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
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.
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.
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.