Category Archives: Arcade Publishing

Review: Broken Field by Jeff Hull

Title: Broken Field by Jeff Hull
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 360 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Told from the perspective of a high school girl and a football coach, Broken Field reveals the tensions that tear at the fabric of a small town when a high school hazing incident escalates and threatens a championship season.

Set on the high prairies of Montana, in small towns scattered across vast landscapes, the distances in Broken Field are both insurmountable and deeply internalized. Life is dusty and hard, and men are judged by their labor. Women have to be tougher yet. That’s what sixteen-year-old Josie Frehse learns as she struggles to meet the expectations of her community while fumbling with her own desires.

Tom Warner coaches the Dumont Wolfpack, an eight-man football team, typical for such small towns. Warner is stumbling through life, numbed by the death of his own young son and the dissolution of his marriage. But he’s jolted into taking sides when his star players are accused of a hazing incident that happened right under his nose.

The scandal divides and ignites the town and in Broken Field, Jeff Hull brilliantly gives breadth and depth to both sides of this fractured community, where the roots of bullying reach deep, secrets are buried, and, in a school obsessed with winning, everyone loses.


Broken Field by Jeff Hull  is an interesting portrait of a small rural town’s reaction to a hazing incident perpetrated by  their football team which is on the brink of a championship season.

On their way home from an away game, football coach Tom Warner breaks protocol when he allows his assistant coach to ride home with his new bride instead of on the team bus. Tom is the only adult supervising the team and not only is he distracted by a personal issue, he also drifts off the sleep.  During a brief stop at a convenience store, Tom steps off the bus to keep an eye on the teenagers as they go into the store.  As they prepare to leave, two cheerleaders exit the bus and the rest of their journey home is uneventful. The next day, a concerned parent contacts Tom about some disturbing photos she finds on the school’s yearbook camera.  The subsequent investigation reveals football players Matt Brunner, Waylon Edwards and Alex Martin were the instigators in the hazing of their teammate. Tom and the school principal investigate the incident but when the media finds out about what happened, the school board and town are divided about what, if any, punishment should be handed down.

Sixteen year old Josie Frehse is Matt’s girlfriend and even before the hazing incident, she has been considering the future of their two year relationship.  She has learned to manage his somewhat moody behavior but her friendship with new student, Mikie LaValle, is quickly becoming an issue. Josie is well-liked by her peers and she is friendly with everyone regardless of where they fall in school’s hierarchy.  She is intrigued by Mikie but Matt has taken an instant dislike to him and he frequently bullies the newcomer. As the hazing situation comes to a head, Josie is stunned by Matt’s volatile reaction toward her but even more shocking is her mother’s attitude about what has happened.

Although a little slow-paced, Broken Field is an engrossing novel which offers a compelling view of the dynamics of a close-knit, rural community.  The characters are richly developed with relatable shortcomings and endearing virtues.  The novel has a well-developed storyline in which Jeff Hull  realistically explores sensitive topics such as bullying, racism and violence against women.  I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this thought-provoking novel.

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Filed under Arcade Publishing, Broken Field, Contemporary, Fiction, Jeff Hull, Rated B, Review

Review: Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor-Johnson

Title: Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor-Johnson
Publisher: Arcade PUblishing
Genre:Contemporary, Fiction
Length:256 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


For readers of Everything I Never Told You and When I’m Gone, a profoundly moving, heartwarming debut about family, relationships, and what we leave behind.

Jean Harley—wife, mother, lover, dancer—is a shining light in the lives of those who know and love her, full of boundless energy, compassion, and joy. When she’s hit by a truck while riding her bicycle and the unthinkable happens, what becomes of the people she leaves behind? Her devoted husband, Stan, is now a single father to their four-year-old son, Orion, who doesn’t understand why his mom won’t come home. Jean’s two best friends, Neddy and Viv, find their relationship unraveling without their third companion. Charley, the ex-con who caused the accident, struggles to reconcile his feelings of elation when the charges against him are dropped with his boundless guilt over knowing he has changed a family forever; while Jean’s mother, Pearl, will regret the little girl who left. Gradually, life without Jean goes on, yet her indelible spirit remains.

Told from the alternating perspectives of these and other characters who grieve the same death in vastly different ways, Jean Harley Was Here is a moving, poetic novel about loss, memory, and the lives we touch.


Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor-Johnson is a unique novel about grief and moving forward after losing a loved one.

Jean Harley is happily married to Stan and they have a four year old son, Orion. Jean is coming home from work one day on her bike when she is tragically struck by a car. Although she is in a coma, doctors are hopeful she will recover. Unfortunately, as the days pass, Jean never regains consciousness and Stan allows her to slip peacefully away. Stan and Orion attempt to find new footing as a family of two while Jean’s friends Neddy and Viv drift apart. The driver of the vehicle who struck Jean, Charley Cromwell, struggles to overcome his guilt after her death.

The chapters alternate between the various characters’ points of view. Orion and Stan’s chapters are heartwrenching as they grieve their loss while attempting to find a new “normal”. Neddy is not heard from much as she continues parenting her two young children. Viv is unmarried and dedicated to her job but when she unexpectedly falls in love, her life changes in many delightful ways. Charley tugs on the heartstrings as he struggles to find the words to express his sorrow over Jean’s death.

Jean Harley Was Here has an interesting premise but the pacing is very slow. The characters have unique voices with each chapter clearly stating who is narrating. The cast of characters is large and it is difficult to connect with them due to the many narration shifts.  Heather Taylor-Johnson does a wonderful job bringing Jean Harley to life although readers only meet her after the accident. A quick read with a lot of heart and a clever storyline.

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Filed under Arcade Publishing, Contemporary, Fiction, Heather Taylor-Johnson, Jean Harley Was Here, Review

Review: The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan

Title: The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Suspense
Length: 224 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Sometimes the past endures—and sometimes it never lets go.

This best-selling debut by an award-winning writer is both an eerie contemporary ghost story and a dread-inducing psychological thriller. Maggie is a successful young artist who has had bad luck with men. Her last put her in the hospital and, after she’s healed physically, left her needing to get out of London to heal mentally and find a place of quiet that will restore her creative spirit. On the rugged west coast of Ireland, perched on a wild cliff side, she spies the shell of a cottage that dates back to Great Famine and decides to buy it. When work on the house is done, she invites her dealer to come for the weekend to celebrate along with a couple of women friends, one of whom will become his wife. On the boozy last night, the other friend pulls out an Ouija board. What sinister thing they summon, once invited, will never go.

Ireland is a country haunted by its past. In Billy O’Callaghan’s hands, its terrible beauty becomes a force of inescapable horror that reaches far back in time, before the Famine, before Christianity, to a pagan place where nature and superstition are bound in an endless knot.


The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan is a suspenseful novel with supernatural elements.

Nine years earlier, now retired art dealer Michael Simmons and his wife, Alison, attended a house warming party at client and friend Maggie Turner’s newly renovated cottage in  Ireland.  Also joining them is Liz, whose suggestion to mess around with a Ouija board eventually leads to some eerie and sinister happenings for Maggie and quite possibly, Michael and his family.

Maggie is an extraordinarily gifted artist whose abusive relationship leads to the discovery of the dilapidated cottage in the Irish countryside.  Michael becomes very concerned about her after the housewarming party and what he discovers when he returns to the cottage greatly worries him. But with Maggie unwilling to leave her new home, Michael has no choice but to go back to his regular life. But are the things that happen to him and his family several years later related to the housewarming party?

Written from Michael’s point of view, the events that occur during Maggie’s housewarming party are revealed through flashbacks.  The novel is a bit meandering with a little too much emphasis on things that do not really have much to do with the main storyline.  While there are supernatural elements such as (possibly) ghostly sightings and a sinister presence conjured through the Ouija board, the main focus of the novel is Michael and his life. The ghost story falls flat and is not overly frightening since this part of the storyline is rather vague and lacking details.

The Dead House is a short novel with an interesting and imaginative storyline.  Billy O’Callaghan’s descriptive prose brings the Irish countryside vibrantly to life. The supernatural aspect of the novel is intriguing but the abrupt and ambiguous conclusion might frustrate readers.

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Filed under Arcade Publishing, Billy O'Callaghan, Contemporary, Rated C+, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, The Dead House

Review: Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts

Title: Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.

“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.

Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.

But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.


Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts is an emotional novel of self-discovery, self forgiveness and redemption.

Twenty-two year old Elena Alvarez is no stranger to making mistakes that culminate with life-altering consequences. On the brink of graduating from college, she is unsure what comes next for her when her beloved grandmother offers her a safe refuge in Leadville, CO. Trying to outrun her past while planning for her future, Elena wonders if she is the best person to take care of two grieving children while their father is out on the road. Unexpectedly connecting with her charges, eleven year old Kevin and five year old Sarah, Elena’s attempts to help them heal from their loss have a surprising effect on the wounds she carries from her own somewhat tragic past.

Having never been given the opportunity to deal with the defining moment of her life, Elena self-sabotages herself at every juncture. Always trying to outrun her missteps without examining the reason she makes such ill-fated decisions, Elena’s latest error in judgment results in an unexpected pregnancy. She is only planning to remain in CO temporarily as she tries to decide whether or not she wants to keep her baby or give it up for adoption. While neither option feels quite right, Elena does not think she has what it takes to raise a child but will she change her mind by summer’s end?

Elena is initially out of her element as she begins caring for Kevin and Sarah.  Armed with advice from her grandmother, she manages to make surprisingly sound decisions about how she and the kids spend their days. However, she feels like she is well of her depth when it comes to the messy emotions and small dramas that crop up with the children. As Elena offers helpful advice to Kevin and Sarah, she is quite shocked to discover these life lessons also apply to her. These shifts in her perception and the meaningful discussions with her grandmother are rather eye opening and prove to be quite healing. With this newfound awareness, Elena arrives at startling conclusions about some of the motivation for the choices she has made throughout her life. Armed with a fresh outlook and finally forgiving herself for the mistakes of her past, will Elena decide to keep her baby? Will she remain in Leadville?

Among the Lesser Gods is a poignant yet heartwarming novel that is quite captivating. The storyline is well-written and quite thought-provoking. The characters are richly developed and multi-faceted with relatable strengths and weaknesses. Elena is easy to relate to and it is an absolute joy watching her forgive herself for past mistakes and begin making plans for her future. The setting is absolutely perfect and Margo Catts brings both the town and its residents vibrantly to life. An utterly marvelous debut that is deeply affecting and will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Among the Lesser Gods, Arcade Publishing, Historical, Historical (70s), Margo Catts, Rated A, Review