullying classmates, people with whom she of necessity has associated for all of these years in this rather stable upper class neighborhood. The main bullying activity is rendered by Lexi and Amy, attractive girls with problems of their own that cause them and Lexi’s muscled boyfriend Chad to act as they do. Chad is totally spoiled and more or less out-of-control as the result of a father who provides him with everything but attention. He drinks heavily, drives recklessly, and delivers occasional drugs. Most fortunately however, Jewel meets Kaiden Carter, an extremely kind, seemingly self-assured young man in spite of secretly carried horrendous psychological baggage. He had just transferred to the area when he and his widowed mother moved in with his grandparents in this neighborhood. They become friends along with Finn Garcia, a pleasant, intelligent ‘nerd’ Mexican also transferred to the school and friendless. The plot evolves into following the interactivities of these individuals through the year with Kai and Jewel’s relationship developing into a budding love based on their common need. The devastating results arising from the actions of the disruptive characters along with the parental activity or lack thereof coupled with ineffective and/or lack of, proper action/reaction by teachers and other persons in authority also are set forth in some detail.

Discussion: The author has set her tale in Canada, but has described a situation of social injustice replete with abominable action, unacceptable neglect and ineffectual authoritative reaction that all-too-frequently is encountered in many countries leading most often to disastrous results. In general the message is clearly presented and described. The characters are obnoxious and/or suffering according to their position as attacker or attacked, the parents are credibly described in their rolls, the teachers both good and bad are as would be expected and the authoritative figures as ineffectual regrettably as commonly is the case. Thus in general, the author has provided a clear and compassionate message about the plight of bullied children and their bullies. Additionally, she has offered not only such causative factors as domestic abuse, but also some measure of description of effect of parental personal activity resultant from their own psychological baggage and its effect upon their children. However, the seemingly effective corrective course of action provided, regrettably at least for this reader, is a little too unrealistically ‘pie-in-the-sky’. Either Jewel’s family was not as lovingly appreciative of their daughter’s years-lasting problem as described, or they were completely incompetent in the practice of law, the latter seemingly strange since he was Senior Partner in a Law Firm doing sufficiently well to have their own prominent building and taking the entire family on exotic vacations. As an additional aside, the two women bullies seemingly were totally aware of the cause of their problems – a rather uncommon occurrence, and certainly not as completely understood as their actual verbalization of their problems would indicate.

Conclusion: An interesting and compassionate presentation of a universal problem with a disappointing supposedly effective corrective course of action.

3* 4* Compassionate presentation; 2* disappointing corrective activity.