Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Darkness Rolling by Win and Meredith Blevins

I read and reviewed the first Blevins' collaboration, Moonlight Water on my personal blog here.  I first encountered Yazzie Goldman, the fictional male protagonist of  The Darkness Rolling, in Moonlight Water.  Yazzie is part Navajo and part Jewish.  Although Moonlight Water was contemporary fiction, The Darkness Rolling is the first book in a series of historical mysteries that begin right after World War II.  During the war Yazzie received training in NCIS investigative techniques.  I thought that he had potential as a mystery detective.

The reason why I decided to review this book for Book Babe is because there's a rather prominent female character.  She is the real Hollywood star, Linda Darnell.  I knew virtually nothing about her before reading The Darkness Rolling.  After finishing it, I wanted to know a lot more.


 The Darkness Rolling is actually a crime thriller rather than a mystery. The perpetrator is revealed to readers early in the book.  The suspense arises from how he is caught and captured.

 Yazzie Goldman is hired as part of the security team for Linda Darnell during the filming of a movie directed by John Ford in Monument Valley.  The movie's name is never mentioned in the book.  Based on internal clues and online information about Linda Darnell's career, I'd say that it has to be My Darling Clementine (1946) in which Darnell played a Mexican dancer.  I learned from this novel that Darnell was actually part-Cherokee.  This was confirmed by multiple web pages dealing with Linda Darnell.

This book could have been a standard thriller about a star being stalked. One of the reasons why it wasn't was because of Linda Darnell as portrayed by the Blevins.  She absolutely refused to be treated as a victim.  She was not going to be pitied or allow herself to be sidelined.

Yazzie's rather unusual family also contained several wonderfully strong women.  I especially admired Iris Goldman,  a highly independent artist.  I'm hoping to see more of her in future novels in this series.

I do have to say that Yazzie's grandfather, Mose, was the most extraordinary character.  He had recently had a stroke before the novel began, and his speech was tremendously impaired.   Yet in a crisis he could surmount his medical condition with a toughness and resourcefulness that was nothing short of amazing.

There was some good Navajo cultural and historical content in this novel.  A reference to the Navajo chief Hoskininni led me to research him.  I learned that when the U.S. Army forcibly relocated the Navajo, Hoskininni led many Navajos into hiding where they remained until the Navajo were allowed to return.  I found a very colorful account of Hoskininni's life at Dine Biographies.

So I enjoyed The Darkness Rolling very much.  It was unexpected, and I loved a number of the characters.  I will definitely read the next in the series.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts

Why am I reading a book called Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts?  Am I getting into the Halloween spirit early?  Such a title may lead readers to wonder what you feed a hungry ghost.  I have an answer to that question.  You feed them whatever they want.  This is actually a serious answer.  I've encountered the term "hungry ghost" in a Chinese cultural context.  It means ancestors who have been ignored.  No family members have established altars or made offerings to those ancestors.  In Chinese tradition, this shows tremendous disrespect for ancestors. 

 Getting back to the book, the title is somewhat inaccurate.  Although there is definitely one hungry ghost in the plot, there is no indication of any others.  The single hungry ghost doesn't make an appearance at a cafe.  There were no invisible hands preparing lattes that hadn't been ordered.  If that's what you were expecting, you must look elsewhere for a ghost ridden cafe.

I first encountered Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts on Goodreads where author Teri J. Dluznieski was offering free copies in return for reviews.  I promised one in September, and I'm managing to do that in September's final week.


Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts is really about Wayra, a college student who was brought up partly in Peru and partly in Vermont.   This hybrid childhood is due to her parents making differing choices about where they wanted to live.  In Peru her mother had given her some training in her family's tradition of shamanic healing.   She is currently living with her father in Vermont where she's going to college, performing healing  ceremonies for illegal immigrants who can't see medical doctors, is a mentor to a brilliant  young girl and oh yes, she does work at a cafe.                                     

Wayra is not portrayed as one of those idealized characters who juggles her numerous responsibilities perfectly and should be nominated for sainthood.  On the contrary,  she can't handle it all as well as she hoped, she has nightmares and makes errors in judgment.  I found Wayra sympathetic because I know what it's like to feel overwhelmed.

I was interested in the content about healing .  Wayra  gives a woman recovering from flu an herb that is a mainstay of the Peruvian diet.  It's called maca .  My link is to an illuminating article about it on WebMD.  I'd never heard of it before and it looks like it can be useful for a variety of purposes. 

I was also very interested in the description of Andean shamanism and the folklore on which it's based.   I have always known that it's unwise to assume that a concept from a tradition that I haven't studied is identical to one in other traditions that I have studied.  Yet I did assume that the Andean concept of the "bubble" was the same thing as an aura.  When I started reading Dluznieski's non-fiction book on shamanism, Dancing Your Bubble, I realized my error.  The Andean idea of  the "bubble" has some things in common with an aura, but is much more complex.  It's important to realize that while there are similarities between traditions, there are also unique elements that can be significant.

The extremely controversial issue of illegal immigration is another important focus in this novel.  Dluznieski gives opponents of a path to citizenship for illegals some food for thought.  

There were brief mentions of phenomena in Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts that I wanted to know more about such as  Barefoot College, guerrilla gardening and Bowenwork .The information at the links I've provided are a good start for those who want to know more.

 Although this book is a fascinating look at Wayra's life, the cliffhanger ending was very jarring.  There were a bunch of narrative threads left hanging.  Even when a book is the first volume in a series, I prefer some degree of resolution. This was my biggest problem with Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts and I consider it a serious one.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen @ReneeRosen1

White Collar GirlThis is my favorite novel by this author so far, and I've read every one. Rosen has skillfully gone from the roaring twenties to the gilded age to the fifties newsroom. In this novel we follow a career woman as she tries to make it in the newspaper industry in a time when women were expected to be homemakers ala I Love Lucy (minus all the hilarious antics) and when a woman daring to carry an attache case instead of a purse darn near makes headlines.

We journey with Jordan as she starts her first reporting job, determined to go from society news to the city desk. At first she starts doing this in honor of her dead brother. But by the end of the story, it's not just about him anymore. She just may find her niche. Sometimes it takes a tragedy or some heartache for us to realize that.

She not only deals with sexist problems--stealing of her byline, callous remarks, prejudice--but has issues at home with two parents who don't know how to bounce back from the death of their son.

There's a wealth of Chicago history here, from politics, dirty cops, FBI investigations, White Sox bomb raid sirens, the Mob... The author tells us in the end what's real and what's not. Most of it adapted from real-life stories and situations that occurred.

There's romance, but if you're looking solely for a romantic story with a happy ending, this isn't the novel for you. This heroine has her romance and she feels love, but when it comes right down to it, she knows she needs more in life. Here we finally have a heroine who doesn't become what a man wants her to, but stays true to herself. Take it or leave it, fellows.

The writing is stellar, engrossing, not too much of this or that, not too little. The descriptions were excellent. I was never bored or driven to skimming sentences.

Highly recommend this one, ladies.

I received this via Netgalley.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lethal in Love 5 by @msomerswriter - Book 5 in a thriller serial

Be sure to check out my reviews for book 1, book 2, book 3, and book 4.
Quite a bit happened in this episode. It kept my attention as I read each page, watching the whole story unfold. The author is dripping ideas around on who the Night Terror might be--or at least the copy cat. We still aren't certain if it's a copy cat or the orginal Night Terror. But it is someone who knows Jayda and it seems as though the person wants revenge toward her father and her.

A lot of new twists were added during this, one I had a feeling was coming. It's hard to believe there is only one more episode as this story unfolds. I am ready to see this all tied together and know who is behind it.

In this part, Sean and Jayda really begin to move into their relationship together. As a reader, I am very happy they are over the back and forthness and are just embracing being together.

Now onto part 6!

Lacey's Rating

About The Book

Lethal in Love is a steamy romantic suspense about an instinct-driven detective and a sexy, scoop-hungry reporter, both on the hunt for a sadistic killer.

Jayda Thomasz is a sassy homicide detective who never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasizing over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Seth Friedin is a reporter chasing the story that'll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he'll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she's gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

PS - Book 1 is free on Amazon. :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Lethal in Love 4 by @msomerswriter - Book 4 in a thriller serial

Be sure to check out my reviews for  book 1, book 2, and book 3.

Book 3 ended with a pretty good cliffhanger that really had me wondering what was going to happen next. Jayda and Seth don't make as much  headway in part 4 as they have the others. Part 4 finally dove in to the budding romance between the two of them. As a reader, knowing this would have romance in it, I've been waiting for Jayda to finally give into what she'd been feeling for Seth. I was very pleased with the scenes the author wrote and felt like it really fit the characters.

The mystery is still there and I am ready to find out more. A new twist was added in when it comes to who they think the murderer might be, and I'm looking forward to see where that might go.

Our heroine is adopted and I am really starting to think The Night Terror is in some way related to her in some way. I can't wait to find out.

Lacey's Rating

About The Book

Lethal in Love is a steamy romantic suspense about an instinct-driven detective and a sexy, scoop-hungry reporter, both on the hunt for a sadistic killer.

Jayda Thomasz is a sassy homicide detective who never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasizing over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Seth Friedin is a reporter chasing the story that'll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he'll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she's gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

PS - Book 1 is free on Amazon. :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

This was a sweet story. Susan Wiggs was a new author for me to read, though I had heard of her prior. I really enjoyed her style of writing. It felt almost similar to my own, and I liked that.

I liked the originality of this story line. This is sometimes hard to do in the romance world, but this one was a carefully thought out story. Mason has just helped his siblings release the ashes to their father. He seems to be the one who wants nothing to so with family and avoids them at all costs. But life happens and his siblings can't take care of their mom, leaving him to step in.

He has to hire some new caretakers to his mother--who has quite the mouth on her. In comes Faith, who has a story of her own. She is a single mother to three children of her own.

This story is more than just a romance. We are taken on a journey with these characters. Mason grows a lot in this book as he discovers the things he truly wants, and it isn't what he orfinally planned.

A very heartfelt book. One I would recommend to readers wanting to just escape and read a story that will capture their attention with a bit of mystery and romance.

Lacey's Rating:

About The Book

Join #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on a journey to a charming Catskills town that feels like home and where a cast of brilliantly drawn characters awaits in a poignant story of reconciliation and the healing power of love.

When caregiver Faith McCallum arrives at the enchanted lakeside estate of Avalon's renowned Bellamy family, she's intent on rebuilding her shattered life and giving her two daughters a chance at a better future. But she faces a formidable challenge in the form of her stubborn and difficult new employer, Alice Bellamy. While Faith proves a worthy match for her sharp-tongued client, she often finds herself at a loss for words in the presence of Mason Bellamy—Alice's charismatic son, who clearly longs to escape the family mansion and return to his fast-paced, exciting life in Manhattan…and his beautiful, jet-setting fiancĂ©e.

The last place Mason wants to be is a remote town in the Catskills, far from his life in the city, and Faith McCallum is supposed to be the key to his escape. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet strong-willed caregiver as a live-in nurse gives his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to return to his no-attachments routine. For Faith, it means stability for her daughters and a much-needed new home. When Faith makes a chilling discovery about Alice's accident, Mason is forced to reconsider his desire to keep everyone, including his mother, at a distance. Now he finds himself wondering if the supercharged life he's created for himself is what he truly wants…and whether exploring his past might lead to a new life—and lasting love—on the tranquil shores of Willow Lake.Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Susan

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Uninvited by Cat Winters

The UninvitedThe blurb promises this is part gothic ghost-story, party psychological thriller... and I agree with that, but must say the ghostly stuff doesn't become clear or show up until very late in the story. I do give this a full star just for a surprise ending. It shocked me. I didn't see it coming.

But until that point, it was a bit dull. It just follows this confused young woman as she goes about town, from her "boarding house" to her lover's to an ambulance she's coerced intro driving for two Red Cross girls.

The main theme is hatred and prejudice toward Germans in America during WWI and the flu that took many lives. I even learned a new fact, that young men too young for the draft enlisted by writing the number 18 on the bottom of their shoe so they could say they were "over it". Interesting.

It's first person, past tense and I found this narrative suited the story, but to be honest, I'd have preferred a tale told from May's perspective. Widowed wife receiving amorous visits from her dead husband every night at 3 a.m.? There's potential there! And I think I feel this way because this was a very confused heroine--understandable, but made a confusing and dull read for me at times. I also wish some things about the ghosts were better explained. If you don't grow facial hair, I presume you don't go to the bathroom either and at some point in a week's time, you'll realize you're drinking all this booze and not peeing and that's sure to raise some red flags. So the intricacies weren't explained.

I won an ARC of this on LibraryThing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with Kari Aguila @WomensWorkKA

Welcome. You’re here to promote the September Kickstarter campaign for RUN Ragged, a dystopic feminist novel. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story (or series)? How did it come to you? 

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site that lets real people support projects they find interesting. It puts you in charge of what gets created, and gives you great prizes for helping out! RUN Ragged is featured on in September. Check it out!

I'd always heard people say, "Wouldn't things be different if women ruled the world?" and it got me thinking about modern feminism, the polarizing portrayals of gender issues in the media, and the very concept of equality. As humans, do we just need somebody to boss around? Do we create labels and hierarchies to guarantee that one group is always the “other” group? My first novel, Women's Work, was the award-winning story of people pushed to their limits in a matriarchal society gone wrong. It was voted one of the Best Books of 2014 by IndieReader, and has garnered critical acclaim from reviewers. Since the release of Women's Work, I've had the honor of meeting with readers and Book Clubs across the country, and have loved the heated discussion and emotional debate that it inspired. One idea that echoed through all those conversations was the need for a sequel -- readers were dying to know more!

Run Ragged is that second story, and I am thrilled to present this suspenseful and thought-provoking novel as a Kickstarter campaign. You can support RUN Ragged here. This is going to be one of those stories that will stick with you long after the last page.

We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine(s) strong. 

Rhia was a minor character in Women's Work, and so many readers wanted to know more about her. She’s an independent and intelligent sea captain who knows how to utilize the broken world around her to survive. This new stand-alone story finds her working for the government, struggling to keep her head down while she does her job. She can see the inherent problems in the system, and worries that it doesn't matter if a man or a woman is in charge; power corrupts everyone, male or female. Through a terrifying twist of fate, Rhia becomes the reluctant hero who refuses to back down in the face of evil. Run Ragged will leave you questioning the very idea of equality and show you a deranged world of misinformation and torture in the not-too-distant future.

Do you see any of yourself in her?
I sometimes wish I were as independent as Rhia. In RUN Ragged, she lives alone on her boat, travels between neighborhoods to barter goods, but manages to be a loyal friend and a good person. I think there was a time in my early 20’s that I could have become Rhia, when I felt a bit rudderless and adrift in the world. Maybe we all go through a time when we’ve been hurt and feel the need to pull away from society, and that’s what is so romantic about her life before everything goes wrong.

I also hope to have as much courage as Rhia. She’s exquisitely human, in that you see how much she wishes she could just hide from the troubles of the world around her and live a peaceful life, but when thrust into the heart of evil, she manages to rise up and meet the challenge. She is an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, and she finds hidden reserves of strength she didn’t know she had.  

Was there any particular part of this story that was the hardest for you to write? Tell me why.

It was very difficult for me to write the scenes where people in charge of others use their power in terrible ways. There is some sexual manipulation and psychological torture, and there were a few times I felt like I needed to walk away from my laptop after I’d finished a scene. None of it is gratuitous, but you certainly get the idea of how twisted these people are. I worry that people who know me will read those bits and say, “Ew. That came out of Kari’s brain. She must be sick.”

What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search? 

I did a lot of research about boats and sailing to write the first chapters of RUN Ragged. I wanted to figure out how to rig a boat together using spare parts and really give the reader the feel of being on a boat. One of my best friends is a captain in Florida, and she was kind enough to help me with ideas and nautical terminology. For example: it’s a rope when it’s on land, but it’s a line when it’s on the boat. I also spent a lot of time at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle, just watching different vessels and breathing in the rhythm and feel of the docks.
        There is quite a bit of information about foraging and medicinal plants in RUN Ragged, as well. I read a few books and took a great day class on foraging near Seattle. It was eye opening to learn how many native plants can be used for food, medicine, or both. I’ll never pull a dandelion again, unless I eat part of it!

What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something about a particular subject/person, ponder a point?

As with Women’s Work, RUN Ragged is a gripping, thought-provoking story about a society that has swung the pendulum of gender politics too far in one direction. In addition to being a suspenseful page-turner, it sheds light on the injustice of our current system by reversing roles and switching assumptions about the labels we put on people. RUN Ragged will break your heart at the same time it restores your faith in the human spirit. It’s such a timely and fascinating story readers will want to have discussions about its themes and characters. I love talking to Book Clubs, and can Skype with people around the world, so I hope to hear from people about what they think.

Your book takes place in the Pacific Northwest Coast. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I see there? 

RUN Ragged takes place in the not-too-distant-future along the Pacific Northwest coast. It doesn’t refer to specific real locations often, but to get a great sense of the story, you only have to look at photos of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The coast is rugged and remote, with towering sea stacks, rocky shores, and miles of uninhabited old growth evergreen forests inland. Standing on shore in a fine morning mist, it doesn’t take much to imagine being in an eerie, post-apocalyptic world devoid of people.

Moving on to personal things...if you could time travel to absolute any time and place in history, where and when would you go and what is it that draws you to this time period? What would you do whilst there?

Oh, no. I’ve watched Doctor Who too many times to fall for this one. You start time travelling and all of a sudden it’s freaky robot aliens and life and death decisions around every turn. No, thank you.
Besides, I am blissfully happy right where I am. I could think about decisions I’ve made in the past or how I could help myself in the future, but I just want to be present. I want to live right here and right now and actually see, hear, feel, taste, smell the world around me. I only get one shot at this life, and if I’m consumed with regrets or wishing I could change things, I won’t be able to make the best decision right now. Plus, to think that I might influence someone in the past or the future is a heavy burden I’m not sure I want to take on. Wimpy? Maybe.

There are so many books out there nowadays... What makes your book stand out from them?

RUN Ragged is a high-quality, professionally edited and developed book that has a strong indie feel. It will probably never sell a million copies, but I didn’t write it for the masses of unthinking readers who just want to read what everyone else is reading. This is one of those underground books that gets passed around by word of mouth and has a low hum of urgency and danger about it. It’s a book you will tell your friends about.

I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

When you marry a veterinarian, you sometimes have more pets than people in the house… In the Aguila family, we stick to the basics: dogs, cats, fish, and a rotten little hamster once. If I’d answered this last month, I would have said we currently have 3 cats and 2 dogs, but we recently had to put down our 2 oldest cats. They were 18 and 17 and had cancer. It was time.

Our old white geezer dog is Thomas Jay O’Connor Hetcher Aguila (the more names a dog has the more love he gives). He’s 16, can’t see, can’t hear, hardly walks, and sometimes poops in the house because he doesn’t know it’s happening anymore. He smells terrible and is very grumpy. But when I still down next to him and pet his head, he still does the happy groaning sound and closes his eyes in pure bliss. So, he’s still my pup.

The new kid on the block is Blinky. We haven’t given him nearly enough names yet, though he’s The Blink, Blinkster, and The Blinkinator. He’s 10 months and we got him as a tiny puppy from the pound. Holy cow, what a good dog! He’s big and gentle, playful and friendly. He loves when we throw the ball in the backyard and take him for walks or car rides. He adores Thomas and wants to play with him all the time. Thomas hates him.

Phinney (Michael Finnigan Fuzzball Phinney Ridge Phinney Avenue Hetcher Aguila) is our two-year-old cat. He’s bigger than some of my human kids. I’d like to say that’s all fur, but no. It’s really him. He’s pretty mellow, and could take us or leave us, but we love him to bits.

In closing, please visit and search for RUN Ragged in the Search Projects line! It’s an amazing story, and this is an amazing way to play a part in its creation. Thank you!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Run You Down: Dramatically Intense Sequel to Invisible City @juliadahl

I reviewed the debut mystery Invisible City by Julia Dahl on this blog.  It took place in the hasidic community of New York who call themselves haredi. I said in my review of the first book that I wasn't that impressed with the journalist protagonist Rebekah Roberts, and that I wished that I was reading the story of Aviva Kagan, Rebekah's mother.  Well, I got that wish.  The sequel, Run You Down, alternates between the perspectives of Rebekah and Aviva.

This book is full of tragedy, but you could almost call the murder that Rebekah is investigating a poignant footnote to the heart-rending story of Rebekah's uncle, Samuel Kagan.  Sam is the dramatic center of the book.  I was very sorry for Sam.   I understood that he was largely shaped by PTSD, and that his trauma motivated his behavior.  Yet at the same time, it was hard to view him as a sympathetic character because some of his actions were so shockingly unthinkable.

Aviva was an important character, but largely secondary within the plot.  Her self-punishing guilt kept her away from the people she cared about most.  Yet Aviva was really a victim of her upbringing.    As much as she tried to combat it, being a member of the haredi community was too much a part of her. 

Dov Lowenstein, a disaffected ex-haredi who appears briefly in Run You Down, calls the haredi a cult.  This would explain why Aviva and others found it so difficult to leave.  What is the definition of a cult?  Neopagan author Isaac Bonewits developed a Cult Danger Evaluation Frame originally published in his book, Real Magic.  Its original purpose was to allow Neopagans to determine whether any particular religious group that they might come across was a dangerous cult.  If a group's  practices involves a high number of the characteristics that Bonewits listed, it's best to stay far away from it.  It is possible to conclude from what is written about the haredi in Julia Dahl's books that they are a cult.  Others might maintain that they preserve traditions, and are a source of social cohesion for their community.

I thought that Rebekah improved in this book, but she may be too vulnerable to be a successful journalist.  The ugliness of the crimes that she has investigated disturbs her very deeply.  At one point in this novel she reminds herself that being a reporter is what she aspired to do, but then comments "Maybe one day living my dream won't make me feel sick."

Run You Down is a powerful piece of fiction.  It also completes the Rebekah and Aviva character arc.  So if Julia Dahl continues with the series, she will need to find a new direction for Rebekah.  Perhaps additional professional training would be advisable for this character.