Thursday, October 19, 2017

King Daniel: Gasparilla King of the Pirates by Susan Wolf Johnson

King Daniel: Gasparilla King of the PiratesKing Daniel: Gasparilla King of the Pirates by Susan Wolf Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

King Daniel: Gasparilla King of the Pirates by Susan Wolf Johnson won a (2017) CIPA EVVY Merit Award in historical fiction. My own book, Hopatcong Vision Quest was also a winner, which is how I found this novel. It's a wonderful read, with a complex plot centered on multiple generations of the Westcott family, a wealthy family in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. This is the type of book I love to read on my Kindle, because I can easily search back to where characters were first introduced. Johnson provides a copy of the Wetcott Family Tree in the front of the book, which also helped me keep track.

The Westcott's have their secrets. Discovering what they are makes for a fascinating plot. We have the younger generation represented primarily by Becca, who is trying to break free of the family tradition with a New York singing career, but encounters multiple problems, including a club owner whose interests are not focused on Becca's voice. Her problems are enough to send her back to the Tampa area for help. There's also Becca's grandfather, Daniel, the title character, whose problems are on an entirely different level than hers. Much of this story is about where Daniel is and the character flaws that put him there.

In addition to an intriguing story, the novel provides an introduction to aspects of the Tampa culture I knew nothing about. The region has a children's festival, a music festival, a film festival, an art festival and more, all, as stated on the visit Tampa Bay website: “Named for legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, who terrorized the coastal waters of West Florida during the 18th and early 19th centuries.” Knowing this makes the story of Daniel's election as “Gasparilla King of the Pirates” even more important.

King Daniel is another great read!

Steve Lindahl author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy   Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker is a captivating crime novel with plenty of plot twists. Two young girls went missing three years before the story begins. In the beginning of the book, the younger girl, Cass Tanner, who is now eighteen, has returned and is determined to find her sister. The detective and the psychologist (Dr. Abby Winter), who both worked on the case originally, are back. Abby had a few theories about the family that weren't followed up the first time. She's determined to go down those paths this time.

Cass explains how she and Emma were held for the entire time on an island off the coast of Maine. Although she escaped and made her way back to her family, she offers very few clues as to the location of the island and the couple who held her captive. Meanwhile, Abby tries to locate the island by finding out what she can through interviews with Cass, hoping the young woman will reveal something she didn't realize is important. At the same time, Abby tries to discover facts about the home life that she believes drove the girls away.

What makes this story unique is the author's focus on the mental illness: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Abby's mother had this disorder and she sees similar signs with Cass' mother. It was fascinating to learn more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but there were also times when Ms. Walker explained a little too much and the descriptions of the illness seemed intrusive.

Steve Lindahl author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Never Enough Flamingos by Janelle Diller

Never Enough FlamingosNever Enough Flamingos by Janelle Diller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second of the 2017 CIPA Evvy award winning novels I chose to read is Never Enough Flamingos by Janelle Diller. It shared the first place award in historical fiction with The Other Side of Him. (My book, Hopatcong Vision Quest won a merit award in the same competition.)

Never Enough Flamingos is a fascinating, well-written novel, set in a Mennonite community in Kansas during the Depression. In the introduction Diller describes Mennonites in the following way:

In a manner of speaking, Mennonites and Amish are kissing cousins, but even that's a risky description since Amish tend not to kiss anyone but other Amish.

The introduction is interesting, especially for readers like me, who know very little about the history of Mennonites. Don't skip it.

Since the Mennonites are a highly religious group, I expected they would be less susceptible to the temptations of day to day life, but this is the depression, there hasn't been rain for way too long, and these are farmers. It's a hard time to live through and hard times not only lead people to make questionable decisions, but they also present other people with opportunities to take advantage.

The title Never Enough Flamingos seemed strange at first, until Cat (the narrator) described her mom as ...a flamingo in a sea of turkeys... and it became clear that flamingos are the people who rise above the failings of the general population, even in hard times. The story is about those people as well as the people who give in to temptation.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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