Five Star, ISBN: 978-1-59414-724-1 AMAZON
Alessandra Whiting is not your everyday damsel in distress. When her loathsome uncle threatens to marry off the beautiful twenty-year-old in a bid to control her fortune, Alessandra takes matters into her own hands and arranges her disappearance. Masquerading as Rose White, she joins a group of women sailing for Sedona, Oregon as potential brides. Their party is led by the kindly Reverend Perkins and the rakish Deverell “Dev” Blake who is only along for the ride. At this point, White Rose could have degenerated into a predictable costume romance. Instead, Gabriella Anderson adds intriguing secondary characters that help the cosseted Ms. Whiting make her transformation to the farm girl she claims to be. The trip from Boston to Oregon is well written and provides a chance for the reader to get to know Anderson’s characters. By the time they arrive, all is in place for the rest of the story to unfold. Dev returns to Oregon to find his brother missing leaving him in charge of his pregnant sister-in-law, nephew, and young sister. Rose is trying to fit into the community of the bride’s dormitory for her hiding place until she can return to Boston at twenty-one to claim her inheritance. The last thing either of them wants is a marriage despite the steadily growing attraction between them. A low-life private detective is on the trail of the missing heiress and provides a satisfying subplot. When it all comes together in a very satisfying ending, you know you’ve had an excellent read.
ASH, MELISSA LEITH
The Gypsy In Spanish Red
LAMY PRESS, 978-0-578-01926-0
The staccato pace of The Gypsy in Spanish Red by Melissa Leith Ash is in perfect harmony with the subject. Vadoma is the Gypsy princess, adored by her father and tribe for her beauty and the gifts of dance and second sight. Her passionate nature leads her to a dangerous liaison and leaves her far from her family. Amid threats from the Inquisition, fascinated hatred from the peasantry of Spain, her love for Carlos, and the plots of renegade monks who want to claim her powers, Vadoma races passionately through her young life. With Sashe, her amazing horse and her faithful dwarf companion Panchito Tawno, the young woman escapes again and again from seemingly imminent disaster. Ash weaves a web of dramatic tension that draws the reader into the furtive yet joyful lives of the gypsies of 17th century Spain. Based, according to Ash, on a ‘true Gypsy legend,’ their renowned psychic powers are an integral part of Vadoma’s soul and often help her escape from danger, even when she does fall into the hands of her enemies. As the book crescendos toward the end, it seems Vadoma can, yet again, triumph.
Penguin Books (USA) Inc. ISBN 978 0 425 23884 4
Jamaica Wild is the protagonist in this fourth novel of the series of “Wild” books by Sandi Ault. She works for the Bureau of Land Management, spending most of her time out in the wilds of northern New Mexico. She becomes interested in the Penitentes, a group of Catholics who practiced self-flagellation as penance, inflicting on themselves the wounds of Jesus. Supposedly no longer an active cult, the history of the brotherhood draws her interest, and over time she has written down everything she has learned about them and even drawn pictures of their moradas, their shrines. She has bound all of this into a handmade book, hoping always to learn more to add to it. Her delving into the brotherhood brings her to the attention of those who have not put aside those ancient practices and do not want it found out. Friends become enemies, the sanctuary of her beloved mountains becomes, instead, a threat, and she is once again thrust into activities fraught with menace. If you’ve read one of the Wild books, you will want to follow Jamaica through this latest adventure.
Reviewed January 2012 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
AVERY, KAY BETH FARIS
TALES From The TRAPPERS’ TRAIL
Western Reflections Publishing, ISBN 978-1-932738-84-1
FINALIST 2010 New Mexico Book Awards TALES From The TRAPPERS’ TRAIL is nine stories of the history of the great southwest. Beginning in 1597 with 'The Believers' who conquered for “Gold, Glory and God”, and moving forward in time to the late 1870’s with the final story, 'The Long Suffering Pioneer', Tales takes the reader on a journey through just a bit of the history of Southern Colorado, New Mexico and the southwestern territory. Conquistadors, Native American slavery, journeys’ of discovery, rebellion, war, trade, trapping and the lure of gold and silver, all of it molding the culture and tapestry we see today. In Tales we discover that the first Civil Governor under American rule, Charles Bent, was murdered by conspirators wishing to create a rebellion to 'take New Mexico back' during the Mexican American War and that much of that unrest can still be seen today in the civil land grant battles. Take to the trail with Zebulon Pike and go over the mountains with the Fur Traders. Relive the pueblo rebellion and begin to understand the frustration of the Mexicans, Indians and old Spanish families forced to live by new American laws after the Mexican American war left them as unwilling members of a new country. The Civil War did not leave the territory alone either, and pivotal battles were fought right here in the state. Tales gives you a quick flavor of all of this and much more. One of the problems I’ve always had with history was that history books are boring. That’s why I really appreciate historical fiction. Authors that can make the story live by adding, through careful research, the personality of the players and the true grit of the environment in which they lived. This is what we have here as well. Termed factually-based, Kay Beth Faris Avery delivers history lessons you will certainly enjoy. Well written, very well researched, footnoted and complete with maps, a very detailed timeline and thorough bibliography, Avery simply did a great job. Whether you are a history aficionado or not, give TALES From The TRAPPERS’ TRAIL a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Neuma BooksISBN 978-1-61658-917-2 An engrossing and well-written novel that delves into lesbian thoughts and relationships. Carmen returns to Brooklyn for her mother’s funeral and is once again caught up in disapprovals and disappointments as her brothers and their families deal in various ways with her lesbianism. Just as she is renewing a good rapport with her older brother Primo, a former lover shows up with a secret that involves both Carmen and Primo, dredging up old hurts. What was in the past quickly becomes a part of the present, with leftover emotions coloring a recalled intimacy, only to be lost again by another death. Further complications ensue when Carmen’s live-in lover arrives from Albuquerque to help her through her grief. With nearly perfect editing, this book holds the reader from page to page with its compassionate viewpoint and understanding of the subject matter while telling an engaging story.
1/11 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
Mama Fela’s Girls
Ana Baca has given us a rich gift in Mama Fela. She’s wise, funny, wonderful, and, above all else, real. She’s the grandmother some of us were lucky to get and the rest wish we had been so lucky. Mama Fela lives in the fictional Santa Lucia located along historic Route 66. The year is 1934. If you’ve traveled much in New Mexico you’ve seen towns like Santa Lucia, often deserted now. Baca describes it as “Four stores within a two-block diameter competed for the town’s business. They were owned by a judio, an drabe, a mexicano, and an americano respectively. Mama Fela preferred to buy her groceries, the material for her sewing, and her shoes at Señor Gould’s because her sister Quirina had a good job there. The americano’s Cash & Carry was the only store that had a good selection of groceries but she was loyal to El Judio. Besides, he offered credit.” Mama Fela is the matriarch. Her main companion is her granddaughter Cipriana; she has a daughter, Cita, a daughter-in-law, Graciela, married to her son Robert. As a seamstress, she knows everything that goes on in the little town… but not always what is going on in her family. Still, through money woes, male pride, and women’s dreams, she guides them as best she can. Mama Fela is truly the heart of the family. Richly drawn characters, authentic dialog, clear descriptions, and a compelling story make this a novel worth reading, sharing, and re-reading again and again.
BATY, R. SAMUEL
Footsteps to Forever
iUniverse, ISBN 978-0-595-49640-2
Billed as a “World War II Thriller,” this novel begins as America goes to war. President Roosevelt has sent a noted physicist on a secret mission to Norway to get information as to how much heavy water the Germans are extracting for their atomic energy program at the Norwegian plant which they occupy. He is still in the country when war is declared by the U.S., thus placing him behind enemy lines. Because of their fluency in the Norwegian language and their ability to ski, a young nurse and an army lieutenant are called upon to attempt to locate him and bring him out safely. Risk, adventure, and romance are woven with special skill by the author as Jennifer and Dude are thrown together for training, their travel to Britain, and their night landing in Norway via submarine. They find the professor and begin their trek through the mountains to their rendezvous with the sub which is to return them to England.
The story alternates the story of the Americans with chapters about a German major who is disillusioned about his part in the Fuhrer’s war. The fictional characters are blended into actual wartime battles, leading the reader to sympathize with those on both sides who are forced to bear the brunt of war while trying to do their duty to their country.
The war’s end finds Jennifer in San Francisco, meeting with some of the people who shared her adventures, mourning those who didn’t make it but looking forward with optimism to what lies ahead.
4/09 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author of From the Eye of an Eagle
BAXTER, BETHANY MACKIN
Create Space, ISBN 978-1453678985
The beginning of this book is fraught with anger. Harry Wyman, wealthy Jewish widower, has lost his only son in what he believes is a hate murder. For two years he lives a lonely life, full of hate and despair. Then events lead to his meeting with the young boy who pulled the trigger, and he slowly learns the reality of the shooting. Reminiscent of plots in “Highway to Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel,” the story line initially seems unreal, as Harry changes his views and his life because of his findings. However, as the story progresses we are caught up in a tale of race relations that are improved dramatically when opposing factions find themselves working together.
The editing is very good, the plotting follows a continuously growing theme, and the whole is a delight to read. This is an excellently written novel with a wonderful ending that provides hope for those of us weary of a hate-filled world. Highly recommended.
4/11 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
BLEA, IRENE I.
Floricanto Press ISBN 978-1-888205-21-3 The first chapter of this story of a young woman from a small village in northern New Mexico in the first decades of the 20th century seemed to promise an interesting tale. It begins with Suzanna being betrothed at the age of 11 by her grandparents to a much older man, whom she marries when she becomes 13. Felipe is a taciturn man who is cruel to Suzanna, both mentally and physically. She bears two boys within a short time. Felipe has little use for them. Because of the Depression, he leaves their country home to find work, when the boys are about four and six years old. Suzanna is left to care for the “ranch.” For two years, she is happy to be alone with her two boys and hopes Felipe never returns. However, he comes back and announces he has sold their home and they will move to Colorado where he has a job. Suzanna does not want to move. An argument ensues, and Felipe beats her. In due course, they leave. In a gas station in Raton, Suzanna gets out of the truck and runs away. Felipe’s character does not seem consistent. At first he is portrayed as a mean man who has no time for social communication; when he leaves to find work, however, he is painted as a person who interacts with his fellow workers and likes to speak of his past. He comes back to his family with gifts for Suzanna and the boys, but erupts into savagery almost immediately. The book has a totally unsatisfactory ending for a reader expecting some resolution of the protagonist’s problem. Expecting an interesting historical novel, I was disappointed in this book. It needed much more line editing to rid itself of misspelled words and faulty spacing, as well as poor story structuring.
5/10 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, free-lance writer and author of A Dakota Daughter
Outskirts Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-6198-1
The main character is an ageing hippie, now in a long-term relationship with another woman. She lost her daughter years before to a broken marriage. Her partner’s daughter is married to a man who was adopted as a child. This daughter and her husband have a son who has left home. An intricately woven plot twined around their stories brings them all together in one of life’s always-surprising coincidences. While attempting to help her partner with the problem of her grandson’s strange behavior, Talia dredges up memories from her past and discovers information that leads her to a logical conclusion which, in turn, brings about the convergence of several persons’ lives. In so doing, she takes a trip into her own past and sets out to find her daughter. Using the analogy of a walking fish, the writer deftly draws us to an understanding of Talia’s mental state which has brought her to this point in her life. In addition to a rare insight and authorship, this novel gives us glimpses of Jewish customs and beliefs relating to death and nontraditional lifestyles, which helps make it a really good read.
4/11 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of three books, as well as numerous stories, articles and poems found in local and national publications.
Art Breakers: 12 Crafty Tales
Outskirts Press, Inc.ISBN 978-1-4327-6157-9
A collection of great stories with good endings. I enjoyed reading all of them. Every story is in some way connected to the world of art. “12 Crafty Tales” is the subtitle of the book, and each story has an intriguing concept which carries the reader from page to page eagerly following the story One tells of a long-ago theft and the subsequent return of the art work many years later; another is a poignant tale of a couple whose interest in the art of cooking leads them down the path of gluttony; yet another solves a mystery on an archaeological dig in the Four Corners Area. Some of the characters lead us through Albuquerque’s Old Town, the Santa Fe Plaza, and the old mining town of Madrid, as well as foreign venues such as China, France, and Spain. This would be a terrific, A-Number-One book if only the proofing and editing were as great as the stories. Unfortunately, continued faulty sentence structure, poor punctuation, and misspelled words detract from the excellence of the stories.
Reviewed 10/10 by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
BRENNAN, JANET K.
Harriet Murphy - A Little Bit of Something
Casa de Snapdragon Publishing, LLC ISBN 978-0-9793075-6-0
I was intrigued by the imaginative, funny, sometimes poignant, and realistic stories as related by the protagonist, Harriet Murphy, from her life in the early part of the 20th Century. Each chapter is a different story, yet carrying the same characters. Both of her parents are dead, and the thirty-something Harriet now lives alone in the cabin in California built by her father in the latter part of the 1800s. The different chapters describe her odd lifestyle, her drinking habits, a visit to San Francisco just before the great earthquake, a romantic interlude that brings her happiness and then woeful sorrow, and how her friends help her through various trials. Wonderful little poems precede some of the chapters. With a gift for colloquialism, the author elicits smiles as we read the thoughts and conversations of Harriet. My only criticism is the frequent use of misplaced quotation marks. I found it disconcerting to follow the extent of a person’s remarks because they were often not concluded by quotation marks, or they were sometimes interrupted unnecessarily with quotation marks. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book, as I am sure other readers will, also.
3/10 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From the Eye of an Eagle
Petals and Pages Press ISBN 978-0-9797057-0-0 AMAZON
Oblivion may be Utopia
Need to escape? Have the desire to start over? Has life treated you less than kind? Is your soul in need? Simple solution. Buy a ghost town. Oblivion is dead and almost forgotten. A place that life has passed by. Where time is measured by the passing of tumbleweed in the wind and the sundown howl of the coyote. Yet for Ben, an artist of great ability and minimal confidence, and Belinda, a frustrated corporate climber who has chucked it all to find herself on the open road, for these two lost souls, Oblivion is something far more. It’s the restart of their lives. The place where their love began. That event in itself as improbable as breathing life into the long abandoned adobe and clapboard shells of buildings. Oblivion is a dream. From the dust and garbage rises a new community and a new start for an odd group of people in need. People who dream of complete human and nature symbiosis. A start from scratch approach to living with and within nature. Solar energy and wind pumped water. Native plants and agriculture without chemicals or genetic tampering. Peace and faith. At least that’s the plan. But Oblivion hides a secret. A commodity as precious as oil. And when Ben wins the town at auction, he foils the plans of a powerful family. They need Oblivion’s resources to complete their control of the region and they will use all means, legal and illegal, to attain it. The battle lines are drawn, alliances made. But there really may be ghosts in Oblivion, Mother Nature will have her say and just who is that mysterious and worldly-wise old Indian? To reveal all is the journey, not the answer. Welcome to Oblivion. Bruce delivers interesting characters with humor, depth, and humanity. The story, while tinged with liberal ideals, provides the reader with the object most desired; interest. His protagonists are quirky and deep, his antagonists tragic and in the end, salvageable. This is a book I expected not to like yet found myself intrigued and drawn into. Give it a shot; it’s a steady story, very readable with a message for all of us.
Peace Beyond All Fear: A Tribute to John Denver's Vision
Petals & Pages Press, ISBN 978-0-9797057-3-1 AMAZON
WINNER 2008 NEW MEXICO BOOK AWARDS
Author Hank Bruce explains that inspiration for this work came from songs written or sung by John Denver, a popular folk-singer during the 70s and 80s, who was deeply committed to environmental issues and the challenge of allaying world hunger. Bruce subtitles this collection “A Tribute to John Denver’s Vision,” and dedicates these writings to his memory. The book includes fifteen short stories, many of them told in allegorical form, with some written as modern parables and others true accounts from the author’s experience. Although punctuation and sentence structure often sidetrack the reader’s attention from what the author is saying, the stories themselves are well thought out. Each is filled with hope and illustrations of the power of love. Some include interesting Indian spiritual lore. There is the story of an old man who, though poverty-stricken himself, started an orphanage in Kenya. Another scenario describes the misery visited upon families and the devastation to the environment caused by uranium mining. Yet another recounts how love brought a confused elderly cowboy back to normalcy. These words sung by Denver are the basis for one tale: “Peace is the flower that shatters the stone.
Love is the song that softens the heart.”
Told with emotion that often brings tears to the eyes, the stories are a plea for “a more peaceful world and a global community where we can all live beyond all fear.” Idealistic in content, Bruce’s narratives are sometimes simple, sometimes convoluted. Each, however, sends an appeal to man’s innate goodness, attempting to charge the reader to join in action which will repair the torn-up earth, put an end to war, reach out to feed the hungry around the world, and make the future world a better place for all humanity. The author writes that “fear is the illegitimate child of ignorance...the source of conflict both within ourselves and between nations.” He contends that we must each cultivate peace in our community by bringing it to flower in our own hearts. Hank Bruce is a writer, horticultural therapist, hunger activist, teacher and speaker. Hoping this book will bring attention to the cause of world hunger, he pledges a portion of all profits to the organization Hunger Grow Away, a non-profit food security organization.
9/08 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From The Eye of An Eagle
Petals & Pages Press ISBN 978-0-9797057-7-9 A kind of workbook for elderly people in nursing homes, this book contains short stories to be read to or by those whose faculties are impaired. Written in elementary language, perhaps directed to those with Alzheimers or poor reading abilities, the stories are plotted to hold the attention of people whose minds tend to wander, brief and with simple story lines. Many pages of illustrations are put in for patients to color, if they wish. Poems are also included and those are written to a higher level of readership than the stories. Apparently, this book, the first of a series to be published, is written for activities directors in old age communities so that the patients/residents may have occupational therapy during part of their day. Suggestions for accompanying activities are directed to activities directors. For that purpose, it could be helpful. Active, intelligent seniors, no matter what their age, would probably not be interested.
October 2009 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
The Senator’s Daughter
Medallion Press, Inc.ISBN 978-1933836-30-0 The second in a series with on-going characters from a California upscale community, this tells the love story of Sylvia Chatsworth, daughter of United States Senator Lawrence Chatsworth, and Lyle Thomas, a young assistant district attorney. Sylvia has a reputation as a wild, spoiled young woman whose favorite pastime seems to be to shock people with her dress and her actions. When she meets Lyle at a party, each of them is drawn to the other but events conspire to work against their relationship. Sylvia runs away, determined to make her parents sorry they didn’t treat her in a more understanding way, but her plan goes awry as she wrecks her Jaguar and stumbles through mud and rain to seek sanctuary at a country inn. Here Lyle finds her unexpectedly as he comes to the area investigating a case he is working on. Their mutual attraction brings them together as they try to solve the mystery of murders and felonies involving the court case. Love and justice win out in the end in a predictable closure.
1/11 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
CASH, MARIE ROMERO
2009 New Mexico Book Awards Finalist
There is something different in this book. In the preface the author reveals that she writes to capture the essence of those with whom she grew up. She writes about events that happened or might have happened or should have happened; and admits there is no way to tell if the story is true or not. She does this well. In 121 pages of prose and poetry she delivers a clear view of the barrio, a predominately Hispanic neighborhood or residential area within a larger city. She writes about Santa Fe, New Mexico in a way no tourist will ever view it, much less read about unless they purchase this book. Romero Cash goes beyond the stereotype of gangs, stabbings and shootings, the stuff of television cop shows and (thank the gods) and infrequent Hollywood movie. She goes beyond her folk artist/santera tradition to give us sacred images of Hispano family life, female-male relationships, Catholicism. She writes about the joys, doubts, fears, the unknown and sadness that is universal, but manifested in a culturally specific way. From time to time English is not enough and a Spanish word or phrase is necessary. To assist the reading she includes an important element: a glossary. In it she provides for the non-Spanish speaking and for those not familiar with colloquialisms of northern New Mexico a dictionary of sorts. Some words are used throughout the state; words like Búrque, Chuco, Mijo, Vato. If I translate them for you, I will rob you of the context in which they are used and the joy of reading this book. The book is written as a one sided conversation, in Spanish una platica; perhaps it is a soliloquy. She tells it all with a talent for description.
Quest Books ISBN 978-1-61929-053-2
Although I found the time line often difficult to follow, with the action first in one decade and place, then suddenly in another far removed with little to connect the dots from one chapter to the next, I, nevertheless, was captivated by this engrossing tale of dysfunctional families, a foreign judicial system, and love with a twist. Theo, a young man raised in a northern New Mexico village, leaves home at an early age to escape abuse, finds a friend in an older woman, and pursues his dream of becoming a chef. His friend dies of cancer and he is drawn into a situation which takes him to Morocco to help his friend’s heir, Ilyas, who has been wrongfully accused and imprisoned. Without knowing who was responsible for his eventual release from the horrible prison into which he had been thrown or just how it had been obtained, Ilyas goes to Spain to find work. In the meantime, his friend’s death, which appears to be questionable, and another that appears to be murder have put Theo in jeopardy because he feels he must hide the facts. An overly ambitious policeman wants to solve the murder or murders by pinning it all on Theo instead of undertaking a careful investigation. Fortunately for Theo, a longtime friend of the deceased woman steps in to discover the truth about what had happened. With many twists and turns, the author draws his reader into a story filled with fleshed-out characters, horrific violence, and failed relationships, but also the perseverance of a friendship that kept someone searching for truth even after death, bringing to Theo and Ilyas the discovery of a loving peace. I liked this book. September 2012 review by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
CHAVEZ, RONALD P.
Time of Triumph
Booksurge ISBN 13-978-1419682629
Finalist 2008 New Mexico Book Awards
*A veteran returns from war, his soul battered by his horrendous experiences, and tries to battle his way through alcohol to a semblance of a normal life. *An old man grieves for his only grandson, whom he sent to war, to be returned in a casket. *A grizzled prospector fends off a government agent seeking to deprive him of his land. These and other short stories are intermixed with pages of poetry. The stories are poignant, compelling vignettes of real people in the reality of life. The poems resonate with emotions of love, aging, grieving, bitterness. In just a few words, Chavez can pull the reader into his world. Some of the poems have side by side translations from English to Spanish, an interesting and educational diversion. I read the book quickly, and went back to read parts again.
1/09 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of More Visions in Verse
CHAVEZ, RONALD P.
Winds of Wildfire
ISBN9 781453 862032 Chavez has a way with a story, and this is a good one. Actually three tales in one, chapters alternate between the love story of Amee and Donato; the epiphany of the young Indian, Billy, as he strives to put himself on a new life’s path; and Polly, the Viet Nam vet who has to deal with the horrors of his remembered war activities. An association of these characters is brought about in a series of events that make them friends and allies in the judicial courts. To tell more at this point would deprive the reader of the twists and turns of the plotting as Chavez brings it all together. There are beautiful descriptive passages of New Mexico’s topography, sexual scenes full of passion, and lots of crude, vicious talk that ordinary people might not hear in their daily lives but which is apparently common among the people that characterize Chavez’s world. Although his spell-check doesn’t know the difference between one homonym an another, this minor distraction can be skipped over as one becomes engrossed in his tale. A little extra line editing would have been good, but, nevertheless, I liked the book.
January 2012 review by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
CHOWN, THOMAS A.
American Book PublishingISBN 978-1-58982-597-0 An epic novel of 180,000 words, the small print is made more readable by having the chapters broken up with bold headings, a nice touch of formatting. The story, based somewhat on the author’s family, begins in Madrid, New Mexico in the early 20th century and is the second in a trilogy depicting the Devon family through several generations. Catherine and Tom Devon and their two children live through some harrowing times in the bleak, dirty mining towns of New Mexico and Colorado, until the day Tom decides he’s had enough of the violence and union politics. He takes his family back to Wisconsin where they begin a new life vastly different from that in the west. The story includes much of historical interest, as the years take the family through World War I, college days during the Roaring Twenties, the death of Catherine, and the marriages of son Wally and daughter Marion. How Prohibition and the stock market crash of 1929 affect the family is related in continued realistic and interesting prose. Tom eventually remarries and returns to the wide open spaces of the West. His death and the onset of World War II bring this part of the trilogy to a close. This is an absorbing tale, told in an ever-fascinating style. However, flow of the story would have been better served had the changes in Point of View (POV) been indicated by a familiar extra spacing between those paragraphs. Without that normal POV spacing, the reader often feels like one who has quickly come upon a sharp corner that must be turned in order to follow the path. It trips the mind and momentarily interrupts the story’s continuity. That and the many instances of incorrect punctuation and some misspelled words missed by the editor take away from an excellent saga. Nevertheless, this blend of history which follows the generations of a family with both amusing and poignant anecdotes gives an intriguing read.
10/2010 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author of The Music of Her Life, From the Eye of an Eagle, and More Visions in Verse, as well as numerous magazine articles
8-Ball, Corner Pocket
iUniverse, ISBN 978-0-595-42827-4
A short novel filled with human interest and the fun of often-told and familiar jokes, this book provides light-hearted reading and a poignant ending. Al Bernstein, who changed his name to Burns to marry his Catholic wife, has a troubled conscience regarding the dismissal of his Jewish heritage all the years of his married life. After the death of his wife, he wonders if he should, perhaps, return to his birth name. What would people think? Was it necessary? Was it foolish, after all these years? His friends become concerned for him when he has a couple of bad falls, and hound him into joining them in a senior retirement village. He discovers that he enjoys living there, playing pool with his friends and making new friends. However, as time passes, unfortunately so do some of his new friends. Claffey does a good job of delving into an aging man’s psyche. A surprise ending wraps this story up very neatly.
4/09 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author of Visions in Verse
Bloomfield to Baghdad
ABQ PressISBN 978-0-9838712-3-1
Like a finely crafted Navajo rug, the author skillfully weaves characters and events from his previous books into this tale, embellishing their lives while telling a completely new story. This is the story of Jesse Harper, the young nephew of trucker Bob Harper who married one of the Hoot ‘N’ Holler gals, also truckers. Young Jesse graduates from high school in New Mexico, joins the U.S. Army and is soon deployed to Iraq where he serves his country driving supply trucks, using much of what he learned from his Uncle Bob. While Jesse is away, facing the perils of war, his girlfriend back home hooks up with a crowd with no such lofty ideals. The years-long friendship she and Jesse enjoyed crumbles. Through his army experiences and the relationships he finds with his fellow soldiers, Jesse returns home at the end of his tour with a greater maturity along with a new romantic interest. I always learn something I didn’t know from Claffey’s books – like what a “cedar tire thumper” is and what it’s good for. But more than that, while telling an absorbing tale, he manages to sneak history, geography, and patriotism into the telling. His accounts of the reality of army life as it is today on foreign soil help the reader see through the eyes of our military personnel and feel what they feel. It’s an eye-opener to those of us who experienced the military life in an earlier time. Tension from action scenes had me holding my breath. Other times I found myself chuckling, and yet my eyes were wet with tears more than once as the story unfolds. Claffey has done it again, putting together a well-crafted, contemporary novel that is sure to find its way onto many bookshelves. As always, I applaud his writing and craftsmanship.
Reviewed April 2012 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
Hoot ‘N’ Holler
An amusing short novel about two middle-aged women who decide to become over-the-road truck drivers. Sally and Dixie are widows who have moved to Santa Fe from other states. They are both determined not to sit in retirement homes, mourning for their lost past, when there is so much left in the world to do. So they hire a young out-of-work trucker to teach them to be truckers, adopting the CB monikers of Hoot and Holler.
The young instructor’s history contains a tragic event that is tempered with a new love that threads its way through the main plot.
The author provides a fun read while incorporating romance and whimsy, together with local color from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, into a well-written story.
I would look forward to more work by this author.
2/09 reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From the Eye of an Eagle
Searching for C.W. McCall
Albuquerque PressISBN 9-780984 302437 This is ostensibly a tale of Santiago Lopez, a retired farmer living with his wife in a small northern New Mexico town, who has an unrealized dream of being a trucker. He greatly admires the trucking songs of an earlier era, sung by C. W. McCall, especially the one called Old Home Filler-Up and’ Keep on A-Truckin’ Café. He even named his dogs after the dog Sloan in the song. There was Sloan #1, Sloan #2, and so on. He’s now on Sloan #6. He really wants to meet the man behind the song, so one day he decides to go looking for C. W. McCall. He and Sloan #6 get in his pickup and hit the road. Sub-plots in the story liven up their adventures in their quest, involving meeting up with several truckers who befriend them, helping foil a devilish plan by a disgruntled former employee to put one of them out of business and kill the trucker, riding in one of the big rigs, and finally getting to meet his hero. The story is based on the man who recorded“Convoy” which held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart back in the ‘70s. Anyone who likes that type of music or has an affinity for the big rigs, or just likes a great story, will like this book. The author has descriptive powers that set scenes the reader can move right into. The action and dialogue is so true to life, you want to call Santiago on the phone and visit with him about it. I enjoyed the opportunity to renew acquaintance with Sally and Dixie and their friends from Claffey’s earlier book, “Hoot ‘N Holler” about two retired women who become truckers. I hope some screenwriter picks up this fun book and goes to work on a movie because I’d love to see this on the big screen.
10/10 Review by Lola R. Eagle, free-lance writer, author and poet
Autumn Leaves Publishing, ISBN 0-9754554-4-3
An absorbing story set during the early part of the 20th Century in the South, which delves into racism, the KKK, and hatreds flamed by ignorance and long-held traditions.
Brought up in a family that accepted others for what they were, and not for the color of their skin or their religious beliefs, Pug defies Southern mores by forming a group of seven young girls, binding them together as sisters in friendship despite their ethnic and social differences. Through the next decade, the girls meet regularly to share their joys and their sorrows, helping each other through one crisis after another.
Told with blunt truths, their growing-up years are fraught with beatings, incest, cross-burning, and torture of persons the Klan deems too different. Horrendous scenes play out as the girls’ lives are touched by these events.
Pug’s love story weaves into the fabric of these years, as well as her gift of second sight which helps her through many episodes. The author relates a story with vivid imagination, drawing from history’s factual annals.
For many of its attributes, I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed 9/09 by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
CRAIG, ANGELA CHARMAINE, Ed.
DIA de los MUERTOS
Elektrik Milk Bath PressISBN 978-0-9828554-0-9
This anthology of 29 short stories by different authors, all relating in some way to the Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico, gives a varied view of people’s conceptions of what happens during that celebration. Some of the stories are sad, some horrific, some macabre, some poignant. The stories that best caught my interest and interpreted for me the myth of Dia de los Muertos were these: Mexican Moon, by Edward DeGeorge, a fanciful, poignant story of actors on location. The Courtyard, by Maureen Wilkinson, a weird tale of a man’s affair with a dead woman’s ghost. What Nathan Knows, by D. Lee, the story of a veteran who can’t face life after the killing in Irag. Skin Deep, by Kathleen Alcala’, told in the voice of a male ghost. Before the Altar on the Feast for All Souls, by Marge Gilks, with a rather beautiful ending. The Fat Lady Watches Monster Movies Late at Night, by Kate Angus, which had a more realistic plot and was not scary. The Effect of Place on Love in Death, by Gerri Leen, about a young woman who doesn’t want to fall in love because she fears losing her lover to death. The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Laura Loomis, telling the story of a husband’s deep devotion to his wife. Last Chance, by Michelle D. Sonnier, about a heroin addict. The Catrinas Will Dance With Any Boy They Like, by Lori Rader Day, about three young girls, one of whom has lost her father. Other stories in the collection, like New Mexican David Corwell y Chavez’ Susto (tale of La Llorona) will, no doubt, be appreciated by readers who enjoy the dark side of this tradition.
Overall, the book is an interesting mix.
Reviewed 2/2011 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
The Shamrock and the Feather
When I first looked at this book, I turned up my nose at the premise. “What happens when you combine a mysterious Celtic bowl [and] an enigmatic Navajo Healing Man…” However, it wasn’t long before my turned-up nose was buried deep in the pages of this multi-faceted read. Geneva Becker is a renowned scenic photographer. Years before, she had a mystical meeting in a canyon hidden in the walls of Canon de Chelly – a meeting with an ageless Navajo who tells her “You have had a long journey. But, it is only the beginning.” Then there is Geneva’s mother who died when Geneva was just a child. An Irish girl, she fell in love with an American photographer and followed him to America. Catriona disappeared one night on the boat she loved leaving behind only Geneva and a few pieces of pottery she had created. Plagued by dreams of an Ireland long before she or her parents were born, Geneva finds herself pulled into a mystery framed by the past and existing in the present.
Dalton does an excellent job handling the past and present story lines, keeping them clear for the reader. Her secondary characters are engaging, particularly Victoria, Geneva’s best friend who has a decidedly mystical bent. The villain is well-drawn and the hero part of past and present. And don't forget the enigmatic Navajo.
The whole thing comes together at a Bealtane (sic) festival in Ireland where past and present collide in a satisfying ending… or is it yet a new beginning? The Shamrock and the Feather comes with a CD of music composed, arranged, and performed by the author’s acclaimed jazz pianist husband, Bert. The music complements the novel, invoking Ireland, Native American music, and mystery although two jazz vocal pieces were jarring to this reviewer, distracting from the mood of the book. That’s not to say they’re not good, just not necessary here.
Mary, My Love
Footprints From the Bible, ISBN 978-0-9844723-0-7
FINALIST 2010 New Mexico Book Awards
Drawing from the words of the Bible, events from history, and her own imagination, Davis weaves a credible account of the life of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus.
The story is told through the eyes of Joseph, who works as a carpenter in Nazareth at the side of his father. He watches the neighbor child Mary grow up, nurturing a growing love for her. They are betrothed and his life is forever changed. Dreams, angels, the voice of God, and then the birth of Jesus are all events that stagger his mind. Even more mind-boggling is the appearance of a group of shepherds at the stable where the baby is born, with a tale of heavenly revelation. Both Joseph and Mary believe there is a special destiny for Jesus. They remain in Bethlehem, convinced he is meant to grow up there, setting up a home from which Joseph plies his trade as a carpenter. However, before the babe's second birthday, an astonishing visit from Easter Magi, attended by their retinues and bearing precious gifts, brings a threat of danger from Herod, the King of Judea. Again, an angel appears to Joseph warning him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby. The author uses her imaginative powers freely, filling in ensuing years with a completely believable story of their journey to Egypt, their time there, and their eventual return to Nazareth. The story includes family life with Jesus and his brothers and sisters, his journey to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, and his discussions there with the Temple Rabbis. Davis creates a scenario in which the Temple Rabbis invite Jesus to be apprenticed to them, to live and study there. This his parents refuse, and they take him home to Nazareth. Cynthia Davis has again brought to life historical events that grasp at one's heart and faith while satisfying the intellect.
8/2010 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
Crossings Book Club ISBN 978-1-58288-269-7 A well-done Biblical novel about David’s beloved wife Abigail. Although David had many wives, most were taken to form an alliance with a particular people, but not so Abigail. The story follows Abigail’s marriage first to Nabal, who dies, and then to David during the beginning of his career when he is still a warrior. It tells of her unhappiness with the man Nabal who is her father’s choice for her husband. Nabal is a wealthy man, but one with little consideration for his fellowmen or his wife. Abigail strives to hold onto her faith in a household that doesn’t respect it. David and his army of followers are camping on the edge of Nabal’s land, in return for which they keep marauders and wild animals from his flocks. When he goes to Nabal requesting food for his army, he is refused. Abigail sees this and knows that all her husband’s goods and people will be destroyed if David’s request isn’t met, so she takes loaded donkeys out to his camp and begs him to forgive her husband and take the gifts she brings. David falls in love with her. Because she has born no heir for Nabal, when he dies Abigail is sent back to her father, along with the two handmaidens given to her as a wedding present. It is then that David comes and claims her as his bride. The author takes few liberties with the story as it is told in the Bible, merely fleshing it out in a fascinating way with her own imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
9/09 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
Telemachus – A Modern Odyssey
(no publisher listed)ISBN 978-0-557-16022-8
This is a very ambitious piece of writing, put together in nearly 700 pages of hard-to-read small print. The author runs a parallel between his story and the original “Odyssey” by Homer, inserting short excerpts from that classic before each of his chapters. I would have preferred a larger print font, but that would no doubt have increased the bulk of the book to unacceptable heft. The book begins with interwoven stories – one the reality of Michael, the protagonist; the other a “reality” only in his mind. In chapter 11 we are apprised of Michael’s mental illness. Because the story so often relates his demented ramblings, I was never sure whether the typos were meant to be or simply the result of poor editing. Curiously, one chapter consists of 5-1/2 pages of unrelated words and phrases, separated only by commas – no periods or paragraphs -- which makes for tedious reading that reveals little if anything about the story. Michael’s dozens of sexual encounters over the years provide no romance to the reader, only a clinical relating of events. He does eventually marry. One wonders, however, how someone with such obvious mental aberrations could get a woman to marry him. This reminds one of a fictionalized biography, as though perusing someone’s sixty years’ worth of daily journals, complete with verbatim conversations and all his imaginings. We become privy to his every thought. Many characters and sets of characters are introduced who do not seem to help develop the story, but only serve to confuse the reader looking for some pertinent connection. However, a little humor is achieved in places through puns and word play. If one has the time and stamina, this book may provide the reader with an engrossing study of a man’s entire life, from the womb to old age, searching for a religious faith and community, for a relationship, for the meaning of life, taking him through years of fears, sexual deficiencies, uncontrollable rages, and many menial jobs, as seen through a deranged mind.
2/10 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
Rainbow Books, Inc.ISBN 978-1-56825-126-4 Although I didn’t get the significance of the title, which seemed to have nothing to do with the book, this is, nevertheless, a creditable first novel in the private detective genre. Casey Holden, PI, is a character reminiscent of Shell Scott in the old series by Richard Prather, with his wise-cracking, sexual innuendo, and women on the side. Reminiscent of Shell, however, doesn’t bring Casey up to the same caliber. The wisecracks never stop; the sexual innuendo is a bit over the top; the plot never quite gets resolved; the women are mostly forgettable; Casey, himself, as a protagonist, doesn’t evoke much sympathy, being too much into himself. Still, the book itself is well put together in short, easy-to-read chapters with adequate editing, an eye-catching cover, and a tantalizing sneak preview of the author’s next book in the back. I look forward to reading subsequent novels in the series as this first-time author continues to develop his characterization and writing style.
Reviewed 12/11 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
An Apricot Year
Papalote PressISBN 978-097558816-1
Luli Russell of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has been a wife and mother for twenty-eight years, putting aside her dream of being an artist. She ignores the signs of her husband’s infidelity and bears the indignity of his drunken abuse, all the while hoping that one day she can again pick up her paintbrushes and follow her ambition. For her 50th birthday, her family rewards her with a most cherished gift: an all-expense-paid month in Santa Fe, New Mexico, along with brand-new paints and brushes. She is overcome with love and gratitude. She makes friends in Santa Fe with a couple she meets as they assist a homeless man who has been hurt in the street. This friendship continues to grow even after Luli has to cut short her stay in Santa Fe because of her husband’s final destructive blow to their marriage. She ultimately returns to Santa Fe with nothing left and must attempt to piece together a new life and find work to make a living. A quirky turn of events takes her on a hurried trip to the Caribbean to locate a treasure supposedly hidden there. Romance and adventure invest the trip with a fairy tale quality, with a conclusion that leaves the reader satisfied that life will work out well for Luli after all.
Reviewed August 2012 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, editor, and poet.
La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories
Papalote Press, 978-097558814-7
WINNER 2010 New Mexico Book Awards
Stories about New Mexico are myriad and endless, but few collections embody the Land of Enchantment like Martha Egan’s La Ranfla & Other Tales of New Mexico. Reading the pieces contained therein is like stumbling upon the memoirs of close friends, allowing one to relive their memorable events and intimately share in those triumphs and sorrows.
In “La Ranfla,” the title story, Mary Louise Kowalski, a Wisconsin-born law student, leaves behind an unfulfilling career choice and follows her love to New Mexico in a 1961 Buick LeSabre, where she becomes a bonafide transplant within a small town community. The story is a captivating blend of ‘60s hippie culture, car worship, and New Mexican justice.
La ranfla, slang for a person’s ride, is an ongoing motif throughout the book, rearing its head in various incarnations: Crown Victoria, Dodge Dart Pioneer, Cadillac, Corona, MGB, VW, and miscellaneous Ford pickups. Transportation not only provides the means to enjoy the beauty and diversity that is New Mexico, but it also speaks to our need to be mobile and constantly moving forward.
The remaining six stories range from the humorous and political to the heartbreaking and mystical. Rachel Guenther has a frank, open discussion with her granddaughter about sex and teen pregnancy, while emphasizing the importance of family history and values in "Green Eyes." Tempers almost flare into violence in “Carnales,” when Joe Ortega holds a group of elders at gunpoint at a camposanto, which he claims is on his property. Luckily, a calmer influence in the form of Father Ed prevails over the heated dispute. The standoff highlights the complexities stemming from the Spanish land grants, as well as family loyalty, which can be just as complicated. While the book lacks a specific Native American viewpoint, Egan acknowledges this vital influence in “Time Circles,” the longest story in the collection. Anna has reservations about following her dreams of owning a small business until her participation in a Navajo ceremonial expands her horizons. Her unique gift to the medicine man also proves that the universe rewards those who freely give of themselves. The stories are relayed through female viewpoints, though Egan also writes authoritatively from a male perspective in "Granny." On his way to California, Jimbo Morales' car (a 1978 MGB) abandons him near a New Mexico border town. He befriends the village's mechanic, comes to grips with the local meaning of "mañana," and decides to become the fourth-grade teacher of the town's school, where he learns the true value of community. The MGB finally fixed, Jimbo is ready to leave - until his stay is delayed by an alluring encounter with one of his students' relatives. And what would New Mexico be without its beloved pets? Two stories feature not man’s, but woman’s best friend at their most remarkable. “Mutt” relays the tale of Gretchen Maier, a North Valley artist who buys a timid German shepherd puppy to be her guard dog against the areas’ thugs. Mutt turns out to be half coyote, as well as a free agent, but his hilarious antics through Gretchen’s personal ups and downs show that there is no deeper bond than that between kindred spirits. “Guapo” features a stray that is saved by a vet. Eventually adopted by its human guardian, the blue heeler becomes a catalyst for love and ultimately a symbol of undying loyalty. The collection is a nostalgic look at the state’s cultures, landscapes, and peoples, circa the 1960s up to the turn of the century, but the character’s dilemmas and the stories' themes are universal, all portrayed with the loving strokes of an adopted native. As such, La Ranfla is an engaging, noteworthy addition to the New Mexican literary tradition. 4/19Reviewed by David J. Corwell , author of “Legacy of the Quedana” (see Cloaked in Shadow)
Llumina Press ISBN 159526082X
Although not a native New Mexican, the writer obviously delved deeply into New Mexico’s past to conjure up this fascinating tale of “what if.” What if Henry Fountain had not been killed when his father, prominent attorney, politician and newspaper publisher Albert Fountain, was murdered back in the 19th Century? What if the eight-year-old, who had made the trip with his father from Las Cruces to Lincoln County and back, had somehow escaped the murderers and survived? Told fifty years later in a soul-cleansing revelation by the adult Henry, now a doctor, to his nurse as they drove those same miles, the story takes the reader back through time, unfolding a tale that seems entirely plausible. For myself, a former resident of El Paso, Las Cruces, and White Sands Missile Range, the areas in and around the Organ and Sacramento Mountains, I was able to picture the locales where the action was taking place, having driven those same roads frequently. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptive representations of the many places with which I am familiar, as well as the hypothetical fiction surrounding this long-ago event of which little is actually known. My only fault-finding concerns the inconsistent use of italics to set off parts of conversations, as well as continual quotation marks, in the formatting of the story, which keeps the reader on his toes to discern who is speaking and at what point the speech stops and the telling takes up. Though this is a bit confusing, it does not take away from a very imaginative story, excellently told, with plenty of action, retributive justice, and a romantic ending. I would look forward to more such writings from this author.
1/09 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From The Eye of an Eagle
FRASER, K. J.
A Journey, A Reckoning, and A Miracle
O BooksISBN 978-1-84694-206-8 Although a disclaimer in the front of this book states that “recognizable characters, locations and incidents are fictionalized,” fictionalizing living persons seems to me to be taking a lot of liberties on the part of the author, particularly when the living person happens to be a very prominent figure. It could very well give readers in future generations a very slanted, as well as incorrect, picture of that historical figure. The main theme tells the story of a young girl, raised in a religious family believing in The Rapture, who embarks on an odyssey which takes her to the places where multiple murders were committed – the Columbine School, the Oklahoma bombing site, an Indian reservation in South Dakota – in order to pray for the people killed at each site. Along the way, her core values are challenged when she is befriended by a gay couple, a Jewish young man, members of a motorcycle gang, and war veterans. A second theme revolves around a black female paraplegic, a victim of the Iraq fighting, who decides to become a comic. Yet a third brings in George Bush, as the author heaps the sins of the world on his shoulders because of “his war.” Much vitriolic tirade and character-damaging rhetoric is attributed to Bush to the point of slander. The author obviously has a deep dislike, if not hatred, for the former president and writes as though no other president in history had made any mistakes or was responsible for any of the nation’s ills. Clearly, the author will acquire few friendly readers of those who admire and respect our 43rd president. An attempt is made to meld these diverse themes together by drawing in other military victims of the war and some of the brutal guards used against prisoners of the U.S. Much of it reads like the fantasy of a Harry Potter tale. The quality of the writing does a lot for a book that might otherwise be put aside early due to the inclusion of the damning censure of President Bush.
While admiring the author’s imagination and writing skills, I am sorry that this book is not one I feel comfortable recommending.
July 11, reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
GALLIGAN, ELIZABETH ANN
Secrets of the Plumed Saint
ABQ PressISBN 978-0-9838712-2-4
The cherished little wooden statue of the Holy Child which resides in the village chapel of Villa Vieja, a tiny northern New Mexico community, disappears. It represents to the Spanish/Indian believers a friend to whom they pray for special favors. A small group of the residents begins investigating, hoping to discover what has happened to the Santo Nino before the entire village becomes alarmed, but soon they must gather all the people at the chapel and tell them what has occurred. The villagers are in deep distress at the loss of the hundred-year-old carving. They begin a novena, praying for its return, but before the nine weeks are up, the mystery develops into a crime involving some of their own. With compassion, forgiveness and a pragmatic form of reparation, the villagers take care of the matter. The characters are well-crafted and the reader becomes drawn in to the lives of the various people, who they are and how they came to be what they are. As different personages were brought into the story, I found myself trying to detect for myself those responsible for the disappearance. The many words and phrases unfamiliar to me had me wishing for a good Spanish/English dictionary to help interpret their meanings. However, at the end of the book, I found to my delight a Glossary which answered all my questions, proving that peeking at the end is not always a bad thing. Also included is a Discussion Guide which would be useful in a classroom setting. This is a truly worthy endeavor as a first novel. Highly recommended.
Reviewed 3/12 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
GATUSKIN, ZELDA LEAH
Where the Sky Used To Be
The story revolves around a year in the life of Claire, a 15-year-old aspiring artist, and her teenage friends as they grope their way through adolescence. However, it is so much more than just a boy/girl first love and their aspirations. It’s about the anxiety of growing up; it’s about the hopelessness of seniors relegated to nursing homes for their final days; it’s about date rape and the mental anguish that follows; it’s about parents trying to understand their maturing children; it’s about art; it’s about a tortured young mind that snaps into horrendous action. The author demonstrates a sophisticated level of writing and tremendous insight into the minds of her characters, ranging from teens to the elderly. It’s as though she were inside each of her characters, living the story. This is one of the most professionally done books I have reviewed to date – the plotting, the complexity of the characters, the situations, the structuring, and the editing are all exceptional, evolving into a story that holds the reader’s interest from page to page. The writing is what every aspiring author strives for and hopes to accomplish but rarely achieves.
January 2012 review by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
Lost in the Gila
Five Star, 978-1-59414-732-6
Kate Donovan has an unusual gift – she can relive past events by examining the bones of the dead. Quite a boon for a forensic anthropologist who works on archaeological digs, well, except for the fact that she cannot find a job due to a tarnished reputation from a prior, impulsive mishap. With only a month of savings to spare, Kate is unexpectedly asked to join a secret excavation in the Gila wilderness run by Dr. Adam Richter, the world’s foremost archaeologist. Arriving at the site, she is stunned to find a pyramid built in the same talud-tablero architectural style of Teotihuacan. It appears that the king of the fallen city and the remnants of his people lived out their final days in southern New Mexico, news that will entirely rewrite the region’s historical record. Of course, there’s also the promise of treasure – lots of it! Even so, the king, his burial chamber, and the bones of his entourage remain hidden, refusing to be found, the pyramid simply a monument to his elusive presence. Complicating matters further, Dr. Richter has been missing for days, and an underlying tension amongst the crew threatens to derail any prospects of finding the tomb at all. Kate, once again disregarding protocol, surveys the surrounding mesa on her own, and experiencing another vision, stumbles upon the king’s burial chamber. The descriptions of the cavern and its marvelous contents (including a rare codex) are thrilling and completely involve the reader, moment by moment, in the exciting find. Her discovery is met with hostility back at camp, particularly by Dr. Richter who has returned. He confiscates her notebook and map, intending to take full credit for the find, but the issue becomes insignificant when a murderer in their midst suddenly strikes. The complex interactions between characters leave everyone suspect, including Sam Gallagher, the crew’s lithics specialist - and the man Kate finds herself drawn to. The sense of unease at being isolated in the woods with a killer, as well as the twists up to the final revelation, make for fast, edge-of-your-seat reading. The epilogue, in which the earlier professional jealousies disappear like a fleeting fog, is disappointingly simplistic, as is the realization that the crew isn’t multicultural. There’s one Hispanic volunteer (who uses clunky Spanish) out of a group of ten.
The very possibility of finding a pyramid in the wilds of New Mexico bespeaks an alternate reality. However, in this case, Gilbert’s portrayal of the discovery is so convincing that one would expect to see a feature article about the find in tomorrow’s newspapers.
Gilbert’s fourth novel is an enthralling mixture of archaeology, dark family secrets, and suspense, balanced with a touch of humor and romance, which makes it a worthy contribution to the Southwestern mystery/thriller genre. And while it could be said that mystery series themselves are rapidly becoming clichéd, Kate and Sam are fascinating enough characters that they merit some extended adventures. Reviewed by David J. Corwell, author of “Legacy of the Quedana” (see Cloaked in Shadow)
GISH, ROBERT FRANKLIN
Dreams of Quivira
Dreams of Quivira. The title conjures visions of mythical cities on distant hills shrouded by mists and glowing gold should the sun finally burn through. It is the stuff of dreams, one of the Seven Cities of Gold, long sought but never found. The cover of this book states that within are ‘stories in search of the golden west’. Inside you will find seven short stories including one with the title name. Seven stories all very different though with a common thread, people with a story to tell. Individuals in search of something more. Each journey very personal. What does basketball have to do the heart and death? Why is a young man so fixated with the severed hands of Che Guevara? Why does Elfego spend a dark night alone surrounded by enemies while talking of Billy the Kid with a carven Saint? And the term “Seeing the elephant” takes a new twist in the coming of age story with the same title. A story about a young man, a rich man’s wife and a lake called Elephant Butte. Well written, earthy and thoughtful. If you like quirky short stories, you will like Dreams of Quivira.
THE GRANDE DAMES: Contributors O’Gara, Mary; Ballard, Judy; et al.
The Trouble With Romance: An Anthology
Treble Heart Books, ISBN 1-932695-22-2
FINALIST 2007 NEW MEXICO BOOK AWARDS
It’s all the fault of a little blue-eyed black cat named Trouble. He mysteriously appears in ten lives and then, just as mysteriously, disappears. But the changes he brings in his short stays have lasting effects on the men and women he visits in the stories contained in this volume. Take for example New Mexican Mary O’Gara’s contribution in Trouble on the Home Front. Maggie, divorced from rocker Lex, is having a little trouble accepting her old beau Tom Brewer’s return to her life. When her twin daughters, traveling with their father, are missing, an assist from Trouble and a Maggie’s own mince pies shed a new light on her feelings for Tom. Another New Mexican, Judy Ballard, makes her contribution with Trouble In Columbus – Columbus, New Mexico, that is – Mark Santisteven and newcomer Danna Yates are brought together by a lost red cat collar and an encounter with its owner. When you've finish this book, you’ll be hoping to run into a black cat with blue eyes and a red collar with a tag that says Trouble. Don’t chase him away… a little Trouble makes things interesting.
BeWrite BooksISBN 978-1-906609-24-5
Stewart Smithee lives with his mother, doesn’t have a job, and runs with a group of weird friends. One day he decides he wants to try to write a movie, so he just begins to write. What comes onto the pages is an alien/monster-type story about lesbian zombies and an unbalanced doctor. Over a period of many months, Stewart applies himself to his writing, takes on jobs to earn money for his writing, gathers his friends around his idea, and actually writes a screenplay and shoots the ridiculously-premised movie. The local police don’t much like how he and his cohorts go about it, often landing them in arrest mode. However, without knowing how it all came about, through the experience Stewart finds responsibility, self-respect, love, and the culmination of what was at first merely a whim. Although the story revolves around this outlandish movie idea, it is well-written and actually fun to read.
Reviewed 12/2010 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet
CreateSpace, ISBN 9 781448 686704
The protagonist of this novel reminds one of a Christian Indiana Jones, with much fast-paced action which keeps one on pins and needles, expecting the worst, yet hoping for miracles. Dr. Bram Aaronsfeld, Jewish by birth, a Christian by profession of faith, and a college professor, goes to work for an organization known as ARK, which sends persons into third world countries to deliver food and medicine to the unfortunate, lend aid to the impoverished and oppressed, and sometimes rescue Christians who are tortured, enslaved or killed because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Flashbacks to his youth show underlying factors which shaped Bram’s character. The present mission on which he embarks leads him to Romania to bring out a young woman, Ileana, who has information about the persecution of Christians in that area. Bram is assisted at times by local people, at other times by the CIA, while at other times he is himself imprisoned and tortured. Through awful and harrowing adventures, he completes yet another mission, saves a community of Christians and brings out Ileana, with whom he has fallen in love. Written in the first person, the story is told in such an authentic voice that one wonders if the story is autobiographical. But it is not; it only reflects the truth of events happening in our world today that most people don’t realize. We think of Jews being persecuted, or other religious factions whose countries are taken over by those who would have them change their religious beliefs. We seldom consider that there are Christians around the world who are suffering for their religion. I found the book to be a thoughtful and educational piece of reality, while yet entertaining in its presentation. I would suggest, however, that closer attention be given to line editing future printings. Following review, this book will travel to my church library to be read by other Christians, we who take our freedom of religion for granted.
10/10 Review by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
Booklocker.com, Inc.ISBN 1 59113 760 8 This is a well-written mystery novel revolving around Eddie Collins, a part-owner of ERO, a California-based internet company. A murder is committed in his home; his wife flees; the police see her as a suspect, but Eddie doesn’t believe it. He believes she has returned to her former home in Santa Fe, and he follows her, but when he arrives, he can’t find her and nobody seems to know where she has gone into hiding. Eddie is arrested in Santa Fe, but is released in hopes he would lead the police to his wife, Nina. However, since he doesn’t know where she is, he muddles around, playing detective, trying to discover what has happened to her. Eventually, he finds a connection between the real estate development plans of Nina’s Aunt Helen and millions of missing money from Eddie’s firm which had led to the murder in California. The murderer is arrested, Eddie finds his wife, and their lives take different paths. As with Mr. Hazlett's other books, this too would have improved by careful grammar and spelling editing.
Reviewed Sept. 2011 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer, and poet with input from editor Sabra Brown Steinsiek
Booklocker.com, Inc.ISBN 1-59113-791-8 I was impressed – nay, astounded! – by this novel which the author presents through a first-person account by his feminine protagonist. I have never read a better piece of writing done by one gender through the eyes of the opposite gender. Hazlett seems to have gotten inside the feminine mystique and learned exactly how a woman feels and thinks. The story revolves around Nina Kelly, whose Aunt Helen, the woman who raised her, is murdered under mysterious circumstances. When Nina’s ex-husband is accused of the crime, she doesn’t believe he did it. Nina is determined to sort out the events and discover the truth. She works her way back through the dealings of her Aunt Helen and her business associates who had been involved in a failed scheme to build a housing development outside Santa Fe. In her amateur probings, she finds herself becoming entangled in police business because of criminal activities related to that. This gives rise to a romantic relationship with Police Detective Ray Sanchez. (The author shows the progression of a woman’s thoughts and emotions extremely well.) Nina eventually believes she has figured out what happened, but in so doing she finds herself in imminent peril from those who were responsible for her aunt’s murder. Skillfully setting scenes, writing believable dialogue, building suspense, plotting through to a surprise ending, Hazlett authors a terrific book. I enjoyed the story and the writing; corrected infrequent errata would have enhanced it to perfection.
Reviewed 7/11 by Lola R. Eagle, author, free-lance writer and poet
A Private War
Booklocker.com, Inc. ISBN 1-59113-844-2
Thomas Kindred is in Viet Nam in 1968 with the Army. He gets disillusioned about the whole war scene and just up and leaves, forging papers for himself to get emergency leave that takes him to San Francisco, and he never looks back. For thirty years he lives the life of a fugitive in Canada, always afraid to go back to the States for fear he’ll wind up in prison for desertion. Then one day he gets a phone call from a former buddy down in Seattle, saying he’s in trouble with an anti-war group and asking for Kindred’s help. Kindred and his live-in girlfriend, Carmen, cross the border and find his buddy dead; thus begins a strange journey, coming to terms with the past that haunts each of them. Kindred discovers that all his fears are groundless, since Viet Nam is far behind and nobody really cares any more. However, the organization which was started by men who claim him as their hero for not staying to fight a war they don’t believe in, turns out to have dangerous ramifications. In trying to understand what it’s all about and what really happened to his friend, he learns something about himself, reunites with his father, and finally returns to Canada with his lover, relieved of the psychological burden he has carried for thirty years. The author is a fine writer and this is an engrossing story in need of a line editor.
Reviewed June 2011 by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
HENDRICKS, JUDITH RYAN
HarperCollins PublishersISBN 0-06-050347-5
Once in awhile I read a book and feel a welling up of envy – “I wish I’d written that” – that kind of admiration and regret. This book is a perfect example of a fascinating story, well-plotted, with excellent writing and great editing. Set in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, the author captures the flavor of our state in language, customs, food, and locale. The story relates the problems built into the life of Avery James, a young woman left as a baby in a Colorado foundling home. At thirteen she runs away when the only two friends she has in the home are taken away, one by adoption, and the other by death. Fortunately for her, she is taken in by an old woman who lives outside a small town in New Mexico which she has reached by hitchhiking. She lives with her for several years, completing high school at the old woman’s insistence, and learning hard work and the use of herbal remedies. She falls in love with a fellow student, but believes his parents would never accept her because of her background. Her mentor/guardian dies, so again Avery runs away, this time to Albuquerque. Here she makes friends with a waitress with whom she shares living quarters for several years while waitressing and taking college courses. They subsequently move together to Santa Fe. It is in Santa Fe that Avery finally finds information about the mother she never knew. In the process of seeking her mother, she finds out much about herself and is finally able to accept the love of others without pushing them away. An outstanding book.
9/09 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From The Eye of An Eagle
HENDRICKS, JUDITH RYAN
The Laws of Harmony
Harper Paperback, ISBN: 978-0061687365
The Laws of Harmony relates the story of Soleil “Sunny” Cooper, a woman who grew up in a hippie commune in northern New Mexico. She is at once ashamed of her past, yet unable to let it go. When her live-in boyfriend is presumed dead and the truth of his vagaries is revealed, Sunny sets out on a journey to the farthest place she can travel without having to fly over the ocean. Along the way she learns many things about herself and others that were previously hidden and discovers another side to her own beliefs and desires. She finally settles on an island off the coast of Washington state and there begins a new life and a new journey that shows her how to blend the past with the future. Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. It is one of the few books I’ve read in recent years that made me wish the ending would never come. Ms. Hendricks drew me in with her believable characters and had me thinking it was work of nonfiction before I realized that it was, indeed, a novel. She skillfully interweaves strong characters with incredible situations and familiar places and makes it seem as if the reader was invited into her home for afternoon tea and a tale told next to a roaring fire on a cold New Mexico night. Like Steel Magnolias is to the world of chick flicks, The Laws of Harmony is to the literary world aimed at female readers. It is a wonderful diary of one woman’s journey into self-discovery and dealing with the cards that life has dealt her. This book is definitely worthy of a place of honor on the “keeper shelf”. Great job, Ms. Hendricks, and I look forward to reading more of your insightful works.
7/09 Reviewed by Candace Moorehouse, author of Suspicion of Love
Casa de Snapdragon Publishing LLCISBN 978-0-9845681-0-9 This is an historical novel about how an ex-con and his three sons robbed the gold being shipped on the railroad with no one being able to figure how the gold was disappearing until the Pinkerton Agency sent Thaddeus Smith to investigate. Set in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, it tells an engrossing tale as to just how the thievery was accomplished from a locked baggage car on a moving train. Mr. Hovis can devise an interesting plot in each of his books that leaves the reader wondering if such a thing really happened or if he made it up out of whole cloth. Much of the information in the book is part of actual history, such as the continuous day-and-night working of the mines in the mountains of the area, relating how they operated and how many men were killed in the process. Sidelights of gambling and opium dens, bordellos and respectable parts of town, also historically accurate, give color to the story, along with a romantic twist. With only minor typos and a couple of character names misplaced, the book presents a good appearance. I am a fan of historical novels, and this is a good one.
Reviewed March 2011 by Lola R. Eagle, author and poet
The Stones Speak
Atelier Books Ltd.ISBN 978-0-9818096-7-0
2009 New Mexico Book Awards Finalist
Naomi Rosen, a 67-year-old professor, has made some bad decisions in her life which have ultimately led her to work with disadvantaged youth. Some of those decisions are held back from the reader for so long that it is hard to tell just what they were and how they affected her life.
However, her first really bad decision, we are told, was to go to Europe as a young woman with a stranger who offered her a job traveling with him to teach folk dancing. She stays with him even though he uses her for his own gratification, until she finally gets the courage to break away and go off on her own. With little money or knowledge of the languages in the countries she visits, she nevertheless is determined to see Europe. She often takes up with strange men who then, not surprisingly, take her for a sex object. One of her escapades involves her with Franco’s police and she is deported.
Forty years later we find her as a mature, successful career woman. What we aren’t told are the secrets she continues to carry into adulthood. Characters that we take to be of some significance are introduced into the narrative, but are offhandedly dropped when the theme of the story is revealed. Does the situation have a bearing on her relationships with her long-lost son, her childhood friend, and her new beau? Apparently so, although the reader is left to work that out for herself. A lot of secrets in a person’s past can be repressed as they mature, but in fiction the reader wants to know what has happened in the protagonist’s life that affects the way they live and think. To hide it all from the reader leaves us wondering. Some of Naomi’s secrets and past experiences are only hinted at, so we must guess why she and the people in her life act as they do.
9/09 Reviewed by Lola R. Eagle, author of From the Eye of an Eagle
A Woman Walking
Atalier Books, ISBN 978-097-0660-3290
Many folk tales within a folk tale—that is the best description of A Woman Walking. The main character, Ninan, discovers right before her parents’ death that she has inherited her grandfather’s book of tales as well as the responsibility to wander the world telling his stories. She is told that she cannot refuse this task for there is no one else in the family who has been given the gift of storytelling. At first she rebels, questioning why she should be deprived of a normal life, married to a man who loves her, free to bear and raise his children. As her parents continue to insist, she reluctantly gives in to their wishes and begins her travels, but finds she cannot tell the stories from her grandfather’s book. All the stories she tells come from within her as if she is compelled to tell her own stories. Ninan travels far stopping at villages and towns to tell tales, but, each time she stops, she makes friends and wonders again why she must spend her life alone. “Is storytelling enough to fill my life? Will I never be able to put down roots and have a normal life?” are questions she asks herself again and again. When Ninan meets a man who says he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life traveling with her, she makes a decision that shows she accepts her own identity as a storyteller and as a woman. All the folktales that Ninan tells are very well written, almost lyrical in fact. The idea of a person having to take on a life of a traveler to tell stories might be a little hard to accept in a modern novel, but in a folk tale, reality is whatever the author wants to make it. This book is an enjoyable read.
10/08 Reviewed by Mary Lombardo, writer
Atelier Books Ltd. Co., ISBN 978-0970663276
For author Nancy King, catastrophic illness became a watershed dividing her life into a time before and after she learned to ask for help when she needed it. Using her experience with leukemia, she crafted Morning Light, the story of a journey from weakness to strength, from dependence to interdependence. As a very young woman the story’s main character, Anna Baum faces a leukemia diagnosis alone. Her verbally abusive mother has abandoned her. Her father, who sexually molested her, has died, and Anna has divorced the husband who hit her. Amidst feelings of absolute friendlessness, she remembers Boonah, a character from Australian mythology who has lived in her heart since childhood, and whom she has forgotten until now. Boonah used to tell her stories. Now he does again until Anna comes to not only understand the blackest parts of her life, but also the people who have helped her through them, and the people who will continue to help her in times to come. Nancy King puts Anna’s tale together as one might a jigsaw puzzle. Flashes of her memory connect to her present. Multiple points of view show the reader the minds and hearts of people who influence Anna for good or bad. The resulting story is a reverse of the old movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Instead of the main character realizing the influence she’s had on others, she gets to discover and be thankful for the influences people have had on her. In Morning Light, Ms. King strikes a balance between the darkness of abuse and major illness, and lightness of discovering life’s unexpected joys. The story is for the person who’s ready to take on the tough parts of growth and coming of age. Ms. King handles the craft of writing with style. Shifts in character point of view work well, once the reader adjusts to them. The blend of family stories that Anna recalls, traditional tales that Boonah tells, and fictional narrative make the book intriguing. So does the list of unanswered questions at the end. Will Anna develop some kind of relationship with her mother? What about her live-in helper, Paulus? Morning Light stops before we know, giving the story a real life ending. People wonder all the time what ever happened to someone they’ve known. The reader muses the same way on Anna Baum.
11/08 Reviewed by Kate Harrington, writer
An Artful Deception
Lady Katherine wants no part of marriage to Phillip, to whom she has been pledged since childhood. But as her carriage takes her farther and farther from her girlhood home, she realizes she must either accept Phillip as her husband, or Cedric, the cousin she detests
When the carriage turns over on a rough road and her maid dies, Lady Katherine conceives a plan to avoid both Phillip and Cedric. She will pose as the maid until she can find her own husband But Phillip turns out to be handsome and much kinder than the bullyboy she remembers. Now what?
The absolutely delightful romance, An Artful Deception of course, by Farmington author Karen Cogan, published by Avalon Books. The story twists and turns as romances do, while Lady Katherine struggles to clear up the misunderstanding she has created. With the help of a jealous servant, Cedric finds her and closes in. Phillip becomes furious when he discovers her true identity and threatens to let Cedric have her. Predictably, Lady Katharine straightens out her mess, as good romance heroines do, but the fun of An Artful Deception comes from watching her do it. Karen Cogan has an easy-to-read style and a good sense of pacing. She balances action with just the right amount of description and dialog. An Artful Deception is a light, cheerful, and totally fun read. It’s great for a winter night by the fire, or a warm beach in some mid-February vacation spot.