As is often the case as a book reviewer, I was able to start this wonderful series (see my reviews of the first three books), but got too busy with others to continue--a major disadvantage to opening myself to receiving requests for reviews! LOLWebs of Power
Prequel to Webs of Power (suggested first read)
I must say that I was surprised when I had the chance to read Webs of Perception. Sure, Darlene Quinn became an award-winning author from her first book, but here I was ten years later reading the close-out novel for her series! And I was thrilled with the fantastic book she presented! It is once again well written, epic--impressively great--with a long satisfying story at 510 pages. The story in this last book hones in much more on family drama, with very little on the business end of department store management, the theme which has run throughout the series. Instead, we enter into a extraordinary suspenseful tale where the characters have been caught in a Web like no other! And we readers get to watch as, first, the web is spread wider and wider, and then torn away slowly and tortuously for those involved...
This novel clearly refers back to a tragedy from an earlier book. However, let me assure you that this last book stands free and readers can easily understand what has happened in the past...
Webs of Perception
By Darlene Quinn
...Manhattan, New York
Ashleigh Taylor gasped as an inexplicable pain sliced through her restricting her chest. Slowly taking a deep breath, she straightened her posture and glanced at Conrad, seated to her left in their box seats, hoping she hadn't disturbed him. She needn't have worried. Having spoken of nothing but Hamilton in recent weeks, he was leaning forward, totally absorbed by the riveting performance.
Ashleigh had not shared the strange sense of foreboding that had overcome her shortly before they'd entered the Richard Rodgers Theater. What is there to tell? How can I put such a hollow feeling into words? But here it was again--that nearly imperceptible knowledge that something wasn't right. Ashleigh closed her eyes, and gradually her breathing returned to normal. She did her best to brush apprehension aside, but even so, she willed the final curtain call to come soon.
In the lobby, as Conrad explained why "History Has Its Eyes on You" was his favorite song, Ashleigh nodded and powered on her iPhone. "That's strange," she said, staring down at the screen.
Conrad fell silent and raised a questioning brow.
"four calls from April since intermission," Ashleigh went on. They continued to weave seamlessly through the throng of theatergoers toward the exit.
Times Square, as always, was buzzing with activity. Conrad spotted their limo to the left of the theater's entrance, and he motioned for David to remain behind the wheel while he helped Ashleigh inside. Once they were both settled, he pulled out his BlackBerry. "Whoa, I've had a couple calls from April, too." Conrad shook his head. "What could be so urgent at this hour?"
Ashleigh looked at her iPhone display. April's first call had come in at eight-forty-two. Before calling back, she checked for voice messages. There was only one. She hit play.
"Where are you, Aunt Ashleigh?" There was a moment's pause before April continued. "Sorry, I'm a bit rattled. Please call as soon as you get this message."
A lump formed in Ashleigh's throat. She heard the anxiety in April's voice. Gripping the phone, she punched in the number.
It rang only once before april picked up. Not bothering with a greeting, she asked, "Have you heard from the girls?"
"Not since they left Southampton." Why would we? Ashleigh thought, They're somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. "What's wrong?"
As she heard her own words, a sinking sensation settled in the pit of Ashleigh's stomach. They had known Paige and Mark Toddman's daughter since she was four years old. April was a mature young woman who seldom came across as rattled.
"You haven't heard? The rogue wave." Following a quick intake of breath, April
continued. "It's all over the news..."As April began to rush through the details. Ashleigh pressed the speaker button her iPhone."Hold on," Conrad broke in. His tone was calm, his words measured. "You say a rogue wave hit the Rising Star?" Ashleigh frowned. Placing her hand on Conrad's arm, she whispered, "Rogue Wave?"
"At about six thirty o'clock our time, CNN reported a seven-story wave hit the Rising Star. There are broken windows, an inch or two of water in many cabins..."
Ashleigh's throat constricted as April detailed the damage. All she cared about was the safety of their daughters. "How about the passengers?" Ashleigh blurted out.
"Thank God, there have been no deaths reported. Some passengers have minor injuries. Mostly from falls, or being hit by flying furniture and glass. The ship wasn't disabled. They think it will arrive a day late, but at least it's sailing under its own power...
Conrad smiled and kissed Ashleigh on the forehead. "Be strong, love. You know our girls. They're survivors, like their mother. They're sure to make the best of the situation and come away with a boatload of stories to tell--no pun intended. Marnie is most likely taking notes for her next short story as we speak."
Ashleigh leaned over the kissed his smiling lips. Tension eased from her shoulders. If anything had happened to any of my girls, I would know. But the newscaster's next words sent her reeling...
The Taylor twins had signed up for onsite classes on the Rising Star. Marnie was studying to become a writer, while Callie was improving her skills for a dance career. When Ashleigh and Conrad got calls about what had happened, they had been at the Richard Rogers Theater for "Hamilton." It was then that Ashleigh realized why she'd had that strange sense of foreboding.
They soon learned that a large rogue wave had overcome the ship on which their daughters had been traveling. The Rising Star had maintained control, but there had been much damage. One of their daughters had been flown by medevac to a hospital due to a head injury sustained...
She had lost her memory and the doctor's could not give any guidance on how long it would last--or whether it would be permanent...
Only one daughter, Marnie, had been in their cabin. It had been reported on the news that it appeared two individuals were missing, possibly washed overboard. But Ashleigh refused to consider the possibility that she had lost a daughter--she knew she would know it!
It is quite easy for readers to learn what happened in the first few chapters, feel sympathy for the family, and especially the twin who had lost her memory. Not only because of the devastation of not being able to remember her life. But, also, because she was totally unable to help in telling the story of where her sister was. Ashleigh decided that she had never come back from their last stop, but there was nobody able to assure her. She asked that their friend and investigator begin a search to...find her...
I imagine that it must seem like life has stopped. One daughter didn't know her parents--did not know how to relate to them. Even her name had no meaning for her and learning she was heading for further education for her writing career felt alien. She had no idea how to even consider writing a story...
Conrad was in the midst of a major change to their company--100 stores were to unfortunately close and he had planned to work with each as final arrangements were made. A short overview of what he planned was included in the story; however, Quinn included a final Author's Note about her research on the continued viability of department stores. I especially found this interesting since my own memory holds the delightful visits to those large elegant stores in which I felt like I was visiting another world--a world of beautiful surroundings as well as beautiful clothes and more... Quinn discusses the growth of online sales and its effect; however, I had to agree that most of us want to actually see the clothes, shoes, etc., that we consider buying and because of that both will be important for the future!
The story splits as life continues at home, while the investigation into, hopefully, finding Callie begins... I think it is important that nothing else is shared; the enjoyment of reading the book is that readers know more about what is going on than the family. We sink into what is happening and hope things turn out, but, gradually, we also begin to question--Why? What? How?
There is a tense, waiting, atmosphere running throughout the book. Even when we know part of the story, the complexity, the emotional impact of each situation is sometimes disturbing, yet exciting to watch as the plot blossoms into the reality of what has happened.
Quinn writes with a steady fluidity that slowly reveals and pulls each item together; nothing is left hanging, although I would have liked to know a little more about life after the book closes... In fact, I realized that, though this series may be closing, I now believe that Quinn has a suspense thriller within her ability and hope that one series ending is not the end of her fantastic writing! Drama to Thriller - the challenge is given! LOL
Webs of Perception is Intriguing. It plays with our opinions of what perception is and how it plays out in our lives. The book is also fascinating, extraordinary in its simplicity. The concept may be simple, but the devastation, as well as family joy, runs the full gamut of what emotions erupt as day by day passes in this thing called Life...
Again, this last novel is free-standing but makes a wonderful finale for the series if you've been following Darlene Quinn. Kudos to her for sharing a unique part of all of our lives, Department Stores of the past, now and the future... Highly recommended.
Many toss the title “renaissance man or woman” around haphazardly today. However, when it comes to Darlene Quinn, it is an appropriate title. Her experiences, when interwoven, form a tapestry that emits nuggets of wisdom, caring and accomplishment that is the message that has helped others reinvent themselves for a greater lifestyle.
The Social Conscience Mentor and Coach
A former public school teacher who also volunteered to work with at risk children in the minority community, modeling and charm coach, and Coordinator of the Long Beach Miss Universe Pageant would seem like quite an eclectic mix to begin with. This foundation helped Darlene learn to read people well, inspire them to do greater things and guide them with the love and patience necessary to build self-esteem and confidence. Darlene excelled at this and it was what caught the attention of the ivory tower at Bullock’s Department Stores, which would become her next career and a defining period of her life. Never one to settle for mediocrity, Darlene was bold! As she teaches others by saying, “When you’re looking for a job, start at the top!” she took her own advice.
Searching for the CEO of Bullock’s and Bullocks Wilshire (their prestigious specialty store operation), Darlene sent her résumé straight to the top. Before long, she was being interviewed because of her personal development coaching, but was hired because of her teaching and management skills as the Corporate Training Director.
Bullocks Wilshire Executive Personnel Director
Molding the management of the enterprise created a remarkable reputation for Darlene, and it wasn’t long before the competition took notice and came knocking on her door. Broadways offered her a higher position, more money and a larger operation! Being the results-oriented leader and coach she was, Bullock’s was not ready to lose their star; hence a series of events were put in motion that shuffled management in order to ensure that Darlene would stay whatever choice position she wanted. She chose Executive Director of Personnel/Organization Development for their most prestigious operation, Bullocks Wilshire!
Setting out to fine tune the operations of Bullocks Wilshire, by starting at the top and letting it trickle down to entry level, Darlene’s astute negotiating, communications and people skills earned her the affectionate title of The Psychiatrist, for the many fires that were extinguished with positive results that improved the operation — from the President on down. Her ability to diffuse an issue with the carefulness and precision of a heart surgeon, the communication and listening skills of a wise philosopher, and the bedside manner of a pediatric oncologist made her the go to person to get anything done. As Darlene would say, “Other’s see obstacles; I see opportunities.”
The Reinvention of Darlene
After many years, making her mark on an industry famous for high life and cut throat, leaving it better than when she arrived, it was time to move on. Deciding to help her deaf daughter through her senior year at high school and traveling with her late husband, it was time to do something else. Darlene reinvented herself into an award-winning author, writing coach, speaker and board member of several organizations in the literary arena. A consummate storyteller, she decided to write articles for Savvy Magazine about what she had learned at Bullocks Wilshire: that there are three kinds of shoppers, and in this economy, if you understand them you will prosper and not falter. This would launch a writing career that started with a poem (which Darlene thought was not very good, but which a proud father submitted to a contest that she would win) and culminated with the award-winning Webs Series: Webs of Power, Twisted Webs, Webs of Fate, and Unpredictable Webs. Conflicting Webs, the newest novel in the series was released in early 2015. Others followed. Darlene is now presenting the finale of the Webs series with Webs of Perception.
In 2011, this led The Braille Institute to not only invite Darlene as their keynote speaker, but to choose to turn Webs of Power into an audio and Braille book. They are considering converting the entire series for the vision impaired! Giving Back to the Community Again
Today, Darlene speaks on the power of reinventing yourself, how to do it and the skills necessary to accomplish it. Also, she speaks on the three kinds of shoppers, how they affect your business and how to cater to each for maximum sales. Her ability to meet your audience where they are and help them arrive at where they want to go, makes her a sought after speaker, coach, columnist and guest blogger.
When it’s all said and done, we believe Darlene will have left her mark on society as a friend, author and mentor to many writers, professionals and those looking to enhance their lifestyle with a warm smile and gentle advice, while sharing her experience and wisdom. Her legacy will be the people she has and continues to touch, the organizations she helped improve that serve many and through her books, as well as those of many authors she mentors. www.darlenequinn.net