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Memoirs of a Lovesick Siren

by Anne Carlisle,
$3.99 ebook, $14.95 paperback

Reviewed by Jessica Holsgrove

This is an outstandingly original story, which draws the reader in at once into the fascinating world of the siren. It’s exciting, well paced, funny, sad, outrageous and startlingly believable all at once. The writing is vivid, evocative, bawdy, witty and sometimes poetic.  

I took at once to the heroine, Destiny, who is born, along with a twin brother of considerably less power -  though with an equally strong will - to a mother who comes from a long heritage of sirens.

While Destiny is a siren, her brother is a demon. She loves him, though she knows too well that while she is motivated by a genuine desire for good  - along with a fairly  healthy ego, that is, and a strong sex drive, that is – Dustin is motivated by a will to destroy.

This evil in Dustin is made worse by the fact that he feels unloved –his mother is disappointed in him, for as a boy he shows no particular talents and an unappealing streak of malevolence – while she is justly proud of her daughter.   Not only that, but the siren family has a secret enemy in a disinherited part demon who covertly strives to undermine them through his influence on the boy; and the bitter, rebellious Dustin, an under achieving male in a dynasty of strong females, makes for an apt pupil.

Destined, as her name indicates,  to be one of the strongest of the sirens of her family, the heroine is as strong and independent as befits a girl growing up in the early twentieth-first century; she is also both kind and family oriented. She is quite simply great hearted.  

This is a heroine who, besides her occult powers, is lovely, an outstanding scholar, aided by her eidetic memory, a gifted musician, witty, sensual, cultured and morally aware – but never for one second does she come across as a ‘Mary Sue’. She faces all the feelings of angst, and loneliness and is as tormented by the family conflict by which she is surrounded as any human girl.  Her older relatives scold her and take her for granted.

Worse, Destiny seems unable to find true love. She can have any man she likes – that is one of the powers of the siren – but there is a caveat: ‘as long as she likes him dead’.

Destiny dreads this generational curse; she knows that even her devout Grandmother, rebel against her sirenhood –has caused deaths; love, sex and reproduction for the siren must not be mixed: reproduction itself is hazardous, for a male siren is never strong and admirable.  

When Destiny does find true love – after many hilarious sexual adventures -  this problem becomes truly urgent for her.  

Meanwhile, the story moves through the battle between the twins over the fate of the family’s property empire – is it to be used for good or evil? The tensions mount as the story moves to its inexorable climax of violence and sorrow.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes: -

‘ “Death has no impact on character. I’m still insanely jealous, although I’m no longer vain…”Well, at least the afterlife produced some degree of self-awareness.”’

‘Both evil and its antidote reside in the human heart. The best part is, the antidote can be presented as a gift’

‘I wish there was a book I could refer him to, with a title like ‘Emotional Intellgience for Paranormals’.

‘Grammie used to punish Mama with the silent treatment, and once an entire year had gone by without their speaking to each other…’

There are many more excellent quotes. I recommend this book to all fantasy lovers who want a strong heroine and love a laugh. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Narcotic Conspiracy

Reviewed by Paul A Clarin

If there are three things a dyed-in-the-wool Mississippian loves it is college football, a truly good saga, and that same truly good saga embellished for happy hour. It makes it even better if that truly good tale has a nugget of truth attached to it. The third item on this list is how "A Narcotic Conspiracy" was conceived. After finishing "A Calculated Conspiracy", inspired by the Cay Club story, David and Nancy, retired financial services industry professionals and part-time Keys residents, were looking for a new project. The idea came one afternoon during a happy hour session with their restaurateur neighbors. David was asking about a mysterious usually unoccupied canal-front house and the surrounding vacant lots at the end of their street. Their neighbor informed them that it was one of the notorious “Pegg” holdings. When David asked for more details, he unfolded a Keys myth about how the property once was one of many properties owned by one of the original kings of drug smuggling and the duo credited with conceiving and proposing to the Colombian cartel the mother-ship/daughter-ship method of smuggling where the mother-ship is anchored in international waters and the drugs are ferried to shore on a wide variety of smaller mostly sports vessels.

David began to research the Pegg legend, and the more he read, the more he became fascinated in the case. Within a very short period of time he proposed a novel inspired by and very loosely based on the Pegg story to Nancy as their next Will and Betsy Black project and proposed calling it "A Narcotic Conspiracy".

The next challenge was to create an unusual cast of characters to support desk-jockey and reluctant sleuths, Will and Betsy, in their quest for truth. Ike and Jake Blanchard, smugglers extraordinaire and sometimes philanthropists, soon occupied center stage. Of course, there had to be a dangerous Colombian drug-pin, the surface-polished and oily Adolfo "Al" Soltero and his less refined junior associates returned from "A Calculated Conspiracy". And then they needed a crooked politician. The Highly Exalted Reverend LeRoy Cho-Arturo filled the bill quite well. Other characters began to emerge, the born-again rap singer minister, Doug Bootee, and his assistant, Queisha Hamilton, the wayward niece of a Jamaican thug, were born. Other characters returned from "A Calculated Conspiracy" like Carson "CC" Crowne, the inept super-banker and buffoon, the coffee-drinking, sometimes gossipy Key West police chief, Walter Wanderley and the entrepreneurial jack-of-all-trades-master-of-few, Jason Pearson. Then there is Geoffrey Oliver Watson III, a leading citizen with skeletons in his closet and Ethel Wasson, the waitress who may be something more. Finally, there is the fly in everyone’s ointment, the mysterious adventurist/technology and exotic vehicle nut, Mark Dart. No one is quite sure why he's thrown his hat in this ring.

With this mostly motley supporting cast in place, Will and Betsy embark on their latest adventure, the Beckwith’s usual mixture of comedy and suspense, as they try to bring order to the whole mess. All in all it's a fun weekend and very Keysy read.

Dark End of the Rainbow

This book was so captivating. I began reading it on a flight to Denver and I even ignored offers of drink and a snack from the flight attendant. I finished reading the book on my flight home and again I couldn't put the book down.
I thought the author, J. E. Irvin, did a wonderful job of keeping her audience anxious for the next chapter. I loved how all the pieces came together in the end.
I would highly recommend this book as a good read.

Kim Koumas

Coyle's Folly

“Coyle’s Folly” is a thrilling courtroom drama that lifts the false veil of safety in everyday life and shows you a world where our humanity hangs in the balance. Ben Kelley has done a masterful job weaving a compelling story with the technical expertise of someone who has been out in front fighting for the rights, and dignity, of the forgotten. Chris Nowinski, author, Head Games.

I couldn’t put it down.  It is paced perfectly. What a terrific read!!  Bradford Snell, former Senate investigator; author, The Streetcar Conspiracy: How GM Deliberately Destroyed Public Transit

Gripping! Leon Robertson, Ph.D., author, Injury Epidemiology

“Coyle’s Folly” is a great read – hugely entertaining and enlightening to a public generally unaware of the devious misbehaviour of big business. Kelley knows his ground well. Douglas Stewart, international attorney, author, The Brutal Seas: Organized Crime at Work

An exceptional piece of work and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Keven Liles, trial attorney, Watts Law Firm

Two thumbs up! Donald Slavik, trial attorney, SlavikLaw.com

Wonderful! Keep ‘em coming! Susan Baker, MPH, founding director, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy

The Grief Spiral

Everyone faces grief at one point or another in her or his life. But how to handle it? Here, Elissa Bishop-Becker draws on her own experience to help others with an effective approach known as Transformative Bereavement. Walking the reader through the four stages -- Loss, Return, Reconnection, and Creation -- she draws on stories from her clients, friends, and contacts to explain the process of recovery from grief.

"The Grief Spiral changed the way I think about bereavement. As a professor in the College of William & Mary counseling program, I would recommend this book to all of my students as a supplementary text and to all my friends as a guide to dealing with life’s many changes. It is full of wisdom and experience, a must for anyone who is alive!"
--Prof. Charles F. Gressard, Ph.D., Chair Emeritus of the National Board for Certified Counselors

“The journey travels a winding path which turns around on itself and appears to backtrack at times. Yet, the Transformative power of this journey can leave one in a mature and energized place that redefines one’s relationship with the lost person (or situation) and provides a renewed outlook and calling in life.”
–M. Grove, Director of Religious Education

“Elissa Bishop-Becker in her book,  Loss and Growth. The Grief Spiral, shares her philosophy of transformation based on her own story of loss, which touched my soul at a very deep level. She is an inspiration of how she found meaning on what happened to her, and transformed her life into growth. Because her purpose is to bring awareness to our ability to choose how we respond to losses, Elissa invites the reader to shift their paradigm and to embrace loss as a transformative process, through insightful exercises and empowering techniques. As you navigate throughout the pages of this valuable book, you will also be inspired to embrace loss as a meaningful and  transformative experience.”
--Ligia M. Houben, FT, CGC, CPC, Author of “Transform your Loss. Your Guide to Strength and Hope,” Author of “Counseling Hispanics Through Loss, Grief, and Bereavement,” Board member, Association for Death Education and Counseling.

After experiencing multiple losses until her world was unrecognizable, Elissa Bishop-Becker returned to school and received her M.Ed. from the College of William and Mary in 2000. Elissa is a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and co-founder of the Center for Transformative Counseling in Key West. What she is most proud of is having guided many grieving clients through the process, helping them find meaning in their new world.

Like A Rolling Stone

“It's 9:50 p.m. and I've just finished your book. It is fantastic. Absolutely fabulous and  brilliant.It would be crazy if it wasn't made into a film."

–  Melissa Barraza, Key West
"A sweet and kind and lovely little book full of nostalgia.”
–Ricky King, England, UK

"Your book is great – it’s so nice to set some time aside and slide back into the 1960s.  The actual girl in the tree house was a big surprise!
A very good basis for a screenplay."  
–  ­Dr. Ray McKnight. Key West

"This book made me feel like I was in the company of an old friend. It captures the spirit of the sixties when it was safe then to pick up hitchhikers and to sleep overnight out in a field in an automobile. The author manages to capture the spirit of a time and place Overall that electric-blue Plymouth takes us on a great romp while a certain innocence pervades the wrongdoing. This is a funny and sometimes touching book that will specially appeal to the sixties generation and to anyone who appreciates a story well told. I loved it. It Great work.”
– Terry Berkson, author of “Corvette Odyssey”

“It's a non-stop revisit to a wonderful time. The journey and its surprise ending left me wanting more about those Ohio girls!
I really loved this book.”
Norman Blumenthal, formerly, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich

“Bravo: Palpable friendship wells up within me after finishing your delightful tale of a young Mark Howell's dance on life in the glorious 60's."
– Ron Hignight, Florida Keys

“Thanks for the read. It’s a lot of fun and who doesn't love a road-trip story?”
  –Holly Frederick, Curtis Brown Literary Agency

“A wonderful coming of age story set against the wild backdrop of the 1960s. Mark Howell's narrative is crisp and clean and
If you want a fast and fun read, this will take you back to simpler times and make you feel good about it!
– Billy Craig, Indiana

"Mark Howell catches the innocence and hope of a time undimmed by cynicism.The sixties generation had it good.
We had choice. We were even listened to by the government. Not so much now! On with the next book….
– Piers Ford-Crush, London, UK

" Delicious storytelling."
– Lynne O'Hara, Vermont

"Mark Howell, former Key West newspaper editor and columnist, has produced a delightful book published by New Atlantian Library.
A trip, literally and figuratively, it's a based-on-memory story that tells of a wild ride cross-country and is a marvel of research.
Howell’s wonderful book leaves a good deal to the reader’s imagination, especially in the denouement. It's really fun and highly recommended.

—  Connie Gilbert in Konk Life

Kidnapped in Key West

This book is a wonderful read. The reader is taken on a journey, in which they get to experience and feel the protagonist's passion, fear, and every emotion in between. Whether you're looking for a toe tingling romance novel, or suspenful mystery, this book does the job. It was thoroughly a pleasure to read... In more ways than one!

Reviewed by Anna Chappell

Key West Green

I loved this book!

Reviewed by Mary Hand

Twice Caught
Two brothers, neglected and abandoned by first their father, and then their mother, are scrabbling to survive in a small town in New England. Kurt, the oldest, in his 20s, works to support both of them on a small salary. Logan, the younger, is poised to enter high school--an avid learner left to his own devices, more than a bit lonely. A serious error of judgment leads the brothers to attempt a crime; they are caught by the elderly couple they intended to rob, however, and are given a choice at avoiding arrest and prosecution. The punishment swiftly changes from a burden to a blessing, as the boys encounter a wisdom and kindness they missed in their own family. Despite their significant struggles, and some not-so-helpful interference of others, the two brothers begin to find their own strengths and talents. As various townspeople recognize their abilities and reach out to help, the brothers gradually begin to see different options for their own lives. When greed and envy tip an irrational neighbor over the edge, the boys and the couple must cope with an escalating campaign of destruction. Finding a path of decency and honor, in the face of adversity, proves challenging. Yet, the consequences of choosing well allow them to build character and earn the trust of others. This is a story filled with reminders of the impact we can have in each other's lives: the heroism of the small choices to give a second chance, to exert faith in others even when cynicism might be natural, to share one's treasures to uplift others. It evokes the magic of learning, of awareness of others, of the ability to build "family" beyond blood ties. "Logan fastened on every word. He felt that maybe "son" was more than just an older person's easy way of addressing him. He filed it away in that same special storage pocket in his mind where Kristen's dad lives. A quiet collection of perfect dads." The novel captures something not easily found in contemporary literature--a glimpse of the way human beings can reach out and become the saving grace in each others' lives. A worthy theme, indeed.

Reviewed by Kate Tsubata

Vindication Key

This is one of the best books I have read in quite some time! The details the writer gives allows you to take yourself right to the heart of the Florida Keys. The book gives you a taste of history, love, adventure, and the perfect amount of suspense. I have always enjoyed dual timeline books. Vindication Key is no exception! The author does an amazing job of moving between the characters, always leaving you needing to know more. I am so excited to have found a new author to follow! This is a must read for anyone looking for a great and easy read. I can't wait for the next book from Robin Elder.

Reviewed by Catherine Woodall

The Underhanded Stitch

Just finished this book about a close family and their good friends who solve a crime involving a stolen ring. These friends who quilt once a week try to help the granddaughter of one of their group overcome her mom and dad’s breakup by keeping the girl busy with quilting and solving this quilting-related mystery. It kept my interest.

Reviewed by Emma Perez

The Butterfly Tattoo

"The Butterfly Tattoo reads like a high speed chase! Detectives Joe Collins and Doris Linacre will have you reading late into the night......just make sure to lock the doors and turn on all the lights. Bill Craig rocks!"

Reviewed by Suzanne Barr, author of "Fatal Kiss"

Webley .45 and Other Short Stories

Our classmates continue to write books of a wide variety and easily available through the major outlets of the publishing industry … Chip Simpson’s book is titled Webley .45 and Other Short Stories. Chip is a former Marine who served in Vietnam and became a career diplomat. His short stories are well drawn and faithful to the genre. Remember that Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Conrad produced memorable short stories in addition to their novels. A good short story can be a jewel in its own special way.

Dartmouth Alumni Magazine
Class Notes 1962