BOOK REVIEW: Resurrections in the Dark by Janice Blaze Rocke dives into a world of sex, drugs, and the human condition

Monterey-based author Janice Blaze Rocke weaves a dark, character-driven tale in her memoir of life along the San Francisco corridor, firmly rooting herself as a literary force to be reckoned with and a welcome addition to the Central Coast’s pool of talented writers.

Resurrections in the Dark follows young Janice through a tumultuous time in her life – as a stripper and budding drug addict in the 1980s, but also as a woman hopelessly in love with the wrong person.

The memoir reads like a continuous breath, keeping us hooked through every chapter, and rarely comes up for air. Like Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Jack Kerouac, and others, her words work soulful charms and deliver a stark lesson in both humanity and fate, mixed with a few sultry passages.

Resurrections in the Dark has earned a place among the literary bookshelves of Monterey and San Francisco, as it tells the story of these cities just as much as it tells her own riveting story.

Pick up a copy on Lulu here, or on Amazon here, or in bookstores throughout Monterey County.

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BOOK REVIEW: Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien a tasty recipe for clever mysteries

I dove into Dim Sum of All Fears (the second in the Noodle Shop Mystery series) and found a gem in the contemporary cozy mystery scene. The first in the series, Death by Dumpling, will now be my second to get me back on track with these remarkable stories. That makes sense, right?

This delicious series by Vivien Chien features amateur sleuth Lana Lee, who works at her parents’ restaurant in Cleveland, but wants a little more for herself. What she doesn’t want, but always gets, is to wind up in a mess of drama. Bummer for her, but lucky for us.

In Dim Sum we find Lana running Ho-Lee Noodle House while her folks take a vacation to Taiwan. Add to this the discovery of two corpses in the shop next door, a budding romance with a police detective, and suddenly Lana has more on her plate than she can handle. Who would have thought Cleveland could be this smashing?

For me, a fan of horror and crime fiction, Lana’s adventure was a shift in the type of books I typically enjoy. It’s a good idea to try something new and I wasn’t disappointed with Dim Sum. The mystery is a “cozy,” similar in a way to Agatha Christie or Elizabeth Peters, dare I say Holmes, but with a contemporary style and an appealing sense of creativity. I can see the down-to-Earth, donut-loving Lana among the ranks of Sherlock and Marple in the coming years.

The clever book titles are rich, which is likely what drew me to try the mystery in the first place. This includes the fourth entry, Wonton Terror, which comes out later this month. Now that I’m hooked, I’m looking forward to reading what’s next for the cast of characters at Ho-Lee Noodle House.

Keep serving up the Lana Lee stories!

I never really ended up craving Dim Sum though. Weird.

Michael Newton – a chat with an amazing author

Michael Newton is one of the hardest working writers in the industry. He’s published more than 335 books, some under a different name, including The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, a number of fiction series such as the M.I.A. Hunter, The Gun westerns, and plenty more. His work in non-fiction is as prolific as his work in fiction. He’s written books on the subject of writing, as a matter of fact, which anyone interested in writing should read.


He’s also well known for his contributions to The Executioner series originally created by Don Pendleton and he’s even written for The Destroyer series. Newton got his start as a “ghost author” for the Mack Bolan Executioner titles and has written 131 “episodes” of the popular man-of-action series to date, with more on the way.

Beginning in 2018 and ending this year in 2019, he penned a series of 10 novels for Wolfpack Publishing based on the history of the Federal Bureau of investigations. In Honor Bound is the first of the series. Set in 1917, it follows three law school graduates as they set out to join the fray for World War I. Before they get a chance to register for service, J. Edgar Hoover extends to them an invitation to join the U.S. Department of Justice.


The series charts the Bureau’s history through the lives of five families: the Gantts, the O’Haras, the Giordanos, the Sawyers, and the Babins. Book 10, When Honor Dies, features a world of terrorism threats from the home front and from the Middle East. The fates of the series’ families are revealed amidst the tragedy of 9/11.

I recently had the honor of talking to Michael about his writing. He said he first got the idea for The Bureau series in 1986.


“I’ve long enjoyed similar (much better!) series by Max Alan Collins, John Jakes, Stephen Hunter and W.E.B. Griffin, but I fell far short of their great achievements this time around. Toward the end it felt a bit like Vietnam or Afghanistan: no exit,” Newton said.


When it comes to his writing, Newton said he’s wanted to be a writer ever since he learned how to put words on paper in grade school. He’s currently hard at work on a new Executioner title, the first ever biography of Albert Anastasia, and much more.


“The money [was] also an attraction, freeing me from a dead-end Nevada teaching job in 1986 and allowing me to write full-time ever since,” Newton said. “For years the Bolan work represented roughly half my yearly income, but 2014 took a toll, my Berkley Western editor fired and an ongoing series canceled, then Harlequin bought out by HarperCollins and the end of the Bolan series announced in December. They’ve reconsidered that, as you know, but at a rate of four books yearly rather than 24, so with luck I get one rather than the former three or four.”


He’s recently fallen back into the realm of “writer-for-hire” as well.


“[This includes] three books for an action series forthcoming from Wolfpack Publishing, rumbles of a Western series (also from Wolfpack), and a two-book contract for Berkley under the late Ralph Compton’s name (also Westerns),” Newton said. “All of those pay by the word, and I’m back to the kind of thing that was my staple during 1978-81, before Gold Eagle came along. I don’t know if that’s coming full-circle or just circling the drain.”

Learn everything there is to know about this amazing guy over on his website.

BOOK REVIEW: Crack Open the Spine of the Dragon

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Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson -Tor Books (June 4, 2019)

It is possible to read every book written by Kevin J. Anderson; difficult, yes, but not unheard of. Crazier things have happened. Other writers Hulk-out with envy at his prolific nature, and not only that, his books are engaging. That’s always a bonus.

In his latest offering, Spine of the Dragon, Anderson tours readers through the popular genre of intellectual fantasy fiction, which leans more literary than, say, those old Conan pulps, but it’s just as adventurous. For me, someone who’s read The Saga of the Seven Suns series and many of Anderson’s other science fiction (Dune for life!) titles, delving into an all new fantasy realm was a welcome change. With that pesky Game of Thrones now decided, and no new George R.R. Martin book on the horizon (same for my other favorite, Patrick Rothfuss), there’s no better time to meet the ancient wreths, explore the Commonwealth and Ishara, and wake the dragon!

The book begins with introductions, jumping as Anderson does, from character to character, then back again, until we the readers feel the rhythm of the work. We meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, and others, though not in a relaxed way. There’s a nasty sand storm, an attack from the sea at Mirrabay, insane monsters, and the return of a frightening long-gone army all within the first fifty pages. And did I mention the maps? It’s not worth raising your sword if there isn’t a map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Raise your sword high, because there’s more than one in Spine of the Dragon.

While some readers may see a few similarities, such as the frostwreths, who felt a bit like White Walkers to me; and the book’s toggle switch between characters may remind them of other fantasy novels, which Anderson has done forever by the way, there’s a lot to nerd over in Spine. The backstory of the wreths fascinated me, as did the godling’s relationship with the Isharans, and there’s so much to explore. As with Anderson’s other books, you’re never ready for them to end when they do.

And if there’s one thing Anderson is good at, it’s world building. Spine presents a well-molded civilization with a crisp plot and intriguing characters, told in that winning Anderson style, which for me is like hanging out with an old friend. As with most tales of magic, strange creatures, and stalwart warriors; you just can’t get it all in one book. So be on the lookout for book two already in the sandy Commonwealth pipeline!

Buy Spine of the Dragon here!

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2018

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As 2019 beckons us into her titular embrace, I realize my literary to-be-read pile is something of a clean slate for the coming year. There are titles I know I want to read: my usual foray into the new Executioner novels, something by Stephen King, perhaps finish the last two Game of Thrones tomes, etc., What excites me most, however, are the books I have no idea about. The ones that are coming that I cannot foresee. Maybe that’s a bit too deep, but it’s got me on the edge of my seat. What will they be? Some will be culled from the authors below.

I read 22 books in 2018, ranging from the aforementioned Mack Bolan Executioner ebooks to non-fiction titles all about creating tighter sentences. Favorites that didn’t make my top five included Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (who would have thought it would grab me like that?), The Wise Man’s Fear (probably the best fantasy out there right now), and Clash of Kings (and I’m now trudging through the third one, but won’t be done before the new year). Let me glom on to that by saying Stephen King’s The Outsider got my motor running too.

Here’s the usual disclaimer – I read these books in 2018, but that doesn’t mean they came out this year. Some did, of course, but really these are just favorites I laid eyes on over ’18.

American Static by Tom PittsStatic-1.jpg

I hungered for a blast of literary danger and happened to pick up American Static at the right time. What starts as a deadly and compelling crime thriller; Tom’s dark, street-smart ride takes a grim twist, unfolding to reveal murderous political intrigue, a savage quest for the truth, and it happens to have a bit of romance, the sort that shares needles, but sweet nonetheless.

Snag your shock of Static here.

The Devil’s Necktie by John LansingNecktie-1

Author John Lansing has created a tough-as-they-come, but wholly believable character, in Jack Bertolino. I’ve read more than one of his adventures, and there are a few, including the latest book The Fourth Gunman. The Devil’s Necktie, the first book, was like a bomb going off. It came with everything us hardboiled mystery lovers crave: guns, intrigue, and the kind of writing most authors aspire to. Start with the first and stay for the rest of the series. Here’s hoping it lasts for a good long while.

Engage your Bertolino fixation here.

Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. KingRussell-1

My dirty thirties were made all the more pure thanks to the wonderful Mary Russell series penned by Laurie R. King. For me, this is the continuation of Sherlock Holmes we all need. I see it as the only true canon next to Doyle’s original Holmes tales. Adding Mary to his retired life and continuing their shared adventures into my forties have been a true highlight of my middle life. I jumped back into the Holmes/Russell pool this year with Mary Russell’s War, which happens to be a great jumping-on point for anyone interesting in the high-thrill world of these two amazing actioneers.

Turn those pages here.

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer AshRansom

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer Ash is the first in a series of books written under the Folville Chronicles umbrella and it doesn’t disappoint, especially for Hood Heads (fans of Robin Hood lore). This is one hot romp of a tale from Ash and a surprise for me, as it landed outside of my normal assortment of books, which is undoubtedly why I found it memorable and something I’d strongly recommend to others.

Get your hands on it here. Or steal one from an entitled person and give it to someone with want.

Poughkeepsie Shuffle by Dietrich Kalteispoughkeepsieshufflecover

Poughkeepsie Shuffle deals with an ex-con named Jeff Nichols, a guy who jumps from a notorious jail back into the bristling criminal elements. But the thing is he’s a likable guy just trying to do right by the woman he loves. This book grabbed me from the get-go, Jeff grabbed me from the get-go, and I turned the pages hoping he’d make it out in one piece, or at least somewhat alive. In Dietrich’s gritty world of noir, there’s no guarantee the protagonist will come out on the breathable side of a coffin. But I had to know, which made this a great read.

Take a road trip to Poughkeepsie here.

 

REVIEW: The Outlaw’s Ransom Enchants the English Countryside

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The Outlaw’s Ransom: The Folville Chronicles by Jennifer Ash, LIttwitz Press, 2018

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer Ash is the first in a series of books written under the Folville Chronicles umbrella and it doesn’t disappoint.

This hot, galloping tale follows the travails of young Mathilda, daughter of a local potter who lives in the English countryside, as she is yanked from a loving family and thrown to a clan of thieves and so-called villains to ensure her father pays off his debts. But are the Folvilles all that bad? Mathilda’s a bright young girl, in some ways too bright for her own britches– a quality that causes some consternation, but also proves attractive to the Folville family – especially to the handsome Robert Folville. This is a family well known for living by the code of Robyn Hode (Robin Hood to most of us) and Mathilda believes she can find a way to free both herself and her father’s debts by helping the honorable family of tough guys.

Ash, whose background is in history and archaeology, has a lifelong passion for Robin Hood mythology. This devotion is clear when you read her charming tale of betrayal, family angst, and young love.  In The Outlaw’s Ransom, Mathilda is a pawn who becomes smarter and wiser by the day in order to stay alive. The second book in the series, The Winter’s Outlaw, is out now. A third is slated for late 2018, affording her fans something to look forward to –  both those in the United Kingdom and here in the States.

Fans of Robin Hood in all his various incarnations, whether the adventures with his Merry Men or as a sly animated fox with a red feather in his cap, will enjoy this fresh take on the legend and how it affected real-life families living in Medieval England. It’s also a timely read thanks to the updated Lionsgate film set to hit U.S. theaters this November.

Learn more about Jennifer Ash and the Folville Chronicles here.

Buy the book here.