Man with the Sand Dollar Face, by Sharon CassanoLochman, is a detective-crime thriller novel. The story is centered on Harriet Crumford, who at times also goes by Hattie or Henrietta. She is a 62-year-old woman working as a secretary for a private detective in Crescent City — New Orleans. Shortly into the book an incident takes place, and the action picks up quickly. The book seems to be a mix of feminist and hardboiled noir, and though it struggles in a few places, it reaches a sound level of quality for both.
Harriet Crumford does not seem like a heroic character, at least not in the classical sense of the hero’s story. She is 62-years-old in the story, but little is given about her other than her being a widow. In classic heroic tales, the central character often pushes away from the table — unwilling to take up the heroic cause — due to more pressing, mundane tasks. Eventually, the hero comes to his (frequently it is a ‘his’) senses and begins the hero’s journey. In some ways, this novel is a subversion of the traditional heroic arc — Harriet was the dutiful, longsuffering, strong, silent wife. This provides a strong contrast against her boss, Wallace Woodard, who is philandering to the point that Harriet cannot keep straight who the girlfriend is and who the wife is. Harriet is so given over to subservience, and to old values, that she does not even have a valid driver’s license. Up to the point of this story, she had forsaken the hero’s call for all her life, and once she takes it up, she looks back on her past with pain and sorrow. She then finds within herself, with some assistance, the necessary energy to pursue a mystery to its conclusion. In this way, the text provides those feminist elements through Harriet’s newfound internal strengths.
CassanoLochman attempts to make the novel feel like an old, hardboiled detective novel so much that it strains credulity. The writing, at expertly evokes hard rain, melancholy, brooding, existential pain and anguish typical of hardboiled noir, but then makes a sharp right turn into the “iced coffee with whipped cream and pink sprinkles.” In terms of other characteristics of hardboiled stories, this one fits many of them, but they do sometimes feel forced. In either case, fans of crime fiction will be hard pressed to put the book down.
Overall, the book is certainly a strong read, and contains plenty of action and is recommended. Harriet is an excellent character, not obviously heroic, but willing to take risks. Man with the Sand Dollar Face seems intended for adult audiences, but it is not beyond the reach of younger adults who have an interest in this sort of literature. The book does contain some sexual content (nothing too graphic), definite alcohol and drug use, and more than a little violence.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B077Y4T192
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
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Douglas Wells’ new book, How We End Up, seeks to become even more intricate and complex then his debut book, The Secret of all Secrets. The reader follows three main characters as their lives come together, only to drift apart and come back together after 25 years. Jackson Levee is an ambitious college instructor when he manages to be in the right place at the right time and saves twin girls from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. He goes on to write a poem about the event, which brings him acclaim and success. Hadley and Haley, the twins go on to become beautiful women. All three of them are then brought on their heels through various events and it is after two and half decades they meet again to suffer a devastating event together and discover who and what they are as human persons.
At this point, readers familiar with Wells’ more philosophically bent, literary stories and How We End Up is no exception. What has become more refined, is Wells style with incorporating all of these events into a cohesive story. His previous work seemed to have a lot going on, and while it still achieved a particular effect, it wasn’t as polished as this story. In some ways, he uses the layman’s philosophy to a decent effect, but it becomes even more pronounced as the themes of self-identity, purpose and life’s meaning takes center stage.
As much as this book is about Jackson, Haley, and Hadley, it is more about life and what happens to a person over the course of the years. Some readers may have mileage that may vary with this theme, but I believe it makes the novel resonate that much better. In fact, Wells’ inclusion of philosophy serves the novel all the better for serving this theme and given what he has written before he wants to focus on the human condition. We all ask the big questions and reflect on how our lives may have been formed otherwise, but with the intersection of these three lives, it brings this reality to the forefront.
All in all, Wells presents a literary novel that brings all the best sort of introspection and soul gazing that can be given in a reader’s experience. Fans of such fiction will be pleased with this, as are any who enjoy personal intimate stories that are full to the brim with drama. Students of philosophy will appreciate the small tributes and tid bits here and there as well.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B079VCWS3S
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A Chronicle of Rebirth: The Magus is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a romance, fantasy, and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
The Fantasy genre crossing with the romance genre was deliberate. I had always felt as though there could be more books with those two genres mixing. As for the suspense aspect, it was entirely organic. Originally, the project was started by me and then my husband and co-author James joined me. We had never thought of our writing as suspense, but we are happy that we achieved that with our story.
Nelina and the Magus are both interesting and well developed characters. What was your inspiration for their characters and their relationship?
The characters were developed slowly over the years. My Husband developed the character Ru’ark while playing Dungeons & Dragons and kept the character through his years of gaming. Nelina developed as a mix of several of the characters I have played over the years. Their relationship is in part a reflection of the relationship my Husband and I have together. We always love each other and have one another’s back. However, unfortunately neither of us have any magical smoke ability. One other correlation to Nelina and Ru’ark is how fast they fell in love. My husband and I met because I read his poetry online. After talking on the phone, he hopped on a Greyhound bus a few days later and travelled from Maine to Illinois to meet me. The moment he stepped off the bus, he swept me off my feet and kissed me before even saying hello. Well, last August 4th 2017 was our 11 year wedding anniversary, so 12 years in total we’ve been together.
What was the writing process like for the two of you working as a team? How do you toss around ideas and decide on what goes in the story?
Our story goes through a basic brainstorming process, which tends to involve Dunkin Donuts and coffee. At first, as we toss ideas back and forth sort of sketching out the outline for the book, then depending on what chapters call to one of us, that person will write the rough draft. From there we pass the it back and forth, adding things and removing parts until we are both happy with the finished product. The ideas that tend to stick are the ones that fit the story most. We have a simple credo that we write by- it’s all about the story. If either one of us feels that a part of the draft doesn’t serve the story as a whole, then it gets nixed.
This is book one in the series. Where does book two take readers and when will it be available?
In Book two, the readers will learn that Nelina’s promised powers at the end of book one are not quite what the Magus expected them to be. Also, they will be learning what is happening back in Danthamore with the Queen ruling her kingdom without the Magus exercising his influence. Plus, readers will find out what has become of Elian, Adar, and Claire. Malark and the Outlander will definitely be making an appearance in the second book as they journey out of the Waste. I’d love to be able to give a solid date to book two’s release, but I simply don’t have one to give other than in 2018. What I can say is that the book is worked on every single day, barring emergencies and natural disasters. So far, we are half way done with the 1st draft.
Posted in Interviews
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At 28, it’s bad to be single. After four years of relationship struggles, Cat is ready to try anything.
That’s when her friend tells her about her class’ Dear Santa letters. One little boy asked for a new mommy, and she suggests Cat meets the kid’s dad, just to see where things go. Cat figures it can’t hurt…until she meets a stranger in the midst of a car accident. The man is handsome with a sad look in his eyes. He still wears a wedding band and she’s not sure his heart’s available, even if he makes her heart race. But, maybe he’s a widower? Cat wonders if she should resign herself to being an old maid, or whether she could possibly be the answer to a little boy’s Christmas wish, unless there’s a third option – a future with the stranger.
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Walking Over Eggshells: Surviving Mental Abuse by Lucinda Clarke is an autobiography where she has changed all the names to protect the innocent and guilty. The novel is about Lucinda’s life and how she survived growing up and living with mental abuse. Lucinda’s mom had narcissistic personality disorder, and this impacted her entire life. She uses this novel to show that despite growing up with this abuse she still lived a life full of adventure, had a family and eventually had a successful career. You will laugh at some of the stories, cry at others, and be outright shocked by many and wonder how this girl survived to write this. Through it all Lucinda was able to grow and keep up with the times, she was born in the 1950’s and has had to adapt with a drastically changing society while continuing to endure the mental abuse of her mother at every turn even into her adult years.
The beginning chapters of the book tell of how Lucinda’s parents met and the eventual death of her father when she was only two. From there we are introduced to the never-ending criticism, punishments, and agony that Lucinda as a child endured. It is heartbreaking reading her words begging for a cuddle or a word of love and compassion from the women that called herself her mother. As a teen, the typical back and forth arguments continued, the younger generation is ungrateful, they need to do their part, so selfish, these are common themes even today we hear about the millennials. With Lucinda though, it is deeper, her mother really did expect her to do everything for her, and even when she did it was never good enough. The emotional struggle and need for love and acceptance is one that many readers can relate to, those that live with constant mental abuse will relate to Lucinda and see how she coped with the abuse while understanding why she continues to have a relationship with her mother.
Once Lucinda meets and marries Jeremy her life adventures take off. They never stay in one place long, always moving from one job to the next, involving everything from traveling encyclopedia sales to sketchy engineering jobs in South Africa. In a way Lucinda traded one form of abuse for another, she loves Jeremy but he takes advantage of her and plays on her need to be loved. This is the part of the story where you read and think ‘is this real?’ how can one person put up with so much? That, I think, is the real story behind this book. You can survive though mental abuse even when that abuse spans the majority of your life.
Throughout the book, Lucinda finds a way to make the best of her situation. She is willing to work be it animal breeding, filling, cleaning hotel rooms or writing. She never gave up no matter where she lived or what was going on with her and Jeremy, or her children, or her mother, she pushed forward and didn’t just survive the abuse, she made something of her life that she is proud of and even enjoyed at times. It is emotional, and at times hard to read; but Lucinda will make you believe anything is possible to overcome with the right mindset.
Pages: 239 | ASIN: B00E8HSNDW
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Max is the story of one genius little boy and the tumultuous turns his life takes beginning at the age of eight. What was your inspiration for this story and how did it change as you wrote?
My inspiration for this book began with an previous book I wrote. Black Overalls. Max was introduced in that book. That book has already been reviewed by Literary Titan, and received four stars and a Silver Award. This book is very much about Max, but as the story evolved it also became very much about Sheldon, Charlie and MaryAnn.
Sheldon is a genius at age eight who experiences multiple losses and trials as he tackles the challenges of adulthood while striving to become a champion chess player. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?
Although being a genius is a tremendous asset, it also creates some very real difficulties for a young boy. Since all his classmates are several years older, Sheldon finds it difficult to form friendships. He is more interested in being a normal kid, than being a genius. With the death of his father, he is left with little male influence in his life. His mother, Max and Charlie become his whole world.
Max is an exceptional dog in his own right and plays a vital role in impacting the lives of multiple people. Have you ever had a pet that impacted your life as greatly? What was your inspiration for Max?
The picture on the cover of the book is actually of my dog, Max. He died a few years ago at the age of sixteen. I have always been a dog lover, and have owned several. Max was probably my favorite. I have two dogs now, Ozzie and Cyrus. They are mentioned in another of my books.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have written three books so far. Two of them you have already reviewed. The other book, The Valley Country Club, will be submitted for review soon. I am not currently writing a new story, but I have a few ideas that I am considering.
Posted in Interviews
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Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).
Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.
Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.
As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.
As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.
This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.
This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.
Pages: 184 | ASIN: B017UZDW02
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The Truth and The Serpent written by J. Rutledge is a fantastic work of fiction that explores an alternate creation story than what we’ve been told. Instead of focusing on the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden, this book focuses on the Serpent. The creature known as temptation and sin.
The book shows the Serpent’s side of the story as a present day man. I found this to be a very interesting concept for the book, as this was a story that I’ve known since childhood and had blindly accepted that the serpent was bad.
I really enjoyed the wit of the serpent. And the detail with which his character is developed is superb. If I had to think about what the serpent was like in the Bible, the description in this book would’ve nailed it. The journey that the serpent goes on is a thrilling adventure as well.
I really liked the language of the book although Sometimes The Capitals On Words Like Time took a bit of getting used to. Apart from that, the way the book was easy to read and the prose flowed naturally.
I knew going into this book that it would be heavy on the religion, but I didn’t expect it to be as heavy handed in it’s delivery. It was clear from the start that the author had done his research. Everything was thoroughly examined and fit it’s backstory nicely. I just felt that there was an overabundance of biblical references at times.
This book is very well written. The first line had me melting into the sunset the author painted with his words. That’s why, despite the heavy biblical tones, I was able to finish it. The strength of his writing and the imagery surrounding his words and concepts got me through it.
I really related to all of the characters and what they went through. It was clear that this was done on purpose so I could get the lessons that I was being taught, which wasn’t something that I expected from a work of fiction, but it’s what happened anyway. My curiosity was piqued often and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I had to go back and re-read pages as I was going through and consuming the information so quickly. That’s how you know you’re onto a winner.
Pages: 499 | ASIN: B01N7SVJO6
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I really enjoyed the bond that Ace and Zeke had in your book A Dangerous Discovery. What was the inspiration for their relationship?
Actually, it is the banter and relationship I have with my father. That is what really inspired me to make these two characters more than just friends.
There are some thrilling twists in this novel. Did these happen organically while writing or were they mapped out?
I outline each chapter with how I want it to proceed and set up a story board with notes, but so many times the story takes on a life of its own and that is what happened here. I had the concept and the secret, but as I investigated and researched a lot of the incidents that occurred in South America, the story grew darker and darker. I actually let some things out because I thought it may be too dark.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on Book 2 of this series, as well as another fiction novel. Book 2 is tentatively set to be on the shelves in August of 2018. Book 2 is another Vatican conspiracy that I discovered when I was researching Book 1 and I think people will enjoy it.
Can Ace and Zeke survive the discovery of a lifetime: a secret the Vatican will stop at nothing to protect?
Marion (Ace) Acevedo grew up on the streets as a Latin American. The things he had to do to survive as a child, no one should have to do, but a chance encounter changed his life.
Now he is the face of an international corporation. Wealth, social standing and travel is what his life is all about. He loves what he does, and with the guiding hand of Ezekiel (Zeke) Smith, his mentor and friend, his life cannot get much better.
Unbeknownst to Ace and Zeke, the acquisition of a new company in Peru holds a secret the Vatican does not want discovered. Special agents from the Holy See will do anything to stop this secret from being released.
As Ace gets closer to uncovering this dangerous secret, he must use every skill he was taught from the streets and from his mentor. But, even with an unknown stranger looking out for him, Ace may lose it all, including his life.
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