Book Review of Trading Saints for Sinners – A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

All of us have secrets and things that we wish we had done differently.  Reading Roman Colombo’s Trading Saints for Sinners gives the reader a glimpse into the life of Caden Conrad, a life that has been unalterably changed by his past and the secrets that he keeps.  Moving through Trading Saints for Sinners, we take the journey with Caden, a journalist, as he decides whether he will continue his concealment or open up to a woman, Ariadne, with a past of her own.

What is remarkable about this novella is the fact that a philosophical discussion is skillfully weaved into the fast-paced narrative.  Dealing with significant philosophical and moral questions, Colombo gives interesting perspectives on issues relating to good, evil, lies, sin, and redemption.

Along with the narrative, the reader is also drawn in by the detailed setting which helps to place the characters in a precise place and time.  Within the first few pages, one is transported to Frankfurt, Germany’s underground, a place where people are bought and sold.  The setting isn’t limited to Frankfurt, though, because Caden, along with Ariadne, have been to many places, and their journeys are recounted in the narrative.

Trading Saints for Sinners is filled with unique supernatural elements, presented in a way which suspends reality.  The fallen angel, Mephistopheles, makes an appearance, and offers Caden choices which will undoubtedly change his future.

Through no fault of the author, there are a few typos in the book, which sometimes slow the narrative.  Despite these errors; however, this book is thoroughly enjoyable due to the combination of the above-mentioned elements.  While reading Trading Saints for Sinners, I felt drawn into the story, and, for a few hours, given full access to the character’s lives.  So, if you want a glimpse into the life of a journalist, trying to escape his past, traveling the world, and meeting Mephistopheles, then I highly recommend reading Trading Saints for Sinners.

Feig by Richard Bank – A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

Disasters and calamities, whether they are natural or man-made, create chaos and confusion.  After experiencing or witnessing such disasters, the human response is to question how such events could take place. Those that once believed in an omnipotent God can come to believe that we live in a universe devoid of God, or one in which God does not care about humanity. The Holocaust was just such an event where the mass murder of millions was done with cold calculation, efficiency, and automation.  Richard D. Bank’s novel, Feig, explores the lives of characters who were irrevocably changed by the Holocaust, either by experiencing it first hand or by growing up in homes where survivors: kept secrets, broke down privately, and shielded others from the horrors that they had experienced.

In the beginning of this novel, Philadelphia attorney David Gold meets Jacob Feig, a Holocaust Survivor, and a short time after their first meeting, Feig is accused of his wife’s murder.  David decides to defend Feig, and when he is forced to learn about Feig’s past, he has no choice but to face his own.  For David, learning more about Feig will change his life in profound ways, altering the way he sees the past and the way he lives his future.

Bank seamlessly weaves the stories of David Gold, his family’s past, and the life and trial of Jacob Feig into one novel, so that the reader experiences the interplay of three independent and compelling narratives. Reading Feig, one becomes thoroughly engrossed, so that every recollection, movement, or action becomes consequential, and through this story, the reader comes to remember the true meaning of friendship. The friendships, which form in the story, are not friendships of convenience or exigency.  Rather, they are bonds that show the existence of something more profound, perhaps the existence of the human soul, which stirs even in the middle of madness.

This novel enlightens, reminding the reader that even in the midst of the worst tragedies, humanity can transcend, finding in others the strength that is needed to go on.  It is a story which poignantly explores the bonds of family and friendship.  Feig is revelatory, showing the reader:  that everything is connected, that we belong to a larger family, and that sometimes friends can take monumental roles in our lives, placing them squarely within our family, the human family.

Catt Colborn – An Interview by Ayesha F. Hamid

I recently spoke to Cathy (Cat) Colborn, author, creator of the an online journal, and Philadelphia representative for WragsInk Publishing. Colborn has been writing and drawing since she had her first easy reader as a child.  Today, she’s become a jack-of-all trades in the creative-writing and publishing worlds.

Colborn is the founder of a well-known, online journal called Philly Flash  Inferno. The inception of the journal started approximately five years ago; Cathy and a friend remarked that “flash fiction was taking over the writing scene.” Colborn and her cofounders loved this genre and decided to create a journal in which people could submit their flash. Although flash fiction was the reason that the magazine was formed, it now accepts other genres of writing, including poetry and fiction. “Philly Flash Inferno has become something of a cult classic in the Philly tri-state area, almost like a little “Weird NJ” on the literary market,” says Colborn.

When asked what she would recommend to up-and-coming writers, Colborn says that in the publishing world, self-promotion is key. “I know I’m not going anywhere, even if the big publishing houses come knocking, if I don’t promote myself.” Cathy not only promotes herself, but also looks for ways that she can help colleagues to get their work out there.  Knowing her for several years, I’ve noticed that she’s great at networking, always offering others advice and resources. She’s not only linked to a number of writers, but also friends with a variety of visual and graphic artists. Cathy is the first person I turn to when someone asks me if I know of an artist for a project. Also linked to the world of photography, Cathy is married to award-winning photographer, Shawn Colborn.

Aside from working in publishing, Cathy also plans to teach as a creative-writing professor. She would like to take the lessons she’s learned from her mentors at Rosemont’s MFA program and pass on the knowledge to other students. Colborn is excited “about the process of being on the other side of the desk and seeing this thing come full circle.” Cathy’s novel, Madame Lola’s Marvelously Amazing Medicine Show, is now available at Amazon.