Harlots Sauce June Book Reviews

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

32 Candles

Book Review: Three and A Half Plates

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Amistad (June 2010)
ISBN-10: 0061957844
Reviewed by Jo O’Neil

Nicknamed ‘Monkey Night’ by those who taunt her mercilessly in high school, Davidia Jone’s life-defining, tragicomic moments with an abusive mother, repulsive father, and the rich, unattainable boy she has a crush on are narrated via flashbacks which can be difficult to pull off in a debut novel. But Ms. Carter’s voice is so appealing that the reader becomes immediately engaged. The parable to the film, ‘Sixteen Candles’ works much better than you’d expect, too. The sense of predictability about the story and the “living the life she dreamed of” ending fades when a hunger for revenge adds an unexpected spice. A great beach read for romance lovers! Available on amazon.com, or your local bookseller.

The author, Ernessa T. Carter has worked as an ESL teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, and a radio writer for American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll. 32 CANDLES is her first novel. Her Twitter, Facebook and author websites are as follows:


The Widow’s Husband by Tamim Ansary

Widows Husband

Book Review: Four Plates

Paperback: 358 pages
Publisher: Vox Novus (2009)
ISBN-10: 0975361503
Reviewed by Linda C. McCabe

Good historical fiction transports the reader into another place and time. And, through the eyes of great characters, it allows the reader to understand historical events, bringing them down to a human level.

In The Widow’s Husband we see life in the small village of Char Bagh in rural Afghanistan in the 19th century. The concerns the villagers have over family, community, and about having enough food stored to last through winter are familiar, even if the names and customs are curious to our western ears. The routine of rural life in Char Bagh is disrupted by the arrival of a stranger, who it soon becomes apparent, is not a normal traveler, but instead a mystic who attracts pilgrims from miles around. This brings Char Bagh to the attention of the British military, who have settled in Kabul, which then threatens the peacefulness and stability of the village.

The novel demonstrates how the British colonized Afghanistan through bribery and force. Attempts by the British to interact with the Afghan people without first endeavoring to understand their ways and traditions lead to the inevitable clash when the people revolt in response to the maltreatment of the females in the village. The Widow’s Husband serves to illuminate events from history while allowing us to draw parallels from our own current military campaigns.

Tamim Ansary’s writing is vibrant and wise without being preachy. His previous novel, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes won the Northern California Book Award for Best General Nonfiction of 2009.

The Widow’s Husband can be purchased as an ebook from Scribd.com, trade paperback version direct from the publisher, and it is also available as paperback or Kindle on amazon.com. Mr. Ansary’s website is at: http://www.mirtamimansary.com/ and his Facebook page is here.

Breast Strokes: Two Friends Journal Through the Unexpected Gifts of Cancer by Cathy Edgett and Jane Flint

Breast Strokes

Book Review: Four Plates

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper Davis Publishing (March 2010)
ISBN-10: 0981915396
Reviewed by Patricia V. Davis

Cathy Edgett writes about her experience with breast cancer that while never minimizing the trauma she went through, illustrates how even a life-threatening disease can be (if we let it) an experience that changes our awareness of ourselves, our bodies, and our world for the better. Her descriptions of her treatment and how she felt throughout, what she gained and what she lost, will be a balm for anyone who is experiencing or is about to experience the same things.

Her co-author, Jane Flint, is never a martyr when she talks about her role of journaling every morning with Cathy in order to help her get through chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer. In fact, she is refreshingly and courageously frank about how this was not easy, but at times truly challenged her own perceptions of herself and her friendship with Cathy.

The technique they use to write consecutively is easy to comprehend and very palatable. The smattering of the authors’ personal poems which are mostly about nature, gives the book lush, colorful scenery which is at once calming and invigorating. This beautifully-written chronicle should be on every woman’s bookshelf, and makes a perfect gift for both patient and caregiver.

London Calling – Book 3 of the JP Kinkaid Chronicles by Deborah Grabien

London Calling

Book Review: Four And A Half Plates

Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Plus One Press (August 2010)
ISBN-10: 0984436200
Reviewed by Nigel Voight

“For Blacklight guitarist JP Kinkaid and his wife Bree, their London honeymoon should be idyllic. However, their peaceful honeymoon gets sidetracked when legendary director Sir Cedric Parmeley enters his 25-year-old rockumentary into competition at the Cannes Film Festival and asks Blacklight to perform a free concert to support it. But the film Parmeley screens the night before the Festival opens is not the film the band approved. Something in that ninety minutes of extra footage poses a mortal danger to the remaining members of an old hate group. The leader of that group is a revenant from Homicide Lieutenant Patrick Ormand’s past, and Ormand will stop at nothing to take him down—even if it means putting Blacklight in the crosshairs of a sniper’s scope on the red carpet at Cannes.”

The above is excerpted from the book description for the third in a riveting series called The JP Kinkaid Chronicles. You read that correctly — riveting. And it’s not necessarily the plot, described above, that makes it so. This is not your usual murder mystery, and JP Kinkaid is not your usual male protagonist found in your usual murder mystery. JP Kinkaid is a middle-aged rock star who suffers from MS, bad judgment, and a lot of mental anguish over said bad judgment, not the least of which having to do with his long time relationship with the love of his life, Bree, who is, let’s say – the more proactive of the two by far. Then there are all the murdered colleagues he and his band members keep tripping over.

So why would a murder mystery narrated by a bewildered, ailing, middle-aged guitar player be riveting? Number one reason for me is because it’s written by a middle-aged, female guitarist who also has MS. And apart from giving us firsthand detail without being maudlin or off-putting on what it’s like to live with the disease, she writes JP Kinkaid’s fears, regrets, observations, revelations, and deep affections as though she is channeling him. Oh — and did I mention that she’s American and he’s English?
Also, her descriptions of life within the circle of a tight knit, internationally famous rock group are so full and vivid, that one might suspect (and might be right) that she has had firsthand experience with it. Her depictions of these musicians are more of what you’d expect from a colorful, yet in-depth biography rather than a fast-paced novel.

With all of the above, before you know it, you’re through first one book in the series, than the next. There are minor flaws that only someone who is scrutinizing a book for review would pick up – the ‘mystery’ part of this mystery series is not a whodunit in true mystery fashion. You never mind that the character(s) who end up dead, end up dead because they’re all so slimy, and for that reason it’s not necessarily that difficult to figure out why they died and by whose hand. But as the mystery is only the vehicle for an ongoing story of very complex, very real characters, one doesn’t mind that.

Another plus of the series is that, though I’ve heard the author in interviews say that the characters develop and grow as each book unfolds, (and that’s true) it’s therefore better to read the series from beginning to end. But from my perspective, each book can stand alone, another skill that seems natural and effortless by the author. So if you wanted to pick up London Calling — the third and my favorite in a favorite series so far — and read it first, you can. It won’t matter, because once you’re hooked on one, you’ll want to read all the others, anyway.

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