Category Archives: Fiction

The Extraordinarily Ordinary Life of Prince: Everybody’s Good at Something by Prince A. Sanders

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Several things make a children’s book iconic, like addressing pressing social issues, speaking to adults and children alike, and the test of time. The only box that “The Extraordinarily Ordinary Life of Prince: Everybody’s Good at Something” has left to tick is the test of time. Freshly out of the press, Prince A. Sanders’ book continues building a magically creative universe.

This is the second piece of a puzzle that reflects the author’s childhood. The series is infused with a strongly personal note that immediately disarms the reader, leaving them open to the full magnitude of the experience. The short book is more than just a read; it is an experience of how the world of adults and children intersect.

Seven-year-old Prince is at an age driven by exploration. He spends many recesses chasing after the secrets and wonders of nature. It soon dawns on his classmates that Prince does not follow the script. While his older brother is a star athlete at the school, Prince fails to prevail at sports and live up to his brother’s reputation. Shortly, Prince starts feeling more of an outsider and, worst of all, a stranger to himself.

Prince grows to accept that his path is different from his brother’s and what others might expect of him. But he is yet unaware of where his own path will take him. The road ahead is cleared when he least expects it, at a ballet performance. When the whole family goes to watch a show, Prince becomes entranced by the organic movements of the performers and longs to be part of the magical universe.

Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage: A True Story of Murder in San Diego’s Jazz Age by James Stewart

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Reaching back in time to the roaring 20’s in southern California, author James Stewart’s debut work, Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage, offers a compelling view of the intricacies of an unsolved homicide, the murder of young and beautiful, interpretive dancer, Fritzie Mann.

Based on years of research, this true-crime narrative poses an adept tracing of the history of this once sensationalized murder mystery brought forth through a multi-faceted lens which explores not only the murder but journalistic behaviors, the investigative processes during that era, and a Hollywood sex scandal connection as well as exploring the culture of the time.

Piquing the curiosity from the outset, this work of true crime immediately draws the attention into the fascinating backstory of Fritzie who, for the most part, was a seemingly sensible but “modern” woman in her early twenties who worked to help with her sick sister’s medical bills by dancing. However, to her family, there was an air of mystery in her life when it came to her romantic associations, relationships or dating.

Daughter Of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! by Honey Parker

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Daughter of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! pulls on readers’ heartstrings. It focuses on a group of young adults who are dealing with the vicissitudes of emotions from being socially isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Honey Parker has created an appealing group of characters who come from diverse backgrounds. Each of the characters has been instilled with their own distinctive likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. The group of friends live in New York and participate in weekly video calls filled with both amusing and serious conversations. Readers get a clear picture of what the characters are going through and the motives behind their reactions to emotionally draining circumstances. Part of the story takes place in Florida as one of the characters travels to Florida to stay with her mother, who is recuperating from an accident. The author does an excellent job of showing the different ways in which the characters deal with the stress of being sidelined when it comes to the deprivation of face-to-face contact.

Daughter of Careful-ish will resonate with readers in this fictional accounting of how people deal with an epidemic that blindsided the population. Parker has crafted a book that artfully shows how unforeseen life-altering events can affect people’s jobs and career choices, lifestyle, and social behaviors and interactions with others. The story will reach readers on a deep level and appeal to their emotions. Throughout the story, the characters are riding on a roller coaster of emotions while they are facing unprecedented challenges both in their socioeconomic status and in the effects on interpersonal relationships.

Unfaithful by Natalie Barelli

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

Anna is very happy with her world. She is married to Luis and they have two children. Anna is an associate math professor and Luis is an artist.

Anna has been working with Alex, one of her students, on solving a math problem. They are both convinced that this is going to change their lives. Something went terribly wrong when Alex is found dead. Was it suicide? Was it murder?

When Anna heard about Alex’s death, she desperately wanted to talk to Luis. She called him several times but got no answer. She went to his studio and he was not there. However, she did see two wine glasses. Was Luis having an affair? When he returned home and she asked him where he was all evening, he told her he was at the studio. She knew he was lying.

Anna accompanies Luis to one of his art exhibitions. It is here that she realized what was going on. She could see how taken Luis seemed to be when he looked at Isabelle. She now knows that her fears about an affair are true. Anna decides to confront Isabelle. What happens is shocking!

Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The story is pretty much all about Nina Bloom who today is a mother with a teen-age daughter who live in the New York city area but Nina has many ties to south Florida. She works now in a highly paid job and lives very well but always in the back of her mind the trials and tribulations of the past do reappear to remind her of the past.

Her past seems to have consisted of her hitting/killing a man while she was inebriated. That incident never seems to leave her mind as she grows older, marries, divorces, moves north and then back to Florida. All this time although she is doing well and appears to be a pretty much good mother to her daughter and a great worker in her law firm. She learns that her former husband has worked his way through the police department and is now chief of police in the south Florida town. She doesn’t understand how he got away with what he did and hid it so well.

Henry, Himself: A Novel by Stewart O’Nan

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is quite a different book. No violence, no sex, just very good interesting writing about a 75 year old man and how he lives his life. Henry Maxwell is a retired engineer and former soldier who lives with his wife in the Pittsburgh area and stays busy by “puttering around”.

He is well educated and also is a good do-it-your-selfer. He and his wife, Emily of fifty plus years, have children who are somewhat distant but still relevant in his life. He spends most of his time walking his dog, Rufus, and doing all types of maintenance jobs around his home especially the yard and fence area.

Much of the time his mind is working as to what kind of life did he live and was it a good one for those connected to him. He worries that he wasn’t a good man but all indicators say that he was and is. His children all love him, his wife loves him, and the folks in the neighborhood think highly of him.

Stone Cold (The Camel Club Book 3) by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The famous Camel Club belonging to David Baldacci’s series of books comes back in Stone Cold. As is usually the case Oliver Stone is the main character and as a government investigator he is knee deep in a story of wealth and murder. Stone himself is quite different in this one as he is not known by that name but was known as John Carr, another longtime investigator.

And as John Carr he was supposedly killed and buried! But then someone dug that body up and the grave is now empty so is John Carr alive and well or was someone else buried in the grave? That whole mystery is only one part of Stone Cold as Oliver Stone works his way around trying to solve murders and save folks from being murdered.

One of the main culprits happens to be Jerry Bagger who is the casino king. At the present time Bagger is very interested in finding Annabelle Conroy, a very pretty con woman who managed by hook or crook to get a tremendous amount of money from one of his casinos! She has since disappeared and is no doubt on the run with the cash.

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite: Macavity and Me Mystery Book 2 by Charlotte Stuart

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is a classic who-done-it. Bryn Baczek is a consultant living on a boat in Seattle with her strong-willed cat Macavity and an ailing goldfish who is fourth in line to the name of Bubbles. Due to too much coffee resulting in a late-night need to use the bathroom, Bryn overhears a heated argument on a neighbor’s boat, followed by a splash and silence.

From there, Bryn is not-so-reluctantly pulled into a mystery involving a missing woman, Captain America pajamas, questionable taste in art, scuba diving in the dark, a non-profit organization, a post-it note, a poker game, a stuffy auditor, and a pseudonym. While Bryn tries to play the part of a witness who is just trying to do her duty for justice, it is clear that she is very much enjoying her chance to play Sherlock Holmes. Bryn takes the one loose thread that lies in front of her and keeps pulling until the whole sweater has come unraveled. While Bryn continues to share her knowledge with the police throughout, she does so only after investigating each clue herself.

Charlotte Stuart presents us with a fun mystery, which, despite moments of darkness, generally plays as a light-hearted caper. Stuart has created well-rounded, intriguing characters to populate her story. Told from the first-person perspective, we get a thorough look into Bryn’s psyche and discover more about her than she is even willing to admit to herself.

The Storm by Val Bardash

Reviewed by Timea Barbaras

The Storm” by Val Bardash is a beautifully written tale about intimacy in its many forms. Intimacy between family, friends, even strangers… and also the empty space between us. But above all else, the void that we all carry around within us. A bottomless black hole that we try to fill with love, tenderness, adventures, or writing.

The book follows two main stories that become interwoven, that of youth and of aging. A young aspiring writer tries to find himself and his estranged father through writing. Perhaps the one thing that connects them, beyond blood. The books written by his famous father, John Stark, become a window through which the son can glance at an image of a father figure. But the figure is distorted. It is uncertain which features are real and which are carefully crafted by the Stark’s pen.

The author showcases throughout the pages how years of life and living transform some raw innate elements while washing over others without leaving a mark. The characters seem to be lost souls aimlessly wandering in the modern wilderness desperate to reach a clearing. For the main protagonists, the coveted clearing was, in fact, a mountain, a place of solitude, rest, and death. They were drawn to this beacon of resolution for similar reasons, and on their journey, they discovered not only themselves but each other as well.

Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood III Book 1) by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Quite a different one by Coben in that he has used one of his secondary characters as the main character in this story. Pretty much the same style of story line in that Windsor Horne Lockwood III is now running the show as the chief investigator. It pretty much came about because Myron Bolitar who is normally Win’s boss is out of the picture for reasons only Coben knows.

Win even though he doesn’t necessarily look the part is quite an investigator. The only thing is he was born rich and as his name states he is of several generations of money. While this story does go on and into some detail about Win’s fortune and how he uses it, the story also shows his ability to be an investigator who can do that job very well.

After a ball game and slight battle with one of his previously designed enemies Win is picked up by the police. He believes they are looking to do something to him about assault but in fact they want him to help them on an investigation of a man who has been murdered. They take him into the room where the dead man is lying and immediately Win notices two things.

First is a very expensive painting hanging on the wall. Win knows it is expensive because he owns it and it has recently been stolen! Right next to the painting is a suitcase which has his initials on it because he also owns the suitcase!