Book Review: The Blues Don’t Care by Paul D. Marks—and an Excerpt @PaulDMarks @DownAndOutBooks

The Blues Don’t Care
Bobby Saxon, Book 1
Paul D. Marks
Down & Out Books, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-64396-050-0
Trade Paperback

The author is an experienced and winning author of thrillers. This novel, from its title to its epilogue shows the research and care directed to the details of such a story set in a previous century. The action takes place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. It was wartime and a period of active and intense musical development and interest as a counter to the war. Los Angeles was an important part of the home front during World War II.

Bobby Saxon is a recent graduate of a local high school. He’s a brilliant pianist and his goal is a gig with one of LA’s top blues and swing bands. That quickly introduces an important theme that affects everything that happens in the novel because Bobby is white and the band is black. The blues was dominated by black artists. Mixing the races in any way, including performing, was actively prohibited in that decade and Bobby has to deal with it. He has other secrets as well and while performing a guest gig with the band, he becomes involved in a murder that may involve another member of the band. Solving the murder, avoiding revealing personal secrets and finding his way through a city engaged in a war effort requires agility, naivety, flexibility, and a level of personal charm not usually found in such strength in a single individual.

The novel is long, fully engaged with its location and history, very well written, episodic in structure, logical and engaging. In the end, the author is right, the blues really do not care.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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An Excerpt from
The Blues Don’t Care
by Paul D. Marks

The Blues Don’t Care uses the framing of device of a prologue and epilogue to bring the story into the present, show a little bit of who Bobby Saxon, the main character was – and who he became. In the prologue, Dianne, Bobby’s daughter, comes to L.A. and is intrigued by the person she thought was her father (and he was). But she begins to see another side of him as Booker begins relating Bobby’s story, much of which Diane didn’t know before. She’s drawn into his story, as I hope the reader will be and want to find out more about him, just as she does.

PROLOGUE

San Francisco—The Eve of the Millennium

The late-night phone call jangled Diane awake.

“Diane Saxon?” the officious voice on the other end said.

“Yes.” She tried to shake the sleep out of her voice.

“This is the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office—”

Paul D. Marks

In those few words, any leftover sleepiness Diane had escaped, replaced by dread.

She pressed the phone tighter against her ear. Squeezed the receiver until it nearly cracked in her hand. As soon as the phone rang, she knew it couldn’t be good news.

“Are you related to, um—” papers rattling “—Robert Saxon?”

“Yes, I’m his daughter. Did he—”

“I’m sorry to call you so late, but I’m afraid your, uh, father has passed away. Can you come down to L.A. to identify him?”

Diane looked at the clock. Midnight. Bobby would have appreciated that.

Los Angeles—The Next Morning

Diane walked the musty halls of Bobby’s house, killing time before her appointment at the coroner’s office. Bobby, so meticulous all his life—sometimes to the point of driving her crazy—had let things go in the last year or so.

She returned to the scrapbook she’d left on the dining table, turned the yellowing pages in the fragile book. A pristine shellac seventy-eight rpm record spun on an ancient but near-mint condition record player. This record had only been removed from its sleeve a handful of times over the years for fear of breaking the delicate material. “La Tempesta,” an allegro tune for two pianos—Bobby on one of them—spun its satiny web from the player’s speaker. The tune reverberated in Diane’s head; she’d heard it many times. She could picture Bobby wailing on the piano like a possessed demon.

The brittle scrapbook paper nearly crumbled in her fingers. Faded photographs, brown with age, stared up at her. Bobby from the forties, sitting at a grand piano in a snazzy wide-lapelled pinstriped suit. Bobby in a white jacket and bow tie in the fifties. Bobby in black tie and jacket in the sixties. Bobby in shirt sleeves barbequing in the backyard of the rented duplex on Edinburgh. Diane as a baby, on her stomach, feet in the air—cheesecake pose. Her sister Mindy on their favorite red rocking horse with painted on black saddle. Diane’s mom and Mindy’s mom—Diane and Mindy, sisters with different mothers. She sipped the Bubble Up she’d gotten from the fridge. Who knew if they even made that anymore? She wanted to keep turning pages but had an appointment to keep. She gently closed the cover on the scrapbook.

She walked to Bobby’s mirror—Bobby loved his mirrors—checked her makeup, grabbed her purse. She noticed his favorite cigarette lighter on the dresser, the one with the picture of that “Kilroy Was Here” guy on it, so popular during the war. She squeezed the lighter as if that could bring a memory from it, slipped it into her purse.

“Criminy,” she said, holding back a tear.

She had flown in from San Francisco, but Bobby’s old red-over-white sixty-one Corvette Roadster would take her where she had to go now, probably better than any new car. Bobby was a whiz with cars, always fixing them up and selling them. She headed out the door, “La Tempesta” still spinning its magic.

She drove past familiar haunts from her childhood, down the Miracle Mile, past the fabulous streamline May Company building, the La Brea Tar Pits, where Bobby had taken her and Mindy on picnics, and the old El Rey Theatre, where they’d gone to the movies. Oh boy, how Bobby loved movies. Past Bullock’s Wilshire, the art deco masterpiece, and by MacArthur Park, which Bobby insisted calling Westlake Park, even long after the name had been changed to honor the great World War II general. She jogged up and over, onto North Mission Road, looked for a place to park.

Heart tapping a hard four-four time in her chest, she walked toward the white-trimmed red brick building, beautiful despite its nature. It had been a hospital, once trying to save lives, now dealing with the remains. The green-and-white marble lobby seemed sober enough for its purpose. She did a double take at the Skeletons in the Closet gift store, a gift shop in the morgue that offered up all matter of items, from keychains to beach towels with body outlines on them, even body-shaped Post-it pads. Maybe she’d pick up a monogrammed body bag for some friends—enemies?—on the way out.

“May I help you?” a young man in suit and tie asked. He didn’t look ghoulish, but who else would want to work here?

“I’m here to identify someone’s remains.” Diane thought that’s how it should be put. She wished Mindy was here for moral support but she had refused to come. Some kind of ill-defined bad blood between her and Bobby. Something that neither could figure out how to resolve so they resolved to avoid each other, even though Mindy only lived an hour away from Bobby, up in Lancaster. Something that would never be resolved now.

The young man pointed her to the elevator in a small vestibule. The short trip seemed to take forever. A ride down, into the past.

She stepped out into a world that was more what she expected. Sterile, tile, gurneys. People in white smocks. An attendant escorted her to the viewing room. A spikey-haired doctor joined them.

“I’m Doctor Takamura. I’m sorry you had to come down here.”

“I guess it’s something that has to be done.”

“We don’t usually have people come down to the morgue to identify remains anymore. That’s just in the movies. But this was a special case.”

Diane wasn’t sure why Bobby was a special case. Maybe because he’d been a fairly well-known musician at one time, though that was long ago.

The doctor knocked on the glass. An attendant on the other side opened the blinds and pulled back the glaring white sheet. Diane walked closer to the window, almost pressing her nose against the glass. Bobby had almost made it. Today was the last day of the year; tomorrow would not only bring a new year but a new millennium, the twenty-first century. How Bobby would have loved to see it. He was always excited about things like birthdays and Christmas and New Year’s. Everyone had to die sooner or later, but she wished he could have lived just a few more days. Just long enough to be alive in the new millennium.

“Yes, that’s him. That’s my father.”

“Robert Saxon?” A look passed between the doctor and the assistant.

“Yes.”

“There’s something you should know,” the doctor said.

Before Diane could respond, an ancient black man entered the room. His dark blue double-breasted suit with padded shoulders and long drape was stylish, if out of date. And she hadn’t seen a Dick Tracy hat like that, well, since Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The fuchsia silk kerchief craning up from the pocket was just right. All topped off by an ebony cane with a gleaming pearl handle. “Help you?” Dr. Takamura said.

“Booker Taylor,” the man said, sauntering in, very haughty. Lots of bling sparkled from his fingers. Booker “Boom-Boom” Taylor. He was an old friend of Bobby’s. She remembered him from her birthday parties when she was very young. He would toss her over his broad shoulders and play horsey. It started trickling back, Bobby and Booker and several of Bobby’s other friends jamming at her parties. And she remembered a neighbor once remarking, why did Bobby have that colored fella over all the time?

“Are you sure you’re in the right place?” the doctor said. Booker ignored him.

“Diane. Look at you.” Booker’s eyes lit up. “All grown up and quite the lady.” He squeezed her hand. Turned to see Bobby through the glass. “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.” A long sigh escaped his lips. He went to the door that led to the little room.

Dr. Takamura stepped in front of him.

“No, it’s okay,” Diane said, smiling at Booker. He looked too sad to smile back. “He knew my father. They were in the music business together.”

Booker opened the door and went inside, Diane trailing. He took Bobby’s hand, tenderly massaged it.

“We weren’t in the music business together. We owned it. We had this town of Los Angeles locked up tighter than a bass drum. And your pop, he really could have gone somewhere. And no one could tap the eighty-eights like he could.”

“Eighty-eights?” the assistant said.

“The piano, hon. Tickle the ivories. Back in the day, Bobby Saxon was the man. And he knew one thing better than anyone, that we’re all bluffing our way through life.” Booker tripped on his words as another man entered the room. Dressed casual-cool.

“Who’re you?” the doctor said.

“Irvin Hernandez, L.A. Times.”

“The Times—what does the Times want here?”

“This is Bobby Saxon, right?”

“Yes.”

“I want his story.”

“I didn’t know anyone remembered my father. He hasn’t played music in years.”

“You’re his daughter? You must have some story to tell.”

To Diane, Bobby was just dad. She didn’t have much to tell. Her puzzlement must have been clear to everyone in the room.

Booker sat on a chair in the corner, leaning his chin on his cane. “I have a story to tell,” he began. “It was the middle of the war when I met Bobby…”

Excerpted from THE BLUES DON’T CARE Copyright © 2020 by
Paul D. Marks Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Book Review: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed @sam_aye_ahm @soho_teen

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Samira Ahmed
Soho Teen, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-61695-989-0
Hardcover

Khayyam’s life is finished and she’s only seventeen.

Ok, that may be a bit over-the-top, but she truly is beyond bummed to have completely blown her chance to achieve her life-long dream. Admittedly, her over-eager attempt to get into the Chicago School of Art Institute was not as well researched as it should have been. The needlessly harsh criticism of one judge plays on repeat in Khayyam’s mind.

The hateful words aren’t wrong; but neither is Khayyam’s theory. A portrait must to be missing from Delacroix’s series based on Byron’s prose. And there is no way that a woman who inspired poetry and paintings was a fictional character plucked from a dark fairy-tale. Khayyam will use her month in Paris to do some proper sleuthing.

Meeting the adorable descendant of Alexandre Dumas and discovering that he, too, is conducting historical studies could prove to be beneficial. And exponentially more entertaining.

As Khayyam gets closer to a truth from the past, she begins to see that even in the present, people are not being completely honest. Going from a having a potential partner to wondering who to trust was unnerving, but uncovering the constantly-controlled life of a mysterious woman was absolutely infuriating.

This woman who had been talked about never got the opportunity to speak for herself. Her name was Leila and her story matters. In learning about Leila, Khayyam’s initial goal to rewrite her essay and prove her case grows distant. She’s no longer focused on her future, but resurrecting Leila’s past is imperative.

Teenagers are completely capable of being many things at once. Inquisitive, determined and tenacious while inexplicably also reckless, romantic and immature. I’ve not seen those traits so perfectly captured and conveyed before “meeting” Khayyam in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed. Truly terrific YA Historical Fiction!

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2020.

Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake by Randy Overbeck @OverbeckRandy @WildRosePress

Blood on the Chesapeake
The Haunted Shores Mysteries #1
Randy Overbeck
The Wild Rose Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1509223282
Trade Paperback

History teacher/coach Darrell Henshaw has taken a new job in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. An unwanted shock comes when the first thing he sees as he approaches the high school is a naked young black man on the widows walk outside his office. No one else admits to seeing him, although, to Darrell’s dismay, there are rumors of a ghost. It’s said the ghost is that of a high school boy back in the sixties who committed suicide.

This is not Darrell’s first experience with the occult and an episode in his past proved that to ignore the sighting is the wrong thing to do. Soon the ghost begins visiting him, pleading for his help. The ghost says he was murdered and needs Darrell to prove it using clues provided to him to bring the perpetrators to justice. Darrell, with the help of a charming young woman he meets, figures he has no choice but to do as the ghost asks, especially since there are peculiar things going on in the school and in the town. He soon finds it isn’t the ghost he has to fear, but the living.

The racism of the sixties is front and center in this story, with effects that linger into the nineties when the action is set. It’s a sad story, too often true of the day–although the ghost is a twist. I found the story a bit predictable, and the big, ample breasts bouncing on practically every woman’s chest rather annoying. But if you like ghost stories, this one carries through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Surviving Doodahville by Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen

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Title: Surviving Doodahville
Authors: Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen
Narrator: Rebecca Roberts
Publication Date: May 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Southern Fiction, Romance

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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Surviving Doodahville
Ashley Fontainne and Lillian Hansen
Narrated by Rebecca Roberts
RMSW Press, May 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the authors—

The summer of 1983 – the era of big debt, big hair, and big dreams. Seventeen-year-old Kassandra Lawson is excited about starting her senior year of high school. She has a crush on a local hunk, and her best friend, valley girl extraordinaire Liz Hendricks, insists on helping her snag the hot guy – for sure!

July starts out uneventful for Kee and her parents. Her father, Kevin, is a partner at a CPA firm, and her mother, Gail, works as a secretary at the police department. The small family lives an idyllic life in sunny Hacienda Heights, California.

1983 also brings upheaval and strife for the Lawson clan. A death in the family forces Kevin and Gail to make the painful decision to pack up and move to Kevin’s hometown of Daltville, Arkansas.

Each faces daunting challenges adapting to their new life. Gail and Kee aren’t quite sure they can handle the culture shock. They encounter social and racial issues they never faced on the West Coast, strange food, weird dialects, odd customs, and wicked secrets that have the potential to destroy their family.

More than just a coming-of-age story, Surviving Doodahville explores family bonds, racial barriers, and just how much a person is willing to sacrifice for others. The tale is full of humor, action and a touch of mystery, making it a fun romp into the past.

Well, dagnabbit. I made it all the way to the last chapter with nary a sniffle and then I turned into a near-sobbing wretch 😉

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Rising high school senior Kee and her parents are living the California dream so when circumstances lead Gail and Kevin to decide to move to Daltville, Arkansas, she’s devastated and pretty sure life is over. Then again, fate has a way of making one take a second look and Kee soon thinks her parents’ betrayal doesn’t hold a candle to another pair of betrayals.

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Off they go to what can only be called a stereotypical Southern backwoods town complete with racism, secrets, years-long feuds, overblown morality…and a tremendous amount of charm and possibilities. Kee soon finds that high school in this redneck town isn’t entirely terrible and her small family can help bring about some major changes.

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Romance and friendships blossom in Surviving Doodahville but, at times, I couldn’t help feeling a kind of superiority that these Californians exhibited towards their new neighbors. It was a bit like Kee, Gail and Kevin were the shining examples for goodness and light and that Daltville could only be lifted from its darkness by these more enlightened transplants. Still, a number of the townspeople were good solid citizens and very likeable indeed so I didn’t think the “preaching” was overdone. Truthfully, back in the early 80’s, a lot of what is wrong in Daltville was also wrong elsewhere and still exists today. Now, as in those days, good people matter and can make a difference.
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Side note: The cover is very appealing but I’m puzzled by the sign that reads “DooDah Ville”. Which is correct, DooDah Ville or Doodahville?
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Rebecca Roberts is new to me as a narrator and I was impressed by her performance. Ms. Roberts has a very pleasing tone and does accents/dialect really well. Most of all, she’s believable as a teenaged girl and she added a great deal to my enjoyment of this book.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

About the Authors

Award-winning and International bestselling author, Ashley Fontainne, is an avid reader, becoming a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters lurking within us are her favorite reads.

Her muse for penning the Eviscerating the Snake series was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Ashley’s love for this book is what sparked her desire to write her debut novel, Accountable to None, the first book in the trilogy. With a modern setting to the tale, Ashley delves into just what lengths a person is willing to go to when seeking personal justice for heinous acts perpetrated against them. The second novel in the series, Zero Balance, focuses on the cost and reciprocal cycle that obtaining revenge has on the seeker. Once the cycle starts, where does it end? How far will the tendrils of revenge expand? Adjusting Journal Entries answers that question—far and wide.

The short thriller entitled Number Seventy-Five touches upon the dangerous world of online dating. Number Seventy-Five took home the BRONZE medal in fiction/suspense at the 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.

The paranormal thriller entitled The Lie won the GOLD medal in the 2013 Illumination Book Awards for fiction/suspense. A movie based on this book, entitled Foreseen, is currently a feature film available on video-on-demand from Amazon.

Ashley delved into the paranormal with a Southern Gothic horror/suspense novel, Growl, which released in January of 2015. The suspenseful mystery Empty Shell released in September of 2014. Ashley teamed up with Lillian Hansen (Ashley calls her Mom!) and penned a three-part murder mystery/suspense series entitled The Magnolia Series. The first book, Blood Ties, released in 2015 and was voted one of the Top 50 Self-Published Books You Should Be Reading in 2015 at http://www.readfree.ly.

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Lillian Hansen is the proud mother of Ashley Fontainne and a grateful daughter of parents who raised her to love and respect the principles upon which America was founded. Lillian is the granddaughter of a brave young woman who immigrated to the United States from Denmark at the age of 18 without speaking any English, who built a career, a family, and became a proud U.S. Citizen.

Lillian values the diverse, life-enriching experiences squirreled away in her memory banks and is fond of all four-legged critters, especially cats. Lillian lives in Arkansas and Surviving Doodahville is her third novel.

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About the Narrator

After a career in finance, Rebecca Roberts became inspired to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an actress. Her ingenuity and ardent desire brought her to voice-acting which has rapidly grown into her thriving audiobook narration and production company, Atlantis Audio Productions. She has narrated and produced over seventy audiobooks for indie authors and major publishing houses. Rebecca delivers her stories with a mature and intelligent style characterized by a believable tone, and versatility in creating memorable and individual characters with her various accents and vocal qualities. In short, she narrates with her whole heart. Rebecca is a native Floridian, proud mother to three sparkling children, and wife to the man of her dreams.

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Giveaway

Surviving Doodahville Ebook
Runs July 21st to 28th⎮Open internationally

Enter here.

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Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind
A Jesse Stone Novel #17
Reed Farrel Coleman
Putnam, September 2018
ISBN 978-0-399-57494-8
Hardcover

One would not expect racial unrest in the sleepy town of Paradise, MA, but Jesse Stone and his cops have their hands full.  To begin with, a black woman is assaulted in a neighboring town and it is made to look like a murder that occurred in Paradise years before.  The woman was in a relationship with a white man, and unfortunately she dies.  Then another black female, Alisha, who Jesse hired for diversity purposes, responds to a call at a bar and is taunted by bikers.  She also has a relationship with a white man.  Soon, however, things get worse.

A cross is burned on the lawn of Jesse’s old house, which was bought by a couple, a white woman and a dark Indian man, with two children.  Apparently the fire was set with kerosene, and a check of places where it could have been bought turns up a CCTV image.  When Alisha spots the person captured in the CCTV as she emerges from a bar, legally over the limit, she chases him into a blind alley and responds to what she believes is a shot by shooting and killing him.

It turns out that the victim is the son of a strident agitator seeking to incite a race war.  Of course, a black cop killing a white person is the perfect excuse.  Especially when the investigation turns up no weapon by or near the victim.  Jesse to the rescue.  As a side story, Jesse now is abstaining from alcohol and is attending AA meetings.

Mr. Coleman continues to live up to the standards set by Robert B. Parker in this latest addition to the Jesse Stone series, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2018.

Book Reviews: Journey to a Promised Land by Allison Lassieur and Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard

Journey to a Promised Land (I Am America)
A Story of the Exodusters
Allison Lassieur
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1631632761
Trade Paperback

Hattie has a dream. A far-reaching fantasy, some would say, but she knows she can find a way. She will become a teacher.

The spring of 1879 tried to bring a fresh start to a new world in Nashville, Tennessee. Although each of Hattie’s parents had been born into slavery, both obtained an education immediately following the Civil War. Her father works just as hard today, but for it is himself and his family and in his very own black-smith shop. Her mother happily runs the household and Hattie contributes, too. Not only a stand-out student, she also earns money for her family by mending for Miss Bradford.

It’s a good enough life for Hattie. She knows, of course, that recently, black folks have been joining together to make the journey to Kansas. Tales of towns with nothing but black faces tempt her parents and Mr. Singleton sure has been working hard to convince her family to make the move to Nicodemus, a small town being established and in need of a blacksmith.

It isn’t until her father leaves the house for a meeting about the potential move that it hits Hattie. She’s heard stories of what happens to black men who dare attend these gatherings. And suddenly, she is scared for her father. After seeing him on the receiving end of retaliation—Nat had the audacity to charge a white man for his work—Hattie understands the very real danger they are in.

Loathe to miss school, Hattie could not have imagined the education she would receive during her journey. Seeing the stark differences between the group of black travelers when compared to almost every clump of white men, was a shock. Whereas individual black people intuitively worked towards the greater good of their party, sharing the last crumbs and caring for those in need; the freakish faction of inexplicably angry, willfully ignorant and hella hateful white men appeared to unite solely to terrorize black citizens.

I wish I could put a copy of this heroic historical fiction in every single classroom. It is that good and unquestionably, that vital. Although Hattie’s family may be a figment of the author’s imagination, Benjamin “Pap” Singleton was very real and invaluably instrumental in helping hundreds of African Americans move from Tennessee to Kansas.

Ms. Lassieur shares this story of the Exodusters by popping the reader right into the mule-driven wagon to bear witness to the atrocious, senseless acts against black people. But she also demonstrates the intuitive kindness, generosity and strength of each and every black person, automatically reminding everyone to continue the good fight. Oh, and I can’t wait for you to find out why the emigrants were dubbed “Exodusters”.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

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Three Trees for the Campfire
Joseph Cognard
CreateSpace, January 2013
ISBN 978-1482320985
Trade Paperback

At first, I want to judge this book by its cover. The campfire calls to me, then captivates as I notice it’s not at simple as it seems. But before I know it, I’m completely caught up in the quintessential summer read.

Three siblings surround the glowing embers to swap stories and sleep under the stars. Billy, being the youngest, is participating (fully) for the first time, so being in his head at the beginning perfectly sets the scene.

“Billy began to worry that, like the fire, he might not make it through the night.”

The eldest, Jack, begins with a fantastic tale featuring a dragon. When Chelsea follows with her own natty narrative, she subtly weaves in bits and pieces from her brother’s story in a sweet (but not corny) kind of way. Billy may be bringing up the rear, but he can spin a yarn as well as his siblings. And he’s pretty slick about bringing in a real-life character.

Authentic and relatable, in a dreamy sort of way, I thoroughly enjoyed this tiny tome that probably fits best in the Juvenile Fiction genre, but I can easily imagine anyone enjoying it.

Huge thank-you to the author for sharing this with me!

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2018.

Book Review: Damselfly by Chandra Prasad

Damselfly
Chandra Prasad
Scholastic Press, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-90792-7
Hardcover

This book wastes no time pulling readers into the plot. Samantha, a scholarship student at a fancy private school comes to in pain and disoriented. The last thing she remembers is an unexpected landing of the private jet she and the other members of the school fencing team made on their way to Japan for a tournament. More details come to her as she begins searching for her best friend, Mel and finding the body of another male team member begins what becomes a twisting tale of survival and suspense on what they eventually realize is an isolated tropical island and that there’s nothing usable remaining from the jet after it crashed. As the two best friends encounter other team members, Mel, with Samantha’s help, tries to bring order to the group by assigning chores, educating the others about the importance of maintaining their water supply without contaminating it, what plants are edible and the need to keep a signal fire lit at all times.

It’s not long before ugliness sets in, some due to teen hormones and the social structure back at the school, but more from racial issues, in this instance, reverse racism. Add in issues of ecology, a strange creature stalking the teens, selfishness plus mental illness and you have a virtual stew pot of impending disaster. The story will remind many readers of a modern day version of Lord of the Flies. As things go further and further south, the division among the teens widens, then fractures. After a couple tragedies, Sam and Mel finally realize that saving the group is beyond their power and they must come up with an alternative that will save themselves. Read the book to see how they accomplish it.

It’s an overall good story. I have a couple very minor quibbles. I would have liked more exploration of the relationship between siblings Rittika and Rish, as well as whether Sam and Mel’s friendship had hidden layers.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2018.