Thursday, August 8, 2013


The Clock Of LifeThe Clock Of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Reviewer's note - I am a writer and freelance reviewer. I received no compensation or inducement to review this book. Thank you. vmls)

Nancy Klann-Moren’s The Clock of Life is a rich, wonderful story with a distinctive flavor and narrative, engaging characters, and written with a compassion for some of the darkest days in the history of America.


The Clock of Life is an excellent historical fiction, which takes place in the American South in the last quarter of the 20th century. Reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird in many respects, The Clock of Life is a “coming-of-age" story about a young boy growing up in a small town in Mississippi. It is a story of truth and freedom… of injustice and inequality.

Told in ‘first-person’, in a clear, compelling voice, Jason Lee, the son of deceased Vietnam War veteran JL Rainey recounts his growing up in Hadlee, Mississippi during a time of much unrest in America. The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement had a profound and lasting impact on much of the country and Jason Lee's 'world' bears much of the brunt of that… a world where racism and intolerance runs deep. Jason Lee learns a great deal about his father and the kind of man he really was through stories from others. It is from these stories that a yearning grows.

In his befriending of a black schoolmate, Jason Lee - through many trials -grows in both character and spirit, learning and appreciating the meaning and value of friendship, freedom and tolerance for others in a society that often takes freedom for granted and does not fully appreciate the sacrifices of those who went before… those who fought and died to secure and ensure freedom for all… and a society that too often turns a blind eye to tolerance and acceptance, unable or unwilling to stand up to injustice and inequality.

Jason Lee wants to be like his father.

Ghosts of the past and the realities of a society rife with injustice and inequality, Jason Lee faces many challenges – not least among them broken hearts and the loss of a very close friend - and while [growing up] he doesn't always make the right decisions, Jason Lee, like the rest of us - especially those who also grew up in that time - learns and grows from his mistakes. He learns that while the 'right thing' isn't always the easiest thing to do… it is the right thing to do.

Jason Lee is becoming the man his father would have been proud to call son.


The author brings a strong narrative style, a very definitive sense of place and a stunning eye for the idiosyncrasies of rural life in the American South to The Clock of Life. Page after page is rich with a flavor that rings true for anyone growing up in that same period and place. One of the greatest strengths of this story, I feel, is the dialogue, with its finely-balanced dialectal quality, which adds to the overall imagery through-out the story.

There is a realism and depth to the characters in The Clock of Life that is sadly lacking in a lot of the fiction on today's market. Historical fiction especially demands richness in character, place and plot. Nancy achieves all three with such seeming ease that one forgets that this is her very first novel.

A minor scene perhaps, but like countless other 'little' scenes throughout the novel, Jason Lee and Samson's first shared experience with moonshine really struck a chord with this reader; in that relatively short passage is a great deal of truth.

A constant thread through-out The Clock of Life is the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War… both times of bitter conflict in which many lost their moral compass, some never to regain it... and the inequality and injustice those events engendered, and the scars left behind.

The Clock of Life is a powerful and thought-provoking morality play, if I may use that phrase, which will have a lasting impact on the reader. I came away from this story with many of the same feelings I had after the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Nancy has written a humbling and inspiring tale of the courage and the strength of the human spirit, a story that evokes in the reader a broad range of emotions and hopefully, a degree of compassion and understanding for our fellow citizens.

If there is one thing we can take away from this story, it is this….

It is one thing to know the difference between right and wrong; that’s something we all learned in the third grade. It is quite another thing to have the courage and conviction of one’s beliefs and to live one’s life for the betterment of mankind and to have empathy and compassion for the family of man. Freedom isn’t free and justice isn’t blind. We should not live our lives with the presumption that freedom doesn’t have a cost and that justice can be dispensed equally with eyes shut.

Nancy has earned numerous accolades – among them, her debut novel was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - for The Clock of Life, which should come as no surprise, and her novel has been adopted by the Los Medanos College’s English Department, to be taught in the school’s freshman writing classes.

The Clock of Life is a "must-read" and I recommend it without hesitation. Thank you, Nancy, for a thoroughly engaging story… one that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
6 August 2013
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)

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Monday, August 5, 2013


One Lost SummerOne Lost Summer by Richard Godwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Richard Godwin’s One Lost Summer takes a detour from the author’s trademark noir / psychological thriller / horror stylings and answers with a resounding “Yes!” the question “Can Richard write anything other than horror thrillers?”


A novel steeped in mystery and suspense, with a subtle yet unmistakable eroticism, One Lost Summer takes the reader deep inside the mind of a damaged man… a tortured soul… where we are witness to the ‘shrouded’ dance of the watcher and the watched.

The story begins one hot summer… the mystery, long before that.  And if there is a moral to this story, it is this…

Some things… once lost… were not meant to be found.

Unfortunately, some people find that out too late.


Identity… it is what makes man… it is what breaks man.  If I had to choose one word to describe the theme of Richard Godwin’s latest novel… a blend of noir mystery and psychological thriller… ‘identity’ would be that word.  Some might disagree with that, but… to paraphrase Joe Pesci in Goodfellas (I think)… “It is what it is.”

At first blush, One Lost Summer would appear to be a simple obsédé noir… a middle-aged voyeur drowning in the pool of his own desire, spending his every waking moment, as well as not-inconsiderable amounts of money, watching his neighbor and cataloging her existence on film.

But… with a master story-teller such as Richard Godwin… well, ‘simple’ just doesn’t apply.  This soon becomes apparent as the layers that make up the mystery of filmmaker Rex Allen’s new life are exposed to the often unforgiving glare of the reader.

One Lost Summer is a slow reveal.  That is not to say the story is slow, on the contrary; the pacing of One Lost Summer is ‘pitch-perfect’, to borrow a phrase from the music world.  Page after page, the suspense builds… occasionally ebbing, so as to allow the reader a respite to consider what has transpired so far.

And to ponder on the two traps of man….

Identity… and memory.  One is lost without the other.  

Memory can be a cruel mistress.   She will taunt and tease… scattering words and broken thoughts, like breadcrumbs, on the floor of one’s conscious.  If there are secrets that she is not ready to give up – and there always are - no amount of begging will help.  Memory will reveal the bits and pieces of one’s past in her own fashion… and in her own time.   And… she always wants something in return.  Always.

And this is the ‘crux’ of Rex’s problem.  Memory, or more accurately, the absence of a good portion of his, is what drives Rex… what moves him to uproot from his home outside greater London to the suburbs of Surrey, where hopefully a change of scenery and distance from the noise and static of his former life will bring some peace and where Rex can begin to rebuild what was lost.  If only he had more than a few broken shards from which to start.  


Rex Allen has an obsession.  He sees beauty in the ordinary and ordinary in beauty, and seemingly, has an almost singular compulsion with dominating the spirit of those who cross the path of his obsession.

It starts with a single image… flashing in the recesses of his mind like a relentless strobe… teasing something deeper, something still chained… unable to rise to the surface of Rex’s consciousness, where it can be named and placed in this new life of his… put into perspective.

And from that image, a word… “Coral…”

And from that one word, in what is… for lack of a better word… a Dr. Frankenstein-esque quest, Rex attempts to bring to life something more than just a memory.  And in doing so, he discovers – or, rediscovers – the ‘flexibility’ of his own moral code.  Ironically, he fails to see, or refuses to see, his own reflection in the morality of this new ‘world’ he has found himself in and which he soon grows contemptuous of.

When at last he can begin to enjoy – although, I’m not sure that ‘enjoy’ was ever a part of Rex’s emotional make-up… ‘possess’ might be a better word – the fruits of his labors, something changes.  The stage of Rex’s little deux jeux de caractères is suddenly crowded with the arrival of ‘truth’… stage right.

But, as I mentioned earlier… one should be careful of what they wish for.  La vérité n'est pas toujours mis un libre.


From page one, the narrative of Richard’s latest novel has a mesmeric hold on the reader, pulling them along… with questions rising as images flash past… and just when the reader thinks they have a firm grasp on the reality of the story, there is that Godwin “turn” that makes the reader sit up and go “Oh!”

At times, the tension is almost palpable… like the taste of silver amalgam… and brings an expectation not unlike that conjured in watching the recalcitrant fuse of a firework moving inexorably toward its explosive conclusion.

And at other times, there is an almost dreamlike quality to parts of the narrative that is like - to borrow Richard’s words – “… a key turning in a lock.  Over and over and over…”  And with each page turn… a flash of memory… not unlike that of light glinting off the polished surface of a key turning in a lock, as another bit of the mystery is revealed.


Seductive and suspenseful, One Lost Summer is a dark, richly woven mystery… a riveting tale of deception of self and a frightening look inside the human mind and the lengths and depths one will stir to possess another.  Richard Godwin writes, with disturbing clarity, the psychosis of a man possessed by beauty, to the exclusion of all else.

One Lost Summer is a `must-read'... it "hits all the marks" of a classic and timeless mystery and is well worth a few sleepless nights.

Thank you,

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
5 August 2013

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