Sabina Gabrielli Carrara’s thriller Black Soulswelcomes readers to both Ireland and Italy, but you don’t have to live there to enjoy her dark psychological tale of murder and family intrigue. In Black Souls we follow the charmed life of Lola Owen, a woman of Italian descent living peacefully with her husband and children in Ireland. She believes her mother to be a distant memory, following a traumatic suicide when she was young, and has sequestered her remaining Italian family members to the past as well – only they don’t want to stay forgotten. Lola’s cousin, Giulia, and her aunt, Mara, find themselves at odds with one another over the future of their property, the Kopfler Grand Hotel, a matter which is only compounded by unforeseen events, and both gel into a furious drama full of scorn, revelations, bloodshed, and murder. Lola finds herself knee deep in the family’s internal drama whether she wants it or not, especially when it brings violence to her very quiet Irish life, and resolves with her husband Fergus to travel to her childhood home in Ponte Alto, Italy, and settle matters once and for all.
Expertly paced and full of relatable characters that wouldn’t be out of place in any country, Black Souls puts us on a train ride of thrills, over bumps and twists, to a nail biting and surprising finish.
The roaring twenties are upon us. And I am already tired of the Gatsby references. Luckily there are plenty of books to take us away from those things. And there will be some awesome books in the New Year likely to make us forget all about Fitzgerald. Maybe. There were some damn good stories in 2019 and killer short reads that don’t necessarily count as books. This includes S.W. Lauden’s fantastic “Power Pop” novella. The memoir “Resurrections in the Dark” by Janice Blaze Rocke provided a living, breathing tale that’s hard to forget as well. I’d recommend checking both out, not to mention “All the Way Down” by Eric Beetner. I did a terrible job of tracking my reading over the last year. By my estimate I read about 21 books, down from last year’s count, but not bad for a slow page turner like me. Here’s the usual disclaimer – I read these books in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they came out this year. Some did, of course, but I choose my annual favorites from the stack and not by publication date.
Wonton Terrorby Vivien Chien
“Wonton Terror” is the latest installment of Vivien Chien’s wonderful cozy mystery series and pits our series hero Lana Lee against a murderer who knows a thing or two about blowing things up. Lana is nearly killed by a bomb blast in Ohio’s Asian Night Market. While she makes it through with minor injuries, a family friend isn’t so lucky. Lana is determined to know why he was killed. Having discovered Chien’s Noodle Shop Mystery series just this year, I have endeavored to consume them all. Fun, fast reads, and she’s already got at least two more in the literary pipeline. Visit the Noodle Shop here.
101 by Tom Pitts
Thank God for friends. Young Jerry Bertram finds himself in deadly peril after snatching cash from a biker gang in northern California. When they come gunning for him, his mother steps in to help, enlisting the aid of a pot grower and all-around tough guy Vic. But even their aid may not be enough to kill what’s coming for them. Pitts takes the silencer off the barrel and comes in guns blazing with his latest book. It’s always a thrill to read this guy’s stuff. Take a trip on the 101 here.
Spine of the Dragonby Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson hits one out of the fantasy ball park in his latest book, “Spine of the Dragon.” We’re given some truly creative characters and fantastic fantasy elements, ones readers will be daydreaming about well after turning the last page. Here we meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, the ancient Wreths; we explore the Commonwealth, and of course wake the dragon! I totally enjoyed this read and look forward to book two in this new series. Grab your sword and read the book here.
Cold Girl by R.M. Greenaway
Talk about creeping dread. That’s what readers can expect when they enter the world of R.M. Greenaway’s “Cold Girl,” the first in her B.C. Blues Crime series. The novel centers on the disappearance of a local musician and the realization she may be in the hands of the notorious Pickup Killer. Called a police procedural, but damn hot for us readers who like chilling scenes and frozen climates in our killer crime fiction. Lay your cold hands on a copy here.
Call Down the Thunderby Dietrich Kalteis
Author Dietrich Kalteis brings reader into the thick of the 1930s Dust Bowl in his 2019 novel “Call Down the Thunder.” In it we meet the tough as leather Sonny Myers, who happens to be a bit down on his luck, and his vibrant wife Clara, who wants a little more than Sonny can offer. Not that anyone else was doing much better in Kansas at the time, anyone except the crooks. Sonny comes to realize this sad fact and decides to help himself to a bit of the loot the same way the crooks do. This is a fantastic historical crime thriller, which takes readers into a desperate chapter of American life, and adds a touch of sweetness only Kalteis can create. Get your thunder on here.
Haunted Monterey County got the star treatment on the latest edition of The ODD Entity Podcast. Thank you to Janine for having me on! I had a great time talking about haunted locales in Monterey, not to mention chatting up spiritual beliefs, Winchester Mystery House, and more.
Be sure to pick up the Holiday 2019 issue of Carmel Magazine, found everywhere along the California Central Coast and abroad. Writer Renee Brincks did a fantastic writeup for the book and it was awesome to be included once again in such an illustrious publication. Can’t find a print copy? Read it online here: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1182230-cm-sm-ho19-nov/66
There are times when you start reading a book without knowing what to expect. Such was the case with D.E. Night’s young adult (YA) fantasy book, The Crowns of Croswald. It was familiar yet wholly new at the same time – and it turned into an energetic, comfortable reading experience.
This review comes from a writer and reader who rarely dip his toes into the genre. When it comes to fantasy and YA fiction, my experiences primarily orbit Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Harry Potter series.
It’s the latter I felt largely influenced The Crowns of Croswald and in the beginning those similarities were strong, even for someone who has not read the Harry Potter (HP) adventures for years. I found myself feeling as though I’d been transported back to those days of Hogwarts, to that memorable era when I read the first three HP books to my daughter. And this was not a bad feeling at all.
In fact, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in Night’s tale, told simply and elegantly, and found myself absorbed by it. This is not HP at all, but an original story told in that cozy YA style (imagine HP as a genre), and done quite well. The author’s world-building game is top notch.
The book’s chapters are dotted at the outset with charming illustrations also reminiscent of the small drawings seen at the top of each HP chapter. Only these illustrations are done to enhance the story of Ivy Lovely, a young woman who has no idea how exciting her life is about to become. When we first meet her she’s hidden under a magic-killing screen, little realizing her potential as she toils in Castle Plum’s kitchen ensuring each dragon-cooked meal is as tasty as possible. Her only real friend at this point is the woods dwarf, Rimbrick, who offers her hints to her own destiny, not to mention all the books she can handle. It’s when she’s kicked out of Castle Plum that her life begins to change, particularly when she lands in the magical Halls of Ivy, a school where anything can happen and usually does thanks to the scrivenists – sort of like wizards but here the wands are quills – sort of. At school she befriends the witty Fyn Greeley, gets into a bit of trouble, and more importantly seeks to unlock the mysteries of her past, why she was brought to the school, and deal with the nefarious Dark Queen. More happens, a lot more, but readers will have to discover those gems for themselves.
Another point I enjoyed was the use of the name D.E. Night, which readers of Croswald will discover is a name used in the book itself. Early on, in fact, Rimbrick hands off three books for Ivy to read. Each is written by Derwin Edgar Night. The subtle inclusion of the author into the work reminded me of Doyle’s inclusion of Watson into the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, a trick I can get behind with ease. It’s a great way to supercharge the imagination for readers.
Those looking for a well-paced read in the vein of authors
J.K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss (without the adult-level syllabus) look no
further than D.E. Night’s plucky Croswald series, now at two books and
Those looking for all things spooky during the Halloween 2019 season need look no further than the pages of Haunted Monterey County. Local NPR public radio 90.3 KAZU featured the book on Halloween day.
Arizona’s biggest close-to-the-border city, Tucson, is a
Driving down the streets one might see cowboy hats, MAGA hats, and camouflage hats, but you might also see bookstores dotting the landscape behind them, a lot of bookstores. And some damn good ones. Book lovers visiting Tucson, or those new to town, will find oodles of retail to fit their reading needs.
(Click the header to visit each bookstore’s website)
There are two in Tucson, with one right smack in the middle
of town and another to the north. Coffee shops inside a bookstore always make
the trip more fun, as do aisles and aisles of books. Those who have gone to
B&N know they also have print magazines, collectibles, stationary, and way more.
It’s great to see them humming with activity after dark.
Bookmans is something of an Arizona tradition. There are stores in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and in Tucson, the birthplace of the chain, there are three locations. Here one can find used books in every genre, graphic novels and comics, merchandise from jewelry to toys, musical instruments, video games, and all in between. They even sell new books. Not just that, but bring in your old books (and other stuff) and you might just get store credit to spend there. Visits are like a trip to a literary Disneyland. You never know where to look first.
Smack dab downtown, this local hotspot is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the area. Full of helpful staff, the bookstore offers new books, mugs, bookmarks, stuffed animals, and more. The vibe is alive with bookish charm. Here you can find any number of book groups to join, author events to attend, and even learn about how they power the store with solar energy. The place is simply a must-go Tucson experience.
Mostly Books is a place readers can get lost in. The store is long with reading nooks and rooms filled floor to ceiling with stories of all genres. Here it’s easy to find books written by local talent, attend book signings, and join in with monthly book groups. Nicely located on Speedway, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes stopping here a definite addition to your bibliophile checklist.
You like your library with some sleuthing, some killing, and some crime? That would be Clues Unlimited. They’ve got paperback cozies, local crime and mystery authors, hardback noir, and more – all packed into a cute little spot. Be sure to take the time and browse around and say hi to that cute dog that hangs out there.
Is that the smell of old books in the Book Stop, cigars, or what? Either way you’ll get that book jones satisfied at this place, which carries a ton of used, ultra-rare, and out of print titles for your reading pleasure, not to mention a chunk of scholarly tomes to peruse. Grab a chair and pony up to this reading mecca.
Tucson in action (in a readerly way)
These are just a taste of what the community offers those who carry books or e-readers around with them, or anyone who likes to shop. There’s also the bookstore for the University of Arizona and other sellers around town. Not just confined to stores, many of the bookstores represent at local events and festivals with their own tables.
To top it all off, Tucson is home to one of the biggest literary festivals in the nation. The Tucson Festival of Books is held each March and is one hell of an affair. Check their website to get a taste of what you’ll see – between trips to bookstores naturally.