Book Reviews

November 12, 2022

Daughter of Spies, Wartime Secrets, Family Lies by Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, Memoir, (Pact Press, October 2022). Available on Amazon Kindle and paperback.

Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop ( is the author of over sixty works of fiction for all ages, including the novels Island Justice and In My Mother’s House. Robert Stone selected her short story, “The Golden Darters,” for Best American Short Stories. Her fantasy novels for children, The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle, are considered classics of the genre. Daughter of Spies is her first memoir.

“As a child, Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, along with her five brothers, was raised to revere the tribal legends of the Alsop and Roosevelt families. Her parents’ marriage, lived in the spotlight of 1950s Washington where the author’s father, journalist Stewart Alsop, grew increasingly famous, was not what either of her parents had imagined it would be. Her mother’s strict Catholicism and her father’s restless ambition collided to create a strangely muted and ominous world, one that mirrored the whispered conversations in the living room as the power brokers of Washington came and went through their side door. Through it all, her mother, trained to keep secrets as a decoding agent with MI5, said very little. In this brave memoir, the author explores who her mother was, why alcohol played such an important role in her mother’s life, and why her mother held herself apart from all her children, especially her only daughter. In the author’s journey to understand her parents, particularly her mother, she comes to realize that the secrets parents keep are the ones that reverberate most powerfully in the lives of their children.”

Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated, as I know all too well. My mother and I had a tumultuous relationship, but in her final days, I was forced to put aside my anger and resentment to be her caregiver during her long battle with Alzheimer’s. For this reason and more, Ms. Alsop’s wonderfully written memoir resonated with me on so many personal levels.

Being the daughter of two high-profile Washington luminaires was no walk in the park. Alsop captures a pivotal moment in her family’s history, from her mother being an English WWII bride thrust into a post war milieu she knew nothing about, to her father, a journalist from a family who counted the Roosevelts as kin. Told in alternating timelines, Alsop deftly weaves what it was like to grow up in a whirlwind of politics and privilege under the shadow of her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s emotional distance with a keen eye.

If you love beautifully written historical memoirs that doesn’t gloss over tough topics, I can heartily recommend Daughter of Spies

October 8, 2022

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs (Sourcebooks Young Readers), Middle Grade Historical Fiction.

I interviewed Alda P. Dobbs on her critically acclaimed debut middle grade The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, so when Alda asked me if I’d consider reviewing her follow up novel continuing her family’s experiences in America seeking refuge from the chaos of the Mexican Revolution, I quickly and happily agreed.

I’m not going to beat around the bush: I loved the book. It’s beautifully written and the characters and the landscape came alive. I felt the dirt in my mouth, the painful callouses on my bare feet, and the bitter wind against my skin. Petra Luna is a girl for the ages: feisty, plucky, sassy, intelligent, a dreamer in a time when being a female and a dreamer were hard and unforgiving.

Petra, her grandmother, and her siblings overcome much hardship to get to Texas, but once they get there, discover that life on other side of the Rio Grande is as harsh as the desert. But Petra’s dreams of learning how to read and write and to reunite with her beloved Papa see her through many disappointments and travails.

I don’t want to give away the entire plot–but even though this is historical fiction, the issues that Petra faced are relevant today: immigrants and all the problems they face, bullying, discrimination, poverty, broken families, death, grief, etc.

My only small caveat was that I was mildly disappointed to learn that the “real” Petra Luna didn’t stay in America, but chose to return to Mexico. But it’s a testament to Alda’s gorgeous writing and boundless creativity that she had me so emotionally invested in the characters and the story that I believed it was real. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book wins a ton of awards, because it certainly won my heart. If you love historical fiction with a great female character that will stay with you long after the final pages, this book is for you.

Author Bio:

Alda P. Dobbs is the author of the Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna (Sourcebooks, Fall 2021). Her first novel tells the journey of twelve-year-old Petra Luna and her family as they flee the horrors of the Mexican Revolution in 1913. The novel was inspired by the experiences Alda’s great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution and as a refugee in the United States. Alda’s writings have won various awards including the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award, the Joan Lowry Nixon Award, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant. In addition to her novel, Alda has written articles for Highlights Children’s Magazine, Guideposts, and La Prensa newspaper.

Alda was born in a small town in northern Mexico and moved to San Antonio, Texas with her parents as a young child. After serving inthe U.S. Air Force, she studied physics and worked as a civil engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She is as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures, and nature as she is about writing.

Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston.

July 25, 2002

A MAN IN PIECES by Henry Corrigan (Darkstroke Books), Adult Contemporary Thriller. 

If you’re in the mood for a slow-burn psychological suspense thriller that pits two struggling men trying to make sense of their lives amidst unexpected calamity and tragedy, look no further. Corrigan, a prolific writer in this genre, delves deep into the psyche of his main protagonists who are stuck in a bleak place and time and, quite frankly, making a mess of it. FYI, this isn’t an edge-of-your-seat octane thriller–that comes later, when in the last pages, Corrigan deftly twists the knife in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Everyone has a breaking point and Corrigan mines this fertile ground. Trigger warning: this material contains gritty scenes, graphic sex, and death. If you are in any way squeamish about bad things happening to good people, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Author Bio:

Henry Corrigan is a bisexual, multi-genre author, poet, and playwright who writes every kind of story. Whether it’s horror or science fiction, erotica or poetry, high fantasy or children’s books, he writes it all because every story matters to him. They’re what keeps him going. Always an avid reader, Henry started writing poetry in middle school but it wasn’t until he started writing erotica in high school that he really learned the mechanics of writing. What started out as private stories and love letters, soon became publications in anthologies.

To date, he has the rough drafts of two science fiction books, one horror novella, one play, four children’s books, numerous poems, and several song lyrics waiting in the wings. Above all, he wants to be known for not staying where he’s been put. To always surprise people, especially himself. Because that’s what makes it fun. The feeling that even he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.

Book Blurb for A Man in Pieces

Driven by bad choices and worse options, a desperate father-to-be must battle his abusive boss for the last slot at a dead-end job, but the fight may lead one of them to murder.

Mike Harper would like nothing more than to burn his dead-end job to the ground. But with a wife on bed rest and a son on the way, discovering that the company is downsizing couldn’t come at a worse time. Now, struggling to stay afloat, Mike is forced to fight for the last remaining spot to secure his family’s future. It’s too bad that Tom, his obnoxious boss, is in the same boat.

Tom Downes is a man with few friends and even fewer prospects, but the aging veteran has never gone down without a fight. Now, with his health failing and his marriage falling apart, Tom is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his job.

With a blinding snowstorm closing in, these two desperate men will battle each other on a long and twisted road fraught with heartbreaking losses – and murder.

When it comes to staying afloat, the American Dream can break anyone…

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