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Book Review: Infinite Ripples


Infinite Ripples: Skeletons Beyond the Grave. Joseph Summerville. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 13, 2018, 316 pages.

Reviewed by R. H. King Jr. 

The Bible tells us that the sins of the father will be visited upon the sons. This memoir brings home that point in stunning detail, as the author describes a journey through several generations of abuse and emotional turmoil from which he struggles to escape. 

The author’s father is a literal Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is a well-respected doctor with a wife and children, a true pillar of the community. But just below the surface, there is an irrational, volcanic temper that, behind closed doors, inflicts tremendous emotional and even physical abuse on his own family. There is a terrifying recounting of the father chasing one of his sons around the house with a loaded pistol; if the author had not misdirected his father’s pursuit, the other son would have certainly been shot. 

The first half of the book is devoted to bringing this monster to life, and telling the story of a heinous murder of a teenage girl that the author is convinced his father committed, and from the details provided, it seems likely that the father did commit the crime. I liked this part of the book the best. It was as engrossing as any crime novel, and written in a conversational style that made the pages fly by. 

The remaining half of the book describes some of the emotional scars that the author tries to deal with that have been caused by being raised in this caustic environment, including a date rape. This part of the book is more difficult to read because it is describing the author’s deeply personal struggles to overcome his upbringing. It also includes attempts at reconciliation with the author’s mother and father, and his own son. Although it may have been very cathartic for the author, this part of the book seemed longer and more repetitious than was necessary. 

Memoir is a tricky genre. If the life story is not interesting enough, there is a tendency to slip into self-absorption. This memoir certainly does not suffer from the first problem: it tells a riveting story, at least for the first half of the book. But it does suffer somewhat from the self-absorption problem in the back half of the book. Overall, however, a good read.        



Book Review: Operation Archangel

Operation Archangel (The Scouts of St. Michael)Dan Morales. San Antonio, Texas: Elm Grove Publishing, May 22, 2018, Hardcover and Trade Paperback, 339 pages.

Reviewed by Roger Prosise.

Operation Archangel is a compelling and intriguing young adult novel. Set in England during World War II, it is the story of how six Boy Scouts prepared for and engaged in combat during the Second World War.

The plot is intriguing, the characters are well developed, and the scenes are authentic.  The six boys from St. Michael’s Boys Home, all sixteen and younger, prepare for and eventually engage in battle, including shooting down one of Hitler’s top pilots during an air raid. Though the boys were treated like regular troops, they were, in fact, heroes. The training was strenuous but the boys thrived. 

The story of the Boy Scouts engagement in combat doesn’t end with shooting down a dive-bomber; the boys are also given the dangerous mission of capturing Thomas Peter Heydrich, a senior leader in the Hitler Youth and a godson of Hitler.

In preparation for their mission, the boys learn to how to stay alive in a knife fight, what pressure points to attack in a fist-fight, and how to jump out of an airplane. These ventures were authentic and kept the story moving. The young boys distinguish themselves during their training at Parachute School, jumping out of an airplane with parachutes—all except their fearless leader, Reggie.

The young boys struggle with the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” and through their mission as soldiers in England’s army. Tremendous growth transpires throughout the novel. In the beginning, the six boys request to be an official troop with the Boy Scouts. Their request is rejected. The boys then create their own troop which engages in combat. Later, their troop is selected by the Prime Minister of England to carry out critical military missions for England.

Operation Archangel is an enjoyable and insightful read. I was impressed with the author’s knowledge of combat. It brings an exceptional appeal to young adults connected with Boy Scouts and the ROTC.

Dan Morales is a writer who lives and works in Chicago. He graduated from Columbia College in Chicago with a degree in marketing and advertising. His copywriting work has earned numerous awards including an Effie and a FAB award. Operation Archangel is his first novel.



Book Review: Jaded

Jaded. Owen Patterson. Chicago: BREVIS Publishing, August 2018, Trade Paperback, 163 pgs.

Reviewed by Jose Nateras.

In his latest book of poetry, Jaded, Owen Patterson takes readers through the stops and starts, and the arcs and codas, of a life that leaves us both exhausted and, upon reflection, appreciative of the journey. A collection of varied poems, Jaded begins with the poems “Description,” “Dedication,” and “Intro,” and then continues with ten individually titled sections.

All of the poems vary in form and subject matter, even within their respective sections, resisting limits and classifications. Some of the poems rhyme, some are catalogue-like, others are self-referential, and still others adhere to a stream-of-consciousness-like flow, moving through the poet’s train of thought as he processes, references, and summons imagery.

Patterson’s use of free verse allows him to focus on whatever captures his attention. In so doing, he elevates everyday happenings into ruminations on such themes as the passage of time and the absurd or fleeting nature of life itself. “Happy Cat,” for example, takes the simplicity and familiarity of a subject common to children’s literature and imbues it with the world-weary weight of an adult’s ups and downs. 

As with any collection, establishing through-lines and consistency is tricky. But by embracing variety, Patterson avoids such challenges. The pieces in this collection are less concerned about being in conversation with each other than about being in conversation with the reader. Many of the poems feel freshly distilled from the poet’s environment. Lines of dialogue overheard on public transit, for example, such as those in “47th and Chill (based on a real event)” and others, feel less like poems and more like flashes of Patterson’s life, free from poetic curation. He paints a picture of life in Chicago that provides insight and clarity to the context in which his more poetic work lives. Not only do his poems paint the interiority of the worn and “jaded” poet himself; they reveal the very world that has worn the poet down. 

Given the varied nature of Patterson’s poetry, it’s not surprising that he has also written prose-fiction (2015’s The Dis-condition of Ease.) Jaded is his third collection of poetry, following 2017’s Lovely Faze and 2018’s Stars at Naught. As a writer, Patterson’s unique voice and strong perspective make his poems valuable reflectors of a world that many of his readers walk through. It’s a world that can leave us feeling “jaded.” At the very least, reading this collection can lead us to reflect on how we’ve reached a certain state in our lives and our world, and view the larger context that allows for appreciation of the journey that leads us to such a state in the first place.

A Chicago native, Patterson presents the type of insights often overlooked in poetry of this kind. He taps into the complexity and nuance of living in Chicago, a city filled with and characterized by juxtapositions. After all, Chicago exudes the fast pace of a metropolis, but one that is nestled in the heart of the Midwest. The region also lies near the center of a country that is often both exhausting and disheartening, leaving so many of its citizens “jaded” but—like the sentiment expressed in many of these poems—unwilling to give up.



Book Review: The Road from Money: The Journey Continues

The Road from Money: The Journey ContinuesSylvester Boyd, Jr. GEM Publishing, November 17, 2017, Trade Paperback.

Reviewed by Dr. Margaret Brown.

Money, Mississippi is a notorious small town named for Hernando Money, a United States Senator from The Magnolia State. Estella’s courageous story evolves from within the breath of a small cotton community to a new home in Chicago with her Uncle Leamon by the age of twenty. In this story, the writer focuses on the heartbeat of institutionalized racism and segregation through the eyes of a young black woman. Estella’s rich experiences enable her to befriend a Jewish woman that shares similar memories of living in a racist world. Estella is learning about her new environment in the North as the world around her transforms. Navigating through life’s difficult times, Estella builds a new foundation, friendships, and relationships that teach her to love and respect others. Estella realizes that racism lies in the heart of man.  

What I enjoyed most about reading Sylvester Boyd Jr.’s work, The Road from Money: The Journey Continues, was the connectivity I experienced. I felt as though I were Estella’s shadow throughout the entire book. The author was clever in the manner in which he unweaves a portion of America’s painful past. The reality of our past was presented in such a manner that others understand the struggles of what life was like for African Americans then and is still like now. I recommend this book because the story captivated my attention from the first sentence.


Book Review: The Saint of Liars

The Saint of Liars. Megan Mackie. Self-published, June 18, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 459 pages.

Reviewed by Andrew Reynolds.

In her first book, Finder of the Lucky Devil, Megan Mackie introduced us to her alternate Chicago. It's a place where technology and magic exist side-by-side, but the balance is shifting. With technology becoming more and more like magic, those who wield the older power face a bleak future. Corporations that virtually own their employees are consolidating their hold on the city, squeezing those they do not control out of power, or into their control.

The Saint of Liars begins where the earlier work left off. Newly made the head of an ancient magical house, Rune Leveau is struggling to find her place in the world of magic. She must deal with the pressures of keeping the seat of that house, the Lucky Devil bar, from going broke while learning to use her emerging magical powers. If that wasn't enough pressure, she finds herself enmeshed in the power struggles that are coming into the open.

Old disagreements amongst the magic users threaten to shatter their last bit of political power in the face of corporations learning to use technology to work magic. But the corporations are far from united. Factions in their ranks are engaged in a covert revolt, fearing that a final consolidation of power in the hands of a few is at hand.

Rune's sometimes love interest St. Benedict is back, and the two of them are soon working together to find out who is trying to kill Rune. Their efforts to solve that mystery takes them deep into Chicago's magical side and uncover a plot to develop a technology that would allow the non-magical to harness magic. 

Mackie's magic-noir Chicago may be populated by fantasy creatures, but the problems her protagonist faces, and the landscape she moves through, contain enough of modern reality to make the story believable. Her hero is not perfect, but her errors give her the feel of someone you might know in real life. Put all that into a story that draws you along with a relentless pace, and you have a story that makes an ideal summer read, or a good read any other time of the year. I am not sure if Ms. Mackie plans to write another book in her fantasy world, but I hope she does. I have enjoyed following her characters and would not mind reading more of their story.