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.
Dietrich Kalteis has produced another gem with his latest historical crime novel, “Call Down the Thunder,” out this month from ECW Press. Read the description below followed by an excerpt of the novel courtesy of ECW. Find your copy here!
Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm. In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.
Call Down the Thunder book excerpt:
Not getting out of Kansas tonight. The dusk was coming on.
sat on the bumper. The steam had stopped rising from under the hood. Had only
been the one truck drive by since she broke down. Likely end up sleeping in the
she heard it, coming from a long way off, raising dust behind it. An old
Packard with the square cab, the headlights high and on either side of the
windshield, the kind of truck they used for delivering the post when she was a
kid. This one painted brown, gold lettering down the wood-
paneled sides. The driver slowed to a stop and leaned across the seat, calling
out the window.
kind of scorn would likely have the man driving off. Clara smiled and said,
“Darn thing started clunking and blowing steam, then quit. Sure be grateful in
case you got some water to spare, mister.” Clara sizing the man up, medium
height with a hawk nose, bug eyes and bushes for eyebrows and sideburns, looked
lucky day. Water’s my game,” he said, pointing at the lettering down the side.
Eugene Cobb, Rainmaker.
out, he stuck a bowler on his head, came around the front bumper and said his
name, looking over the old Hudson, never seen something on the road with this
little paint left on it.
huh?” She smiled and said her name.
with the note of the skeptic, Clara.” Pulling open his passenger door, Eugene
took a canteen from behind the seat, giving it a shake and offering it to her.
make it?” Taking it, she smiled and had a drink. Couldn’t believe how good it
felt going down.
it fresh this morning.”
me ask, how you go about making it rain, Eugene?” She drank some more.
a finger, he wanted her to follow to the rear of his truck, flapping back the
musty canvas. Behind some packs and tubs of supplies stood a kind of mortar on
a tripod, strapped to the truck’s floor. A simple affair of a tripod base, a
long barrel and a bipod mount. The thing painted black with his name painted
gold along its barrel.
like a cannon?”
more an artillery gun, fires a flat trajectory. Roundshot mostly.” He climbed
up in back. “What I fire’s more of a canister shot, what I call my Cobb-busters.”
sky, of course.”
I ask why?” She drank some more.
it to concuss, see? Makes it rain.”
looked up at the cloudless evening, the moon and stars starting to show.
see you’re a doubting Debbie.”
seen a fella do it, blast the sky, is all.” She looked at the tubs of sulfur
and black powder, bottles of colored liquid, some labeled ether.
them special, my Cobb-busters.” Reaching a hollow tube with welded propellent
fins, his name down the side. Cradling it in his arms, he explained about
removing the explosive, how he repacked it, then dropped it in the cast-iron
tube, how it hit the firing pin and shot into the heavens, the special blast
bringing about the rain. Saying, “I calculate the trajectory, windspeed and
velocity, you see?” Smiling, Eugene set the missile back down, pushed a pack
aside and came up with a jug, sloshing it around, holding it out.
. . . for your radiator.”
make it?” She smiled again, handing the canteen back.
the empty canteen to the corner, he hopped down, took the jug over to her
truck, looking under the folded hood. He scraped remnants of seeds and nuts
from the radiator, pointing to where some rodent had chewed through the tubes.
leaned in and saw what he was pointing at.
buggers built nests, see there?”
far you figure I’ll get?”
wondering how you got this far.” Shaking his head, he set the hood down. “Need
a new hose, at least that.”
I’m damn out of luck.”
I can offer you a lift.”
looked up the road, then back the way she’d come, then at him. “Where to?”
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.
It’s a common trope in today’s horror genre to feature the more frightening aspects of religion, particularly when it comes to nuns and exorcisms, as a means to explore our fears.
Across the world, there are hordes of legends of religious spirits, including that of the “Faceless Nun.” While largely an urban legend, sightings of a mysterious Faceless Nun (nothing but flesh or darkness where your eyes, nose, and mouth should be) have in fact been reported across the globe. Anything without a face is creepy enough, but add a splash of religious attire and it’s enough to melt every spine on the block.
In Italy, three faceless nuns of the Torba Monastery are said to wander the countryside due to an unfinished mural. The three faces, perfect ovals, were never completed.
Art plays a factor in other areas as well. It’s commonly believed the original Faceless Nun was an artist in the midst of a self-portrait (a selfie made with paint and patience) who was called to service without the time to paint her facial features. She died an unfortunate death before she could ever complete the painting and, to this day, her spirit is cursed to walk the earth with no face. A 1940 account placed this tale overseas in France, while another focuses on St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana at around the same time.
The Terra Haute, IN, legend states the nun perished of an illness before she could complete her self-portrait. Numerous accounts of a ghostly nun have persisted in Catholic women’s college, including one from a nun who encountered a woman sobbing in the college’s church. When she approached the pew where the woman sat, she realized she too was a nun, but not just any ordinary nun. This one had no face.
While the account of the college’s faceless nun has been disputed by someone who was there at the time, stories of a faceless nun have only grown over the years. My new city, Tucson, is even thought to be the home of a faceless nun – perhaps the same faceless nun but likely another wandering soul with no smile.
The Cathedral of Saint Augustine, at 192 South Stone Avenue, is the seat for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Built in 1858, the church has changed a great deal since its meager two-room beginnings. Like most old buildings, it has its share of ghost stories, including its very own tale of the Faceless Nun. There the apparition has been seen levitating above the ground in the courtyard, at least according to a local ghost guide. From there the tale has only grown.
Is there a Faceless Nun or other famous apparition where you live?