Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Book Whisperer Reviews an Oklahoma Author: Hoklotubbe


Sara Sue Hoklotubbe, author of The American Café, is a Cherokee tribal citizen who grew up at Lake Eucha, see picture below, in northeast Oklahoma. Her mystery series stars Sadie Walela as an amateur sleuth. Hoklotubbe has published four novels in the series: Deception on All Counts, The American Café, Sinking Suspicions, and Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch.


The stories all feature the northeast Oklahoma landscape and include Native American traditions and wisdom. Hoklotubbe includes an exploration of “myths, passions and fears of modern-day Cherokees,” according to Margaret Coel, author of the Wind River mystery series.

Carolyn Hart, fellow Oklahoma author, gives “five stars to The American Café, a riveting and lyrical novel. Sara Hoklotubbe draws on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage to create an absorbing tale with an appealing protagonist.”

Those words of praise are true about Hoklotubbe calling on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage. Sadie Walela is Cherokee and cares deeply about her heritage. In The American Café, Emma Singer returns to her hometown of Liberty, OK, after living in Carthage, MO, for years. She has returned to travel with her sister Goldie Ray who has sold her Liberty Café to Sadie. Sadie changes the name of the café to The American Café.

Unfortunately, shortly before Emma’s arrival, someone shot and killed Goldie as she sat on her back porch enjoying her morning coffee. Goldie’s death represents only one angle in The American Café mystery. Other avenues to pursue include Emma’s adopted daughter Rosalee who wants to know who her biological parents are and whether Pearl Mobley is both Goldie’s killer and Rosalee’s mother.

The story continues with more intrigue. Police chief George Stump, one of only two police officers in Liberty, appears to be working with a female bank employee to embezzle money from the bank. Newly hired second-in-command is officer Lance Smith who is methodical and careful in his policing.

With the many story lines, The American Café does not focus on one problem to be solved. Readers quickly learn of Goldie’s death by a mysterious shooter. Then Emma shows up with her prejudice against Native Americans and her insensitive comments to one and all about Native Americans. That part seems rather heavy-handed in pointing out prejudice. Police Chief Stump is corrupt and mean. Renegades are producing meth in the woods and possibly growing marijuana. Finally, Red, a Creek Indian, turns up in various situations, frequently helping Sadie.

The American Café contains some funny moments. Sadie does not know when she buys the café that Goldie has given out keys to a number of local residents, mostly men. They show up at the restaurant and start making coffee even before she is ready to open officially. Sadie learns that Goldie allowed the men to come earlier than she arrived; they would make coffee and drink it, leaving their money on the counter for Goldie when she arrived.

Sadie is supposed to be the amateur sleuth; in my mind, however, she does less to solve the crimes than others. She does act as a catalyst bringing people and ideas together so that the crimes are exposed and criminals caught.

Hoklotubbe maintains a Web site at this link:




The Book Whisperer Reviews a Vegetarian Cookbook: A Delight


In reading about books for book club selections, I discovered an article on cookbooks. Now, of course, I do not remember the name of the article or how I located it. Be that as it may, I do remember one of the books: The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods by Erin Gleeson.

Following the publication of The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods in 2014, Gleeson published The Forest Feast for Kids: Colorful Vegetarian Recipes That Are Simple to Make and The Forest Feast Gatherings: Simple Vegetarian Meals for Hosting Friends & Family. Each book is lavishly illustrated with drawings and stunning photographs.

Gleeson’s blog,, is an excellent resource and includes pictures, recipes, and videos. One of the brief videos I particularly liked is, how to make an onion tart. The simple recipe uses few ingredients and can be made ahead and served at room temperature or hot out of the oven.

Not only do beautiful photographs accompany the recipes, Gleeson also includes hand-drawn illustrations. There is no way to describe the books but simply as visually stunning. The recipes are simple. For example, the polka dot focaccia bread requires yeast, sugar, honey, egg, salt, and vegetable oil. Once the dough has risen, press grapes and cherry tomatoes into the dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Let rise a thirty minutes and bake.


The asparagus tart is equally simple: defrosted puff pastry, soft cheese, beaten egg, raw asparagus, pine nuts, capers, garlic powder, dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper.


Other recipes are equally simple and appetizing.

The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods will make a useful and beautiful addition to any cookbook collection.

The Book Whisperer’s Latest Reviews


Haunting is not a word I use lightly or in regard to many books I read and review. Lately, though, I have read three books which I would call haunting: The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, and The End We Start From by Megan Hunter.

Look for the Book Whisperer’s recent review of The Light of the Fireflies. This review will cover both The Shawl and The End We Start From. All three novels create a sense of wonder and have left me still thinking about each one for different reasons.

Cynthia Ozick’s short story “The Shawl” and her novella Rosa, about Rosa, her infant daughter Magda, and her niece Stella, are both contained in slim volume titled The Shawl. Readers should start with “The Shawl” in order to learn about all three characters. They are Polish and are on a death march to a concentration camp.

Rosa keeps the infant Magda wrapped in her shawl and hidden away from the world. Stella, Rosa’s niece, is fourteen. The three females have nothing except each other. In the concentration camp, Magda, now walking, wanders away from Rosa and is killed by a soldier. The story is haunting and sad.

“The Shawl” and Rosa, the novella, are both enigmatic. Readers will have difficulty establishing a timeline for the events. Time becomes irrelevant to those in a concentration camp. In Rosa, we find Rosa and Stella both living in the US. Stella is in NYC, but Rosa, after destroying her store in NYC, flees to Miami. Stella supports Rosa grudgingly and frequently demands that Rosa return to NY.

The Shawl, both stories, is about loss, deprivation, anger, war, injustice, and poverty. I did not enjoy reading either story, but they both continue to stay in my mind, causing me to think about Rosa, Magda, and Stella as well as others like them who endured such horror that returning to live a normal life is almost impossible.

Look for the complete short story, “The Shawl,” at this link:

The Jewish Virtual Library,, provides a biography of Cynthia Ozick. The author of that article calls “The Shawl,” “two thousand words of finely honed impressionism, a rendering in miniature of the Holocaust in all its horror.”

Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a new book, published in 2017. Reviewers write “utterly brilliant,” “remarkable,” “beautifully spare and haunting,” “I was moved, terrified, uplifted – sometimes all three at once,” “extraordinary….I read it in one sitting,” and “a stunning tale…striking and frighteningly real.”

I purchased The End We Start From at Waterstones Bookshop in London near the Millennium Gloucester Hotel where I stayed on my first-ever trip to London. I had looked at the book as I entered the store; then a clerk in the store recommended it by saying, “After I read The End We Start From, I cannot get the story out of my mind. I continue to think about it.” That was enough to persuade me to buy the book.

Benedict Cumberbatch has been so taken with The End We Start From that his company SunnyMarch along with hera Pictures has purchased the rights to the book in order to make a feature film. Read about the coming film adaptation at this link:

As I wrote earlier, haunting is the word that keeps coming to my mind about Hunter’s debut novel. The End We Start From falls into the Cli-Fi, climate fiction, category. Dan Bloom coined the term, Cli-Fi, to resemble Sci-Fi, in the late 2000s. Bloom maintains a comprehensive Web site on cli-fi:

While Bloom gave climate fiction its name in the late 2000s, such fiction has been in existence much longer. Readers will be familiar with Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain, and Ian McEwan’s Solar. The Chicago Review of Books,, describes other books in the Cli-Fi genre with recommendations from Dan Bloom.

At BookRiot, Emily Martin’s article “What is Cli-Fi? A Beginner’s Guide to Climate Fiction” provides readers with more information and additional titles. Find that article at this link:

Hunter picks up the genre in current times with a young woman ready to give birth to her first child when a devastating flood hits London. Hunter uses only initials to identify the characters. The story begins:

“I am hours from giving birth, from the event I thought would never happen to me, and R [her husband] has gone up a mountain.

When I text him, he sends his friend S to look after me, and starts down the mountain.

“S is scared, and has brought J.

“J is also scared, and has brought beer.”

The story is written with much white space between passages. That white space heightens the anticipation and the uncertainty as the young mother gives birth to a son, Z, a child she thought she would never have.

Then the flood waters take over, leaving the young family without a home and put into the same predicament as thousands of others who have lost homes and businesses to the flood waters. From there, Hunter takes the readers through more and more loss as well as separation of the young couple.

The mother holds on to Z and hopes she will find R again. Meanwhile, Z continues to grow as he would in any other circumstance. Cumberbatch calls The End We Start From “a stunning tale of motherhood.” It is a story of survival and a fight to be reunited as a family.

The story will haunt and puzzle readers. It is not a perfect novel; still, it raises questions and causes the readers to think. Isn’t that enough sometimes?

In reading all three of these books recently, I see the various ways authors tackle hard subjects. They may not always hit the mark perfectly, but they do provide much fodder for thought and introspection. Paul Pen’s The Light of the Fireflies, Cynthia Ozick’s The Shawl, and Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From will certainly give readers pause.



The Book Whisperer is Back!



On an eight-hour flight from London to Chicago, the Book Whisperer had plenty of time to read. The cabin was dark and the overhead light to my seat stood out too much for me to read a regular book, so I turned to the Kindle to read without disturbing others around me.

A few weeks ago, Amazon offered several international e-books free to download. They were all free, so I downloaded most of them. One of those books was The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen, a Spanish author. Knowing nothing about the book except that I had a long time to fill, I started reading.

The book begins: “For his whole life, the boy has lived underground, in a basement with his parents, grandmother, sister, and brother. Before he was born, his family was disfigured by a fire. His sister wears a white mask to cover her burns.” That is an intriguing start.

Questions immediately came to my mind. Why does the family live in the basement? How do they have electricity and water? How do they get food? What caused the fire?

This dark story explores the lengths one family goes to in order to protect a mentally ill child. Because of the dark tones, I won’t say that readers will enjoy the story. It is a story of many questions. The unnamed boy lives with his mother, father, grandmother, sister, and brother.

The boy was born in the basement, so he knows no other life. At ten, he begins to question what his parents and grandmother have always told him. His sister provides devious twists with her stories to the boy and her encouragement to escape the basement.

Paul Pen is a journalist and scriptwriter. His first novel The Warning is being made into a movie in Hollywood. Amazon’s review of Pen’s writing includes this statement: “Prepare to be shocked, charmed, touched, horrified. Prepare for darkness and light. Love and terror.” I would agree on all points.


As the flight continued, I needed another book, so I turned to Linda S. Browning who wrote The Daredevil featuring two amateur sleuths: Leslie Barrett and Belinda Honeycutt. Leslie is a retired social worker and Belinda is a retired nurse. The two are both widows living in a retirement community in middle Tennessee. Leslie and Belinda along with Leslie’s eight-pound dog, Riff-Raff are on the case—any case!

The Daredevil is the first in a series with Leslie and Belinda. Leslie thinks of wild scenarios and theories. Belinda’s job is to keep Leslie in line and to be ever-present in case of danger. The two women become involved in the disappearance of a college-age woman whose step-grandmother recently died. The girl had come to the funeral, but she does not show up at her university. Leslie is convinced a man she saw at the funeral has kidnapped the girl.

Leslie convinces Belinda they must find the girl, so they begin with a surveillance of the funeral home and cemetery. Naturally, things do not go as planned. Are the two in danger?

The book is a quick read and filled with side incidents such as a trip to the discount store which provides the two sleuths with night-vision glasses for their surveillance of the cemetery in the dark of night. Their theories are incorrect about the kidnapping, but they do catch a thief.

For light-hearted fun, readers cannot go wrong with Leslie and Belinda.

An added bonus with The Daredevil is a short story also starring Leslie and Belinda: “No Wake.” The title refers to the lake by the retirement apartments where Leslie and Belinda live in middle Tennessee. Residents who boat on the lake must not create a wake. When Arthur, the most persistent of the residents in keeping the “no wake” rule suddenly goes missing. The residents think he has gone to his daughter’s as usual for a holiday.

Then a body is discovered in the lake by the apartment complex. Enter Leslie and Belinda! They are determined to discover what has happened to Arthur. The short story provides a good introduction to Leslie and Belinda.

Linda S. Browning retired from working for the State of Michigan in the Department of Mental Health. After moving to Tennessee, she became a social worker. In retirement, she writes the Leslie and Belinda series and Parlor Game Mysteries.




The Book Whisperer Discovers a Juvenile Mystery: GREAT Fun!


The Book Whisperer makes eclectic choices in books to read. Keeping up with various genres is important along with being somewhat knowledgeable about YA and juvenile fiction. Knowing about current picture books is also relevant. Innovations in all genres are worthy of attention; readers should not only know about new releases, but also return to old favorites. In other words, reading offers extensive variety.

To that end, when I discovered Framed! by Hanes Ponti, I felt compelled to read it. Who could resist learning about twelve-year-old Florian Bates who relates the following information on page one:

“My name’s Florian Bates. I’m twelve years old and a seventh grader at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC. My two favorite foods are pizza and egg rolls. I’m on the student council, I’m in the Scrabble club, and I plan to try out for soccer. I also work for the FBI.”

Because of his parents’ jobs, Florian has moved a great deal in his life. He’s newly arrived in Washington, DC when he meets Margaret Campbell, a neighbor his age who welcomes Florian and his family with her homemade chocolate chip cookies. Quickly, Margaret and Florian become good friends.

Florian has developed a process he calls TOAST: Theory of All Small Things. Florian observes small things and adds them up to discover bigger things, like putting a puzzle together. Think the TV show Psyche and Shawn Spencer who helped the police solve crimes. Only Shawn pretended to be psychic, receiving clues. In truth, he was using Florian’s TOAST to observe people and situations in order to solve the crime.

When Florian tells Margaret about TOAST, she immediately wants Florian to teach her how to put the small things together to solve a puzzle. Florian is thrilled by this request because often other kids are put off by his observations. Also, the fact that Florian has moved a great deal means that he has few friends.

If you want to know how Florian starts working for the FBI, you must read Framed!  Then follow up with other books in the series. Florian and Margaret are both engaging characters who take challenges head-on and solve puzzles, providing information grownups have overlooked or discounted.

Adding to the story, Florian’s mother is an art restorer, so readers learn about famous paintings along the way. His dad is an expert in security and has brought the family to DC where he is working to update security for the National Gallery in the city. One might guess, then, that the first crime involves art – forgery? Theft?

Florian and Margaret develop a strong friendship. As Florian teaches Margaret more about TOAST, she becomes adept at putting small things together to see the big picture too. Margaret tells Florian that she has a “big idea. It’s epic.” She continues, “I’m just going to say three words: The New FBI.” When Florian asks what she means, she responds: “Florian Bates Investigations.”

Florian will continue to be a middle school student and work for the real FBI, but he and Margaret will develop their own cases and solve them through the New FBI: Florian Bates Investigations.

The dialogue in Framed! is funny and inventive. The character are warm and fascinating. The stories are simply great fun.

James Ponti provides more information about his life and writings on his Web site:

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Debut Novel


M.L. Rio grabs her readers by releasing her narrator from prison with the police detective who put him in prison ten years earlier there to pick him up. Detective Colborne waits for Oliver Marks to walk out of the prison where he has been held the last ten years. Colborne is the detective who investigated the death of Dellecher Classical Conservatory student Richard ten years earlier.

Colborne knows he has been unable to uncover the entire truth of what happened in Richard’s death. He resigns from the police force and has taken a job in private security, so he is no longer associated with the police. Because of Colborne’s job change and Oliver’s release, Oliver agrees to tell Colborne the whole story.

In telling Colborne the entire story of the night Richard died, Oliver takes readers back to the beginning of his fourth year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory and introduces readers to the tightly-knit group of senior drama majors: Richard, James, Andrew, Meredith, Wren, Filippa, and Oliver.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory offers certificates in art, drama, music, and dance. The rules are ruthless. Each year, the faculty purges students who are not up to the standard required. That means as many as half of a particular discipline can be dismissed each year. Thus, as fourth year students, Richard, James, Andrew, Meredith, Wren, Filippa, and Oliver have survived three purges. Oliver considers himself to be the least talented of the group. Richard stands head and shoulders above the rest along with his beautiful and talented girlfriend Meredith.

Drama students perform only Shakespearean dramas, starting with the comedies as freshman and moving toward the tragedies as seniors. Along the way, the students do study other material and other playwrights, but they only perform Shakespearean dramas. Gwendolyn and Frederick, the two professors in the drama department, try experimental approaches to the dramas.

Oliver tells readers that a Dellecher certificate “was like one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets — guaranteed to grant the bearer admission to the elite artistic and philological sodalities that survived outside of academia.” Of course, Oliver’s father does not believe in such nonsense, but Oliver’s mother persuades him to fun Oliver’s education until the last semester of his fourth year when Oliver finds himself much on his own. That news from his family comes on the heels of Richard’s death.

For Shakespeare fans, If We Were Villains will be a treat because the main characters often speak to one another on stage and off using lines from a wide variety of Shakespeare’s plays. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest, compares If We Were Villains to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History because of the “richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession.”

The seven friends spend almost all of their time together, either in class, practicing for the next performance, or partying. Rivalry among the members of the group is inevitable.  Yet they are all the best of friends as well. The only obvious romantic attraction is between Meredith and Richard, the two most talented members. However, other attractions are hidden, barely below the surface.

Oliver goes to jail for ten years in connection with Richard’s death, but Oliver has not killed Richard. After Oliver is sure what he tells Colborne can go no further, he tells the whole story of the evening Richard dies. Readers will be surprised and horrified and be left with many questions to work out on their own. Why does Oliver confess to the crime? Who really has beaten Richard so that he dies?

Richard’s death will be somewhat like the death that occurs in Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. For those who have not read Big Little Lies or seen the HBO production, perhaps that could be a companion read to If We Were Villains.

If We Were Villains has received high praise from a number of sources and from other authors. The New York Times Book Review calls Rio’s debut novel “nerdily (and winningly) in love with Shakespeare…. Readable, smart.”

She holds a master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe, and will be starting her PhD in early modern English literature at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2018.

On her Web site,, readers can find more information about her and read her blog.

The Book Whisperer Reviews Goodbye Piccadilly


For readers looking for an author who has written a wide variety of genres including fantasy, romance, long-standing series, short stories, and stand-alone novels, look no further than Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I discovered her when a member of a book review committee nominated Goodbye Piccadilly, the first in the war at home series focusing on the Hunter family for consideration for a book review. This series is styled as “The War at Home.” It includes Goodbye Piccadilly, Keep the Home Fires Burning, The Land of My Dreams, and The Long, Long Trail, just published in 2017.

Harrod-Eagles is an ambitious author. She began The Morland Dynasty series based on fictional characters “in a real historical background. The plan was for the whole run of British history from the Middle Ages to the Second World War to be covered in twelve volumes.” The series now numbers thirty-five novels.

The Bill Slider mysteries include twenty novels. Ironically, Harrod-Eagles wrote Orchestrated Death in 1991, the first Bill Slider novel, for her own pleasure, never intending to publish it. Harrod-Eagles uses the pennames of Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennett for some of her works.

Goodbye Piccadilly sets up the series, so readers meet a number of characters in the first book. The book opens with war on the horizon, but not yet declared. David, the eldest child, will enlist in the army, much against his mother’s wishes. Nineteen-year-old Diana pines for attention from Charles Wroughton, son of Earl Wroughton, a neighbor. Complicating matters, Diana’s father is Earl Wroughton’s banker, so any alliance between Diana and Charles is unlikely. Then Charles meets be beautiful Diana and is immediately smitten.

Below stairs, readers will find intrigue with the beautiful and saucy Ethel who tempts the young tradesmen wherever she goes. Cook and Ada become more and more concerned about a German invasion.

With the family in the village of Northcote, they may at first think they are immune from the war. Soon, though, soldiers are living in the area. With additional books already published, readers can find fulfillment in the well-developed characters and story lines as the war continues. The picture below is very like what the Hunter manor house could be. The picture is from this site:


Discover more about Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and her extraordinary writing career at her site: