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California Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 10 October 2020 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Cookbook Shelf Poetry Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Music Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Amazing Stories from the Streets
Dr. Charles Margerison
Amazing People Publications
9781916372702, $9.80 Paper / $6.22 Kindle, 206pp

Amazing Stories from the Streets is a collection of everyday peoples' life experiences as narrated by Dr. Charles Margerison, a psychologist, who ventured into local pubs, restaurants, and gathering places, in many countries. He conversed with people in a quest for life stories that never made the newspaper headlines.

Amazing Stories from the Streets is a celebration of efforts, perspectives, and choices in life that one seldom receives from mainstream media reporting. Here you will meet 'Lady In Black', 'Mizzie From Mississippi', 'Stranger My Brother', and other fascinating characters. The stories explore the realities of adversity and survival. These include the author's own childhood memories of surviving World War II bombings in England. He poses the thought-provoking question.

Through these valuable life stories, you can learn how to improve your own life. Fortitude and heroism is demonstrated on many different levels. You can gain pearls of wisdom about life, and society as a whole. Each story opens with an overview of setting and place, moves into a poetic structure, and concludes with thought-provoking questions. These invite readers to relate the basic experiences and messages of others to their own life choices.

Themes of war and peace, choices and judgments, highlight principles that influence better ways of living. Inspirational lessons are imparted in this blend of free verse. Black and white line drawings provide visual support.

The blend of philosophical, ethical, and moral issues sets this story collection apart from most others. The book creates solid themes and approaches to living life, that go beyond academic inspection and presentation. Readers who appreciate the free verse structure, will appreciate the solid grounding in life experience in these pieces, as well as their opportunity for absorbing basic life lessons.

Amazing Stories from the Streets is highly recommended for two audiences: those who wish to chart a better life; and readers of social affairs who want applied insights into life's influences and resulting choices in how to live. It is inspirational reading at its best, and is easily accessible.

The Cookbook Shelf

Cooking with Ms. Larthy
Tom Graves with Larthy Washington
Devault Graves Books
9781942531388, $28.00 Print
9781942531395, $9.99 eBook

Cooking With Ms. Larthy: Life Lessons in Soul and Soul Food comes from a Southerner who was frustrated by his inability to cook some of the staples of Southern cuisine, such as catfish. From this failure came a motivating idea: "I sure wish some older black lady would teach me how to cook soul food. From A to Z."

As Tom Graves reviews the basic differences of soul food and why he wishes to focus on this specifically ("Soul food and country cooking are two sides of the same Southern coin. And they are euphemisms. Soul food means black cooking and country means white cooking."), it becomes apparent that readers are being treated to more than just another cookbook. Graves was determined to improve his kitchen skills at the hands of a master and so discovered Ms. Larthy, whose culinary acuity and soul food expertise not only taught him soul cooking, but a different angle on living. He explores his own heritage and kitchen lessons, contrasting them with the cultural background of his new mentor and considering soul cooking's relationship to Southern traditions as a whole.

Recipes are only part of the attraction to this book. The other appeal lies in evocative descriptions that inject a sense of down-home inspection and cultural revelation to memories associated with food, as in this consideration of the American hamburger and why 'gourmet burger' is not on Graves' personal menu of choice. Readers should thus anticipate more than just a recipe collection. Cooking With Ms. Larthy cultivates a relationship...with food, with Southern heritage, and with soul cuisine's evolution and meaning.

These aren't Ms. Larthy's dishes alone. Recipes and accompanying narratives come from diverse parts of life, from 'My Granny's "Pink Lady" Strawberry Cake' by former Graves student Jasmine Parks, who provided the recipe in a narrative she wrote for school about her grandmother's how-to dish and perspective on life ("Only the best will do and that only comes with work from you!" My Granny said those words and made them famous to everyone in our family."), to worldwide culinary influences such as a recipe from former wife Bintou Ndiaye for Authentic African Ginger Beer.

By now, it should be evident that the 'life' portion of this cookbook's title embraces no singular path to culinary success as Graves gathers recipes and reminiscences from a wide range of people who contribute their own "best" culinary creations, whether handed down from family tradition or invented by the donor. The result is a powerful cookbook that is rooted in Southern soul cooking traditions, but which expands into the world to include a wide range of 'best of' dishes. Paired with color photos and a personal, revealing set of considerations about cooking and heritage, Cooking With Ms. Larthy takes a compelling look at the making of a cook and follows the author's cooking lessons and evolution with an especially delicious eye to observation: "Wilma is the one who introduced me to the fantastic flavor fireworks of combining fresh pineapple with a good curry powder. It may not sound appetizing, but I promise your tastebuds will stand up and applaud. These two wonderful flavors work some sort of magic together - the sweet with the spicy - and provide a tantalizing appetizer with any meal."

Cooking With Ms. Larthy is a very highly recommended celebration of cooking, culture and life, especially for those who have some basic kitchen skills but who want to move forward with fresh new dishes proven to be outstanding comfort food.

One Tin Bakes
Edd Kimber
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780857838599, $22.99 HC, $8.99 Kindle, 176pp

One Tin Bakes: Sweet and Simple Traybakes, Pies, Bars and Buns appears ten years after Edd Kimber won the first Great British Bakeoff, and provides some 70 recipes from around the world that can be baked in a single pan. Newcomers to baking will be happy to learn that these efforts, ranging from pies and cakes to bars, require no special skills or equipment. As full-page color photos provide enticing embellishments for Whiskey and Rye Peach Pie, Pumpkin Pie with Oreo Crust, and Blueberry Cornmeal Buckle, readers will delight in a baking book whose author holds the authority of being a baking contest winner, without the complexity of similar baking cookbooks.

The Poetry Shelf

Metaphorically Speaking
Steve Shear
Independently Published
9798655661196, $13.00 PB, $3.00 Kindle, 81pp

While Steve Shear's poems are arranged in no particular order, as is common with modern poets who tend to group works by subject or chronological incarnation, each does receive a fitting introduction that outlines the milieu which fostered the inspirational effort. These introductions are essential keys to enjoying the poems' wellsprings in human affairs and events, filling in any blanks about their source and expressions.

Regarding works themselves, they are poetic reflections of current events, written as the events unfold. For example, the opening poem, 'Agar in a Petri Dish', was initially inspired by the 2008 economic crash. It reflects on the politics of the experience. 'The Captain of Destiny' surveys the choice in living and responding to life in its introduction ("We have two choices, it seems: to go with the flow whether in calm water or heavy rapids or fight the waves and drown in our own weightiness."), but it's the poem that carries the weight of personal inspection: "Time is the bosom that feeds your flesh/and the soft voice that feeds your soul."

Free verse isn't the only device Shear employs; nor is modern-day discourse alone his focus. There are literary pieces and approaches, such as sonnets, incorporated into the collection. These will delight readers interested in a poetry gathering that is wide-ranging in its literary and social pursuits, including the 'Oedipus Rex's series of sonnets.

There is a reason why these reflections don't appear in set subjects or orders. The freewheeling approach actually incorporates an attention to literary stream-of-thought writing and reading that invites readers to set aside expectations in favor of experiencing the open flow of subjects. These move from life observations to experiences of transformation, charting logical courses all the way.

The colorful paintings accompanying each poem provide added value, with literary and artistic pairings designed to give readers thought-provoking moments and contemplative insights. The collection achieves its goal: to combine prefaces about the wellsprings of poetic expression with fun, and revealing artwork that supports the foundations of accompanying emotion.

Metaphorically Speaking's blend of literary and philosophical inspection will delight poetry readers looking for a mixed bag of strong presentations.

The General Fiction Shelf

Caveman's Daughter
Jeffrey W. Tenney
Whistle Creek Press
9780979633331, $12.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 315pp

Caveman's Daughter, the second book and companion to Caveman, adds to the time-travel story and returns the focus on archaeologist Trent Marshall's daughter Emily Marshall, who successfully rescued her father in the first tale.

Here, she returns to the cave that leads through time to 40,000 B.C.E. France, the entrance to which she thought was destroyed. She discovers a new time-travel threatening the lives of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal peoples she came to love and rescue before. Could someone have been killed over the cave secret Emily has been so careful to maintain, and could the threat still be on the loose, affecting her present and the past, as well?

As Emily returns to this bygone world, interacts with young Cro-Magnon leader Wouk (who was partly raised by Trent Marshall and the Neanderthals, holding the ability to speak both the Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal languages, as well as English), and faces a new threat to her beloved time period, newcomers to the story will find it easy to absorb past events and these newfound threats.

When her training in cultural anthropology comes into conflict with the realities of these primitive peoples and their interactions, Emily's choices provide fine ethical, moral, and philosophical reflections. These give readers pause for thought beyond the story's action-packed adventures.

Emily becomes a captive of "the strangers" and Wouk is charged with rescuing her and his peoples. Readers are led into a fast-paced story filled with intrigue, adventure, probes of family and community relationships, and the probes of a woman whose professional and personal affinity for a prehistoric world doesn't mean she belongs in it.

Readers looking for a story steeped in anthropological insights and fast-paced action, combined with a feisty female protagonist, will find Caveman's Daughter compelling time-travel reading with a satisfying survival twist.

The Christmas Spirit
Alexandrea Weis
Rosewind Books
9781645480419, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 315pp

The Christmas Spirit outlines a dubious-sounding relationship between a brooding stranger and a broken-hearted woman searching to fill the emptiness in her life. It tells of Courtney Winston who really needs the spirit of the season. It's a blend of holiday inspirational and romance that adopts a more detailed story than most novels in either genre as it tells of a writer's choice to ignore Christmas in favor of a remote cabin retreat to both heal from her recent breakup and finish her book.

Stone Mountain Lodge owner Peter keeps interrupting her self-imposed isolation and mission, as does Mrs. Finn, cook and nosy dispenser of wisdom. Slowly, Courtney opens her heart to new possibilities -- including emotional pain. The Christmas Spirit is a delicious story of growth and opportunity on all sides. It takes isolation, heartbreak, and a dubious reputation and turns them on end to inspect the wellsprings of influence and loss. Cultural inspections of holiday beliefs and traditions add depth to the story, seasonal insights, and a warm series of subtle reflections about belief, prejudice, and being open to new ideas and emotions.

It's a pleasure to read a Christmas story that doesn't adopt either a singular or formula approach to its subject. Readers who choose this book for its holiday messages will be surprised at the details explored in a evolving relationship which both embraces and moves beyond holiday themes, while those who anticipate a budding romance will find the added value in cultural, social, and psychological inspections to be pleasingly well-detailed.

From Courtney's risk-taking defiance of her family's ideas for her future to Peter's role in pushing her beyond her comfort zone, this story embraces both holiday spirit and a growth process that begins with pain and prejudice and moves steadily outward into recognizing new opportunities. The result is a highly recommended read that embraces more than its title's promise, making The Christmas Spirit an inspirational story of growth that is much needed and highly recommended year-round.

Chelsea Britain
Bleau Press
9781951796006, $21.99 Hardcover
9781951796013, $10.99, Paper, $11.99 Amazon
9781951796020, $13.99 Large print paper
9781951796037, $3.99 Ebook (mobi)
9781951796044, $3.99 Ebook (epub)

Nora could be anywhere in the world right now - jogging on a beach in the sun, for example. Instead, she's trapped in front of the television watching a football game " a skipjack tuna hooked on a long line."

Dreams, reality, and sea images are captured in only a few short sentences to introduce some of the recurring themes in the poetic, captivating Cuttle, a 'fish story' of another nature. Romance, family, obligation and dreams are some of the many threads that emerge as Nora contrasts the life she leads with the one she dreams about, eagerly grasping new opportunities stemming from her research on cuttlefish even as she struggles with patterns that lead to places she's better off avoiding. Her tendency to overanalyze and focus contribute to both her success and failure, while her ability to think outside the box and weave delightfully surprising reflections into her story sets Cuttle far apart from any singular production.

As Nora's life evolves and her interplay with three seemingly dissimilar (yet disturbingly familiar) personalities is explored, her feisty observational focus and the juxtaposition of career and personal potentials keeps the tale lively. Fish metaphors and fantasy observations are peppered even into observations about work success and potential academic acclaim.

Nora's intuitive thinking and analytical prowess keeps her at the top of her field. It's also what keeps romance at bay. But part of her coping mechanism for over-performance lies in a circle of friends who help keep her grounded. Her choices between 'safe' and edgy relationships, the foundations of her personality and life lived on the autism spectrum, and decisions made by Nora and those around her to change and take risks or remain in their comfort zones are nicely delineated and offer no pat or 'right' answers.

The supporting cast of characters is as complex as Nora, in many ways, and provide depth and contrast to her experiences. Readers looking for a romance steeped in a vibrant personality's introspective genius and reflection of the sea world she observes and analyzes will find Cuttle a beautifully evocative work that lingers in the mind long after Nora's story blossoms and unfolds.

Liquid Grace
Lu Clifton
Two Shadows Books
9780998528489, $15.95 pbk / $7.95 Kindle

Liquid Grace is a historical mystery that opens in 1940s Oklahoma, at the beginning of World War II, and moves to California as a now-older Jane Guthrie recalls events during her thirteenth summer that have haunted her well into adulthood. The story employs the use of past tense and first person to provide a sense of immediacy to Jane's experiences and memories as she reviews her life, an endeavor sparked by two letters. Lu Clifton employs an evocative, descriptive hand in this story that is compelling in its voice.

Readers are carried into the Oklahoma Dust Bowl experience, a journey to California's very different culture, and Jane's observations of family and roots. Her compelling approach to life drives the human interest in her evolution and coming of age. As she interacts with Mama, Billy Lee, Sylvie, and others, Jane grows more astute about identifying the underlying forces that govern decisions and relationships in her family's life. This quiet observation style drives a powerful story of change, tracing a bygone era in American history and creating a compelling story that slowly reveals mysteries and haunting memories of the past that have reverberated throughout Jane's life.

Readers looking for a generational mystery that embraces the 1940s and 50s in America will find Liquid Grace a compelling piece. It embraces a special style of lyrical observation and offers the immediacy of a first-person recollection that identifies the influences that lead people away from their roots and homes and back again.

Liquid Grace is highly recommended for its unique voice, sense of time and place, and its compellingly realistic survey.

The Penetration
Thomas E. Sawyer, Ph.D., J.D.
PitBull Literary & Publishing Services
9781732737136, $14.88 Paperback
9781732737143, $28.88 Hard Cover

It should be noted from the start that The Penetration, while fictional in content and character, is loosely based upon the real premise: that " is both conceivable and possible that Communist China, Russia, and other foreign powers were and are successful in recruiting Americans; including those individuals who, indeed, may have attained lofty positions of power and influence in the American society." The puzzle lies in exactly how such citizens become operatives. This is the subject of the compelling The Penetration, which follows an ordinary American's recruitment and rise to power in a dangerous game. Kim Kingston represents the perfect model for becoming a mole. As liberal arts college attendee, Kim is interested in politics, languages, and foreign affairs. While his intellectual knowledge would seem to belay the possibility of conversion, Kim in fact holds the skills and intelligence that lead him to fall prey to Soviet influences.

Exactly how he does so is revealed in a compelling series of encounters that links Kim's personal skills and interests to the bigger picture of a mole's gradual indoctrination and evolution. His desire to prove himself eventually justifies the actions he takes and the choices he makes which move him deeper into international espionage, to work against his nation of birth.

As he marries, faces infidelity, and discovers a deeper danger in his wife's savvy knowledge of his secret life, Kim faces even deadlier choices in his reactions and values. His connections to the KGB and his successful infiltration of American society lead to further conundrums as he faces a threat to the President, his wife, and all other elements of his world.

Thomas E. Sawyer excels at taking the realities of espionage and moles and injecting them into a story where the main hero is not the good guy, but one who has crossed over to the dark side. Kim's choices and efforts are supported by psychological, social, and political inspections which span the globe as he traverses an increasingly dangerous course with new KGB arrangements that pair his personal ambition with political efforts to infiltrate and take over America.

With its sharp edge of reality-based events, The Penetration is more than just another thriller. It's an astute examination of a society under siege and an individual's motivations, choices, and the consequences of his actions, which contribute to a greater game plan. All these facets come alive in fictional format, making for thoroughly engrossing reading that's hard to put down.

Sargent's Lady
Judith Fabris
A Vegas Publisher, LLC
9780996843720, $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 410pp

Sargent's Lady provides a satisfying prequel to The Missing Driscoll art mystery story and explores the life of Boston debutante Maud Driscoll, who finds herself alone and pregnant in Paris when her baby's father is murdered. As she cultivates her artistic talents, gives up her baby at birth, returns to America to a failed marriage and dreams, and goes back to Europe to find solace in painting once again, the rudiments of an artist's journey emerge.

The timeline moves from 1953 to 1889 and between Europe and America in a satisfying manner that is clarified by chapter headings identifying place and time. Readers are never left to wander or wonder, and will appreciate this clear approach to linking present-day affairs with choices of the past which resonate with consequences over time.

Judith Fabris does an especially notable job of exploring different characters in the story, from Maud's evolutionary process to Peter Wells, who buys a mysterious portrait in an art store, only to discover that its background story is even more surprising than he could ever have suspected. Forced by an art dealer to authenticate the subject of John Singer Sargent's undiscovered masterpiece, his probe into the past reveals an underlying story of sacrifice and survival that holds many astonishing connections to present-day family entanglements and history.

As the story winds through the years and juxtaposes Peter's search and revelations with his Aunt Maud's life, Paris comes to life in the course of a journey filled with unexpected revelations. Fabris takes time to build this sense of place, which is also a fine embellishment to the story line. From a war which crushes communications between Europe and America and changes investigations and relationships both in families and in the art world, to Maud's winding journey away from art and back again, Sargent's Lady is a full-flavored story that will especially delight budding artists who like stories about the wellsprings of inspiration and life adversity. The explorations of different generations changed by war and the contrasts between Maud Driscoll and Lillie Doty's experiences and lives is particularly thought-provoking and well crafted as each cultivates different emotional reactions to adversity in their lives.

The result is a fine stand-alone story and a fitting companion to The Missing Driscoll. It's a tale of family ties, choices and consequences, war, and art that is highly recommended for its ability to live in the mind long after family affairs and artistic revelations are revealed.

Sisters of the Moon
Alexandrea Weis
Vesuvian Books
9781645480556, $11.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 410pp

Sisters of the Moon is a novella set on an island in Lake Obersee, where the order of nuns, The Sisters of St. Gertrude, reside. Durra is charged with tending to the nuns and their cats, but spends her spare time researching the island's history in the library, looking for answers surrounding the mysterious forces which seem to cohabitate with them on the island. She was traded into this position by her family, whom she hates. But they never anticipated that her new role in life would embrace a strange secret that portends a very different fate than that of being an indentured servant.

As she moves from being shunned by her family and being "nothing" to becoming the pivotal force in an ancient struggle between good and evil, Durra challenges everything she's been taught in order to not only face dangerous creatures, but hidden secrets in the hearts in those around her. Alexandrea Weis does an outstanding job of painting succinct, hard-hitting scenes that carry Durra from a new role in a convent to a more active position confronting supernatural forces and long-hidden truths that could change not just her life, but the world.

The characterization is well done, and while the mystery is predictable, at times, it holds some surprises readers will find satisfyingly well described. The pace and action provide a fine blend of mystery and supernatural confrontation that will keep readers engaged and involved. Sisters of the Moon represents a fine example of the use of the novella form at its best. It creates a superior blend of action, mystery, and evolving protagonist dilemmas and growth that will keep readers on their toes and involved up to the story's epilogue of unexpected lessons in survival and achievement.

Sisters of the Moon is highly recommended for those who like their supernatural mystery stories to embrace a sense of character growth where the fine line between good and evil proves more mercurial than most.

T.D. Holt
Independently Published
9798668534784, $10.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 286pp

The world in turmoil. America teetering after the last presidential election. COVID-19 and racial issues permeate the news. Then, a rumor emerges about a technology that can take down the Internet, permanently. Many threads run through the life of Pete (the protagonist), carrying him to new places as he falls in love with a beautiful black woman, Sophie, who helps him root out the conspiracy surrounding the potential Internet-busting discovery of a new sub-atomic particle.

Pete has many careers to his name, from expertise in Army intelligence to legal and scientific backgrounds. These make him uniquely qualified to embark on a world-hopping effort to locate the source of this new threat to technology. But he meets his match in the lovely Sophie, who introduces a spiritual component into his life that he's long rejected even as she keeps his affections both returned and at a professional distance. As the two explore the threat, its secret keepers, and each other, readers receive an adventure that focuses on their evolving abilities and attempts to come to terms with both a threat to society and the obstacles to building a meaningful relationship.

Readers of thrillers and romances will find threads of each theme, but should know that T.D. Holt devotes equal consideration to exploring both with a depth and attention to detail that places the plot firmly in the realm of those who like relationship-driven tension and intrigue.

The characterization is well done as Pete is forced by Sophie to examine his prejudices, preconceived notions of love and romance, and spirituality. The action, too, is nicely developed as the world-hopping adventure moves from their evolving relationship to newfound knowledge about the particle's properties and political and terrorist threats that can change the world. Threads isn't really just a singular story, but draws together the threads of two disparate lives who join together for a purpose that changes them both through a process of discovery.

The real story is not just in the circumstances surrounding the mysterious threat to the Internet, but in the efforts of Sophie and Pete to form a lasting connection and bond that supports the individuality they have each long cultivated.

Holt creates an exquisite psychological dance between these two characters, as narrated from Pete's perspective. Pete's self-deprecating humor over being a "dork" with ex-Army intel skills but not quite as strong relationship skills and little spiritual inclinations creates a powerful story. Readers looking for the trappings of a thriller that are firmly rooted in relationship developments and challenges will find Threads a wonderfully complex story. It follows the underlying influences of history, perspective, and spirituality to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Threads is highly recommended for readers who want the psychological and romance component of their thriller stories as strong or stronger than the action.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Joseph Lewis
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684335725, $20.95, PB, 332pp

Fifteen-year-old brothers George Tokay, Brian Evans, and Brett McGovern thought they were going on a hunting trip on the Navajo Reservation. They didn't anticipate that they would turn out to be the prey and would be stalked by strangers determined to kill them, and that the decisions they make could lead to a different outcome.

Brian is no stranger to violence. His twin brother died in a stranger's arms and his mother shot his father, then herself. He alone survived to be given a home by Jeremy, who took in five other boys. Now his life is to change, once more threatened by violence. This time, he's determined to not only survive, but help his brothers escape their mysterious adversary.

Strangely, the serial killer and a missing boy in the Navajo Nation threatens more than their family structure or reservation life. These events leave a question in Brian's heart about survivor guilt and whether he is ruining his adopted family by joining it. These questions reverberate in a mystery that challenges Brian's values, life, and experiences in an unexpected way: he feels they are at war as he and his brothers search for safety and answers, violence hot on their trail.

Joseph Lewis does an excellent job of crafting and entwining the politics and process of confronting reservation violence and the efforts of a group of boys to find answers about their conflicted lives and disparate backgrounds. He paints a realistic, involving portrait of reservation life and the FBI's involvement in shootouts and confrontations that threaten to take not only lives, but ways of life. The satisfying cat-and-mouse game challenges Brian and his brothers on many levels, from Brian's relationships and adopted family to the level of trust he puts in others. When the truth about his closest friendship comes to light, everything changes in an unexpected way that neatly ties up loose ends and keeps the story line realistic, compelling, and emotionally charged.

To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. Its social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly highly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.

The Easter Man
Stan Freeman
Hampshire House Publishing Co.
9781734438437, $16.95, PB, 313pp

The Easter Man is the third John Nolan detective novel in the series, and is set during World War I before America entered the conflict. In it, a German plot to blow up ships in New York Harbor before they can deliver supplies to the enemy blends with a drive to simultaneously blow up major city residences and buildings on Easter Sunday, 1916.

Though the New York City police department is aware of this plot, they worry that their investigators are already too well known to the Germans. This leads them to tap the special skills of one John Nolan, a recent Irish immigrant and Brooklyn private detective who is an outsider, and not very well known. Nolan participates in a dangerous game as he transmits selected information and conducts his own investigation into plots, subplots, and nefarious players. His actions border on those of a spy and operative agent as he undertakes a dangerous task and finds too many unexpected political and criminal connections.

One of the approaches that makes The Easter Man exceptionally well-written is Stan Freeman's attention to describing the emotions, motivations, and ethical and moral values of not just Detective Nolan, but all involved. These descriptions lend a personal touch to the story line that makes it emotionally revealing. As Nolan traverses traitors and spies, investigates rumors from the police department itself, and struggles to effectively maintain his role as a relatively anonymous investigator, readers are brought into the action by his thoughts and observations, as much as by his choices and confrontations.

Prior fans of Detective Nolan will find The Easter Man a satisfying new adventure presenting a special set of investigative and political conundrums, while newcomers need no prior familiarity to find the persona and actions of Detective Nolan involving and compelling. The Easter Man is especially recommended for historical mystery readers who will find the wartime era and New York City setting serve as realistic backdrops to a thoroughly engrossing struggle. The clock is ticking, and Nolan may be the only one to diffuse the bombs that are slated to change everything.

The Entitled
Nancy Boyarsky
Light Messages
c/o Torchflame Books
9781611533248, $14.99 Paperback
9781611533606, $7.49 Ebook

The Entitled contributes a fifth book to the Nicole Graves mystery series, but stands alone as a fine example of women's crime fiction problem-solving at its best. When Nicole is assigned to solve the dilemma of a teenager charged with murdering her boyfriend, she becomes involved in an international incident that is thwarted by those who refuse to talk to an American detective, much less a female investigator.

Nicole faces not only mounting evidence against her young client and reticent people who refuse to help her, but the possibility that she, too, will become the focus of a murder investigation. Further complicating matters is the fact that Abigail herself is defiant and unhelpful. Nicole faces many choices on how to handle this turbulent scenario as it expands to involve dangerous perps and their deadly games. Will her first solo case abroad go down in flames, bringing her down with it?

Nancy Boyarsky creates a clever, feisty, determined investigator who continually challenges her abilities with new cases. Readers who enjoy detective stories powered by women who are astute and well grounded will relish Nicole's character and pursuits, and will find her latest mystery nicely developed and compellingly presented. Having the perp also be the victim, and a defiant teenager at that, is the perfect recipe for a story line that is replete with emotional as well as criminal revelations.

Added value is provided by exploring Abigail's perception and reasons for her choices. The result is a fine story that is well-developed, filled with intrigue and the unexpected, and presented at a pace that allows for strong character and setting development while maintaining reader interest to the end, making it a highly recommended addition to the Nicole Graves series and the detective fiction genre as a whole.

Preacher Fakes a Miracle
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
c/o LaPuerta International
9781733268448, $14.99 Paper, $7.49 Kindle, 246pp

Preacher Fakes a Miracle supplies another Evan Jerome Wycliff mystery to engage prior fans and newcomers alike with the story of an amateur sleuth who pairs investigative jobs with a paying position as a guest preacher. The opening prologue doesn't begin with Evan, however, but the dilemma faced by a captive girl whose baby goes missing. As references to a convent, mysterious questions, and the threat of retribution from wrong emerge, readers receive a sense of things to come.

As Evan becomes involved in child welfare issues, a deadly human trafficking endeavor, and the threat from a luxury casino run by a Russian oligarch, he finds himself not only involved in the future of two young people, but much broader questions that are steeped in threats and danger. Sometimes his probes even ignite and confront dangers from other clergymen. What does the death of the administrator of Flat Branch Catholic Charities have to do with human trafficking and the dilemma Evan investigates?

As church affairs wind into crimes and threats, Evan finds both his roles challenged in new ways as he struggles to find solutions to moral and ethical conundrums and help Melissa, whom some say needs an exorcism in order to keep from inviting the devil himself back into her world. As Melissa, her baby, and her sister participate in a dangerous game, Evan finds himself on a mission to help and heal an impossible situation that challenges not only his abilities, but his perceptions of good and evil.

Once again, Gerald Everett Jones has produced a riveting read in a character whose dual interests collide in unusual ways. He does an outstanding job of slowly evolving the mystery on many levels, which will delight mystery fans seeking more than a simple 'whodunnit' approach. Social and ethical considerations and church and health services processes add to a riveting story that continually challenges Evan and his readers. The result is an engrossing tale packed with twists and turns that will keep readers turning pages and wondering at all the connections until the end.

Preacher Fakes a Miracle is highly recommended for prior fans of Evan Wycliff, who will see this character continually expanded and explored, as well as newcomers, who will need no prior introduction in order to find the story compelling and hard to put down.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588

These two excellent new sci-fi books are recommended picks for genre readers looking for engrossing stories. Charles E. Gannon's At the End of the World (9781982124694, $25.00) is a new novel in John Ringo's 'Black Tide Rising' series and tells of a senior summer cruise aboard a ketch that becomes a lesson in survival. Days after the cruise begins, a zombie plague begins to spread, and a group of teens finds their destination and destiny assume new meaning for their ultimate survival. It's a mishmash of odd participants who seem an unlikely group to get along, let alone become the survivors in a dangerous new world. Gannon creates compelling action and a scenario that's hard to put down. Travis S. Taylor, Timothy Zahn, contribute their stories to Battle Lunca (9781982124687, $25.00), which covers an epic battle for a lunar colony's independence. The mining colony faces the need to defend themselves from Earth when an important alien discovery raises the question of authority and control. But Earth has different ideas about who owns the discovery, and the conflict which emerges represents more than a clash of ownership, but ideals. Both are exceptional stories that will keep readers engaged and guessing.

The Music Shelf

While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the '90s
Kevin Cummins, photographer
Cassell Illustrated
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781788402200, $40.00 HC, $20.99 Kindle, 256pp

While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the '90s is packed with hundreds of black and white music photos taken by Kevin Cummins, chief photographer at the NME for over a decade, and captures British pop music at its best, from Noel Gallagher of Oasis to Blur, The Verve, Suede, and more. This portrait of live performers and on-stage and behind-the-scene moments alike is recommended for two audiences: fans of 90s British pop music and artists, and photographers who want an inviting collection of historic examples of an era. Collections catering to either audience will find this a satisfying blend of music history and photographic art that captures both.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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Diane C. Donovan, Editor & Senior Reviewer
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phone: 1-707-795-4629

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