Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lost, by Ed Lewis (Cape Arago Press)

A storyline you don't expect; a tale you won't forget.

In Lost, Mr. Lewis treats us to glimpses of the past, present, and a possible future, and ties them together in an intriguing tale that juxtaposes deception with integrity, and grief with hope.

The story opens with an engaging monolog by a minor--or at least, not-as-major--character, who sets the stage with glimpse into the past and its application to the present. Then we're off and running...

A brief visit to Delhi, India, where a top-secret scientific breakthrough lauches us into the initial foray between deception and integrity. Dr. "Derek" has invented the capability every military commander in the world covets. Today, that translates to untold billions of dollars for the firm that can bring it from the laboratory to the battlefield. And Mr. Winston Ridgely of the RCI Corporation intends to do just that.

Skip to Pine Crest, Oregon, where Viet Nam veteran, now newspaper owner/editor, Tom Jenkins and his wife, Marty share a quiet life--a life that is about to be turned upside down. Marty embarks on an Alaskan cruise as a member of a singing group. Then, only a couple of days out, the ship runs afoul of RCI's field-testing their newly acquired capability.

Enter grief vs. hope. The Coast Guard gives up on the chances that there are any survivors, but Tom can't let go of the feeling that Marty is still alive. His conviction sends him on a mission that ranges from the cruise line's home office in London, England, to Oregon's backwoods. Driven by his obsession, he ignores the sentiments piling up against him by well meaning friends who counsel him to move on, that he must reconcile himself to his wife's death. He just can't do that--oh, did I mention his granddaughter was also on the cruise? Yeah. Now you see.

But who is right: Tom or everyone else? What really happened to the Paradise Voyager, its passengers and crew?

Mr. Lewis toys with mysticism, but not too much; flirts with science fiction, but doesn't cross the genre line. What he does is produce a unique story that pits the staying power of love and devotion against the forces of 'fate' manipulated by the intervention of greedy men.

Well researched and thoughtfully written, this is a story you'll ponder well beyond the final page.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yesterday's Tomorrow, by Cathy West (OakTara)

In 1954, Malcolm Taylor, a noted foreign-affairs journalist, kissed his daughter at the front door, said goodbye, and promised to come back. He didn't.
In 1967, Kristin Taylor, a budding novice journalist, followed her father's trail to find out why.

So begins a gritty and heart-rending tale of integrity, faith and perseverance in two war-torn countries: Vietnam and the United States.

In Saigon, Kristin meets up--or rather, is forced into reluctant collaboration--with Luke Maddox, a photojournalist who irks Kristin in just about every way imaginable. And she reciprocates. Little do either of them know that Kristin's determination to follow through on a story her father had begun the previous decade and Luke's hidden past are intertwined. Finally, her self-imposed assignment, an exposé on a secret war within a war, threatens to explode both of their worlds, which have now become one.

Professionally, Kristin excels in her honest portrayal of a conflict gone so wrong, endearing herself to the men she has come to respect and love. Personally, she doesn't do so well in shielding her emotions from the horror engulfing a nation she has also come to love. From the trauma of a blood-spattered field hospital, to the heat of battle at a forward fire base, to the precious and precarious existence of a Saigon orphanage, Kristin learns the hard way how to survive physically, mentally and emotionally in an environment man was never meant to endure.

Her love-hate relationship with Luke comes to a head, then Kristin is forced to return to the States. Like most veterans of that conflict, part of her she leaves in Vietnam, part of Vietnam she brings home with her. And life is never again the same.

Ms. West delivers an honest, compelling, and very well written tale of war and the aftermath of war. But it's not a mere blood-and-guts story. It's one of hope. She shows us how love and faith have curious and unexpected ways of sprouting even in the most barren soil. Yesterday's Tomorrow will leave you very satisfied at its conclusion, but don't expect the path to be strewn with rose petals. Few paths to meaningful destinations are.

As an endnote, Ms. West is represented by Rachelle Gardner of the Wordserve Literary Agency. Neither Ms. Gardner nor Wordserve are known for tolerating mediocrity. In Catherine West, and Yesterday's Tomorrow, they've advanced their excellent reputation.

This is a re-post of the ARC review I wrote prior to the book's release for Ms. West's blog tour. And yes, the story is just as good now as it was when I first read it.  ;-)