BOOK REVIEW: Black Souls An adventure across cultures

Black Souls by Sabina Gabrielli Carrara
Published by The Green Bat (December 7, 2019)

Sabina Gabrielli Carrara’s thriller Black Souls welcomes 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.

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2019

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 Terror by 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 Dragon by 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 Thunder by 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.

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.

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.

REVIEW AND INTERVIEW: That’ll Be The Day with S.W. Lauden

Cover for That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist
by S.W. Lauden

There’s always that one sibling. It seems there’s one in every nuclear pod. In That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist by S.W. Lauden, we’re introduced to Jackson Sharp the moment he breathes free air for the first time in a long while. Only he may not be breathing it for much longer thanks to his brother, Jamie, who has a heist in mind that’s sure to make any fan of the Beatles froth at the mouth. Should things go wrong, Jack will end up right back in the bowels of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where neither of his siblings ever care enough to visit.

With a setting near Tulsa, Lauden’s toe-tapping, gritty novelette is like the Outsiders on a punked-up, rockabilly high. It’s a smooth crime story with a playlist sure to get a song or two stuck in your head while you read.

That’ll Be The Day drops June 18th. Boogie on over here for your copy. My interview with the man himself, S.W. Lauden, is below.

S.W. Lauden

WHITEHURST: Besides short stories featured in anthologies, you’re the author of three books in the Greg Salem series and two Tommy and Shayna novellas. Why write a novelette?

LAUDEN: I didn’t exactly set out to write a 17,000-word story, but I always knew it would end up somewhere between a short story (5,000 words) and a novella (30,000 words). My other books have all been published by indie presses, but I’ve been interested in the idea of self-publishing for a while. With a story like That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist—an odd length and a super niche-y subject—I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

WHITEHURST: What was your inspiration for That’ll Be The Day?

LAUDEN: Late last year I got offered the chance to co-edit an essay collection about power pop with Paul Myers (it’s called Go All The Way and Rare Bird Books will publish it this October). Re/discovering bands like Raspberries, The Knack, The Records, Shoes, The Shivvers, Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, New Pornographers, etc. quickly became an obsession. I didn’t plan for my power pop research to also become a crime novelette, but I’m really glad it did. It was a blast writing about the Sharp brothers, their failed music career, and the life of crime that followed.

WHITEHURST: Your knowledge of music, bands, and instruments is solid. What’s the story there?

LAUDEN: Most of my life has been organized around music. I had older brothers that got me into classic rock and heavy metal as a kid, before I discovered punk in junior high. From there I was off to the races, listening to a lot of glam rock, post punk, new wave, power pop, alternative rock, Brit pop—you name it. I started playing drums in bands in high school and didn’t stop for any real length of time until my early 40s. I got to make a few records and tour, etc. Given all that, I suppose it’s no surprise that a lot of my crime fiction revolves around music and musicians.

WHITEHURST: What’s next for you?

LAUDEN: I recently played drums on a record for an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. We’re self-releasing a limited run of vinyl in late July, but songs will start popping up in various places between now and then. We definitely won’t be touring (too many adult responsibilities for anything crazy like that), but we might play a couple of shows here and there.

Info at https://www.thebrotherssteve.com.

WHITEHURST: Thanks for stopping by for a chat!

LAUDEN: Thanks for reading the book and inviting me to your blog!

BIO: S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, will be released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at http://swlauden.com.

REVIEW: The Outlaw’s Ransom Enchants the English Countryside

Ransom
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.

REVIEW: Steampunk boils beautifully in The Gaslight Girl by Hargrove Perth

Steampunk is a subgenre to behold in the science fiction and fantasy world. It’s the stuff of clockwork wonder and corseted amazement and, for many; it’s something readers can’t get enough of. Many, however, don’t quite get it. Exactly what is steampunk?
GaslightGirl-1
The best way to describe the steampunk life is to imagine a futuristic world with fantastic mechanical creatures, airships and weaponry, but rather than advance technology, picture it made with iron and copper, gears and cranks, and powered with steam. Picture men and women of the future, but in a setting more closely comparable to old London, of the time when Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper skulked around.

Author Hargrove Perth has steampunk down. In her fast-paced novella, The Gaslight Girl, she’s taken a story familiar to all of us and injected hot steam in its veins. The Cinderella story, full of despair and ugly-on-the-inside stepsisters, forms the bare bones in this the story of young Halloran Frost. Cinderella she is not, for this girl is armed, corseted, and chock full of attitude, not to mention the heir of her father’s gas company and his dark secrets. The Gaslight Girl has all the gears, mechanical creatures, airships and steam-fueled spirit that have enamored readers to the genre across the world.

Perth’s novella is part one of the Decisive Devices series, with more excitement sure to come. This exciting ride is surely not over yet.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, you’ll want to get to know Halloran Frost and Perth’s Decisive Devices novella.

Learn more about Hargrove Perth here.

Order The Gaslight Girl here.