Book Reviews: Ghosts of the Grand Canyon by Judy and Brian-James Martinez and Concussion Comeback by Kyle Jackson @LlewellynBooks @JollyFishPress

Ghosts of the Grand Canyon
Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge
Judy & Brian-James Martinez
Llewellyn Publications, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5944-9
Trade Paperback

Although I’ve never been to Arizona, when I hear “Grand Canyon”, an image of sheer, sunbaked cliffs, surrounding an almost-angry, definitely-defiant crater, instantly pops into my mind. That, and the time during a family dinner when I may have missed my mouth and my father said, “Damn. That’s like throwing a rock at the Grand Canyon and missing,” which is not covered in Judy and Brian-James Martinez’s Ghosts of the Grand Canyon: Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge.

These spooky stories, rich with history and humanity, are exponentially more entertaining and even educational. I enjoyed learning how the El Tovar Hotel came to be, how it has changed since opening in 1905, and who may still call it home.

I did not know that, only a quarter of a mile from the canyon’s rim, is the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. Within said set of trees is a lodge named for the Hopi Nation kachina god who guards the gulf, “Maswik”.

Pioneer Cemetery, inside of the National Park, continues to be a place to visit, with walking trails and benches along the route. There’s an RV park, Trailer Village, purported to be a paranormal portal.

The Navajo needed their very own word for ghost, “Chindi”. And they believe in “skin-walkers”—an interesting tale, in and of itself.

In 1910, two brothers boarded a boat to travel the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One sibling carried a movie camera to capture the entire adventure. To tourists’ delight, the resulting silent film was played, daily, for a full 17-year-run.

When just these few facts are so intriguing, the mandatory myths and folklore mixed in are bound to be good. The authors convey the peoples’ stories, using the peoples’ words, for an authentic, fun-fact-filled read.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2019.


Concussion Comeback
Mac’s Sports Report
Kyle Jackson
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-227-3

Stewart “Mac” McKenzie takes his sports-reporting role very seriously, even if he is writing about Middle-Grade activities. As a hard-working student-athlete, who rolls circles around his competitors to crush it on the basketball court, Mac sees both sides of every story. Which is why he is so worried about his next article.

The football coach provides Mac a spot on the sidelines, alongside the team and their supporting staff. But the view from his wheelchair is slightly different and he definitely saw the star quarterback crack his head on the final play. He kept his eyes on Ryan Mitchell and knew he wasn’t imagining the symptoms he saw.

He tried talking, but Ryan wouldn’t listen. Now, it’s not a matter of what he has to do, but rather, finding the best way to do it. Fortunately for Mac, his best friend didn’t just know every fact and stat about practically all of the sports; but, Samira Ahmad is also incredibly thoughtful and kind. She always gives Mac the best advice.

It won’t take a sports fan to enjoy and appreciate Mr. Jackson’s Mac’s Sports Report: Concussion Comeback. Simply written, it is a quick, effortless and entertaining read; but it tackles a timely and important topic. I loved the real-life, varied examples of a few famous NFL players handling this very issue. I’m still stunned to know that one player was hit so hard, it took him more than a year to re-learn how to read.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2018

Book Reviews: City of Halves by Lucy Inglis and A Specter of Justice by Mark de Castrique

City of HalvesCity of Halves
Lucy Inglis
Chicken House, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-82958-8

What a way to start your day. Lily who lives with her barrister father in a London suburb, is a pretty proficient computer hacker and is currently helping Dad on a case. She’s looking for a forger whose identity can help free an immigrant woman her father is defending, who is facing imprisonment and deportation. When Lily snags some video footage from one of the ubiquitous surveillance cameras that are all over London, it shows what she thinks is the forger near a spot where he’s dropped papers in the past. She has time to check out the area because school isn’t in session.

When Lily reaches the alley where she saw the footage, she’s attacked by a two-headed dog that nearly kills her. The mystery figure she saw in the video appears, killing the dog and carrying her back to the large building where he lives. Despite her protests, the heavily tattooed boy named Regan, uses an ancient medical book to figure out how to give her an emergency blood transfusion from his own arm. When Lily tries to refuse because she has an extremely rare type, he informs her that she’ll die unless he does and he knows that she’s Type H. She begins to feel better almost immediately. Even more startling is the fact that all of her injuries have completely disappeared even though her clothing is still soaked by her own blood.

Thus begins an extremely well crafted combination fantasy thriller and romance that involves an evil government agency, a host of supernatural creatures (bandogges, dragons, wraiths, banshees, plague carriers, a man whose hands create fire, snake people and others too numerous to list here), lies from the past and threats aplenty to London, some natural, others supernatural.

As Lily and Regan slowly fall for each other, they have to figure out how their relationship fits into an ancient prophecy, avoid her getting captured by the government and learn where the girls and various mythical creatures who are being kidnapped have been stashed as well as for what purpose. None of these are easy, making this book a real page turner. It’s a perfect blend of urban fantasy and romance with mystery elements. While the ending is satisfying, there’s that delicious hint of a sequel in the future.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.


A Specter of JusticeA Specter of Justice
A Sam Blackman Mystery #5
Mark De Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0472-2

A strong, well-conceived story takes readers into some dark corners of the American judicial system. The concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” serves us well, except when it doesn’t. Criminal defense lawyers are wedded to the idea that they should bend every legal effort to protect their clients and use the system to see their clients go free, even the guilty ones. Should they? Even if they know their client is guilty? What about possible consequences of freeing a violent perpetrator?

Ours is not a perfect system but it is better than any alternative yet devised by the mind of mankind. These are questions raised in this enthralling story of lawyers, investigators and policemen all caught up in a web of deceit, murder and manipulation that has roots more than ten years old.

Sam Blackman and his lover and partner, Nakayla Robertson, join forces with a local group of boosters to create a fund-raiser to help twin orphaned boys. There are murky legends of ghosts, suicides and spectral happenings in Asheville, North Carolina, as there are about most cities. An evening tour of sites with costumed hosts seems innocent enough until the real dead body of one of the fund-raiser participants is abruptly injected into the proceedings.

Thereafter Sam and Nakayla are beset on all sides as they try to decipher obscure and musty clues, helpful and resistant witnesses, old and current case-loads, all told in neat, carefully constructed cleanly delivered prose. This novel is a clean, intense and fast read with some excellent characters and relationships that will leave many thoughtful readers with some difficult questions to ponder. I recommend this novel with no  reservations.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.