Sharon E. Cathcart

Books by award-winning, internationally published author Sharon E. Cathcart provide discerning readers of essays fiction and non-fiction with a powerful, truthful literary experience.  Sharon's primary focus is creating fiction featuring atypical characters.

Dare I be cautiously optimistic?

I remain skeptical about staying with this platform, but at least it's up and running again.  We'll see what happens. 

I am on the verge of abandoning this platform. :-( The posts are not retaining formatting, and reviews are not posting properly.  I've tried several browsers, and it's not that.  Disappointing.

Days of the Dead - Barbara Hambly

I'm working my way through the entire Benjamin January series. So far, I've enjoyed them all. This one is a little bit different, though. It takes place in Mexico, instead of in New Orleans, and deals with the politics of General Santa Anna's government and the events leading up to the Texas wars. January's friend Hannibal Sefton has been living in Mexico with a woman he met ... and writes a letter talking about how circumstances have changed. To make a long story short, he's being held captive by the woman's family after having been accused of murdering the eldest son. He asks January and his new wife, Rose, to come to Mexico to prove his innocence. This, of course, is easier said than done. There are rival family factions, a head of household who may or may not be insane ... and religious prejudice all over the place. There were a lot of plot twists, including additional murders ... and events that are staged solely to try to frighten the January couple off the track. The book is well-researched; there are notes at the end about the culture and facts described in the tale. I'm just looking forward to Rose and Benjamin being back in New Orleans.

The Creoles of History and the Creoles of Romance (1885) - Charles Gayarre It is terribly difficult to not be guilty of presentism when reading books like this. The lecture, presented at Tulane University in 1885, was the author's rather scathing endictment of George Washington Cable's 1880 novel entitled The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life. What Gayarré takes exception to more than anything else is Cable's presentation of Louisiana Creoles being of mixed blood; the lecture's sole purpose is to say that Creoles were inherently white people. The author maintains that the "inferior" people of color could not have created such a vibrant culture and city. Historically speaking, the fact that the Vieux Carré (as opposed to the American sector) was one where black and white people lived side by side, if not always in harmony, is what has created the New Orleans of both history and the present day. However, Gayarré must be seen as both a product of his time and a progenitor of the modern-day racism we see on display in current events.
Four Dog Riot - Joe Cottonwood Joe Cottonwood has done something very interesting with this book. He takes us inside a wealthy suburban middle school (Menlo Park is a rather well-to-do part of the San Francisco Bay Area) and shows us the kids who don't fit in. Bowie's the troubled African-American kid, Jaz is the Asian girl who is sick of the stereotypes to which she's subjected, Hoot is the kid with the hippie mom, and Mimi is the popular girl with more secrets than she knows what to do with. Each kid has his or her own sub-plot to deal with, and resolving each story arc took a lot of finesse. Cottonwood shows us the underbelly of what some youth experience: bullying, exploitation, violence, and more. While the ending is ultimately satisfying, the journey is not an easy one. I found myself remembering incidents from my own junior high days and sympathizing with the various characters as they try to deal with changing bodies and attitudes. Well done.
A Gift from Bob: How a Street Cat Helped One Man Learn the Meaning of Christmas - James   Bowen

I was trying to save this book for the holidays, but I just couldn't. James Bowen's tales of his life with Bob the Street Cat are just too charming to sit and wait.

In this book, Bowen shares stories of Christmas past as an addict and how the current Christmas of which he was writing was different. He attributes much of his strength and determination to get clean and sober to having Bob to care for, and as usual shares many stories of Bob's antics as the two went busking or sold The Big Issue homeless newspaper.

In the course of reading this series of three books, I learned a great deal about how different the services available to those with addiction or who are homeless are in the UK from the US. I have a great appreciation for how much work it is to survive day-to-day, even with the far greater services available to those in need.

In any event, the stories told are poignant and heart-warming at the same time, and Bowen's love for his ginger cat friend come through in every word.

Highly recommended.

Cajun Vocabulation - Gordon J. Voisin
I picked this book up as part of my research for my own work. I must say, it's clever.

The author has given us dictionaries (English to "French," and "French" to English), slang, animal names, days of the week, etc, along with a phonetic guide. The reason "French" is in quotes, though, is that the Cajun terms are only ever spelled out phonetically. I would like to have seen the correct spelling alongside them (I speak French, and that would have been helpful for me).

The author employs a great deal of humor, particularly in the slang section, and it's worth reading just for that. However, the greater goal is the preservation of a dying dialect ... and this book is a good tool toward that end.
 
 
 
13 1/2 by Nevada Barr (2010-11-02) - Nevada Barr
I have to be honest; I'm not at all sure what I think of this book.

We start out with a brutal familial murder in Minnesota: mother, father, baby, and cat are all dead. One son, Richard, has a giant cut on his leg; the other son, Dylan, is unharmed ... but covered in blood and holding an axe. It seems fairly obvious that he's the culprit.

Then, we have Polly Deschamps, who literally escapes an abusive childhood by running away to New Orleans. As an adult, she meets architect Marshall Marchand, and marries him after a whirlwind courtship. They share a duplex with Marshall's brother, Danny.

It's as plain as the nose on your face that Marshall and Danny are Dylan and Richard ... but which one is which (view spoiler) is not immediately clear. By the end of the book, we see the real story much more clearly.

Obviously, it's a page turner. I finished it over only a couple of nights. However, it was such a creepy look at the inside of sociopathy that I would be hard-pressed to say I enjoyed it. Hence, the three star rating.
 
 
 
Blood Red - Heather Graham

Such was my desperation for books set in New Orleans (it actually helps keep the geography fresh in my mind while I'm writing my own work), that I ::wait for it:: read a vampire novel.

Yes, I did. And now I remember why I don't do that anymore.

Lauren, Deanna, and Heidi are in NOLA for a week-long bachelorette party. Of course, they all decide to have their fortunes told ... and a vampire called Stephan sees Lauren through the crystal ball. She's also being followed around by a guy she literally bumps into in an alley, Mark.

Stephan is the Most Power Vampire EVAHR (TM), and he and Mark have been nemeses for quite a while.

As is usual in these books, the women are beautiful and the men are incredible hunks. There are plenty of sexy-times (this is, after all, a Heather Graham novel), and also lots of Stupid Girl Lets the Vampire In times. The plot twist can be seen coming for miles, though. (view spoiler)

It was fast read, and relatively entertaining (obviously, I finished it in two nights). And now I can say with absolute assurance that I'm way past the vampire novel phase of my life.

Emilie (The Cajun Series Book 1) - Cherie Claire

I only finished this book out of sheer stubbornness.

The author takes the story of le grand derangement, the dispersal of Acadians from Nova Scotia by the English, and tries to bring it home via the tale of Emilie and Lorenz. They've been in love since childhood, but Emilie is freaking out about the idea of getting married without her father present (said father hasn't been seen in 13 years). I never really came to care about either of the main characters, or how they related to each other ... and that's unfortunate, because the historical backdrop of this book is fascinating.

Homophone errors (e.g, "delegate" where "relegate" is meant), linguistic anachronisms (like Emilie referring to Lorenz as her buddy), and flat-out errors when it comes to historical costuming (women didn't wear button-front vests in the 18th C.) ripped me out of the story at every turn. And that's all aside from the author's crimes against the French language. We can assume that Acadians are speaking French; you don't need to litter the text with incorrectly conjugated phrases to get the point across.

I've now tried this author's modern books and her historical ones, and I won't be trying any more.

The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Street-wise Cat - James   Bowen

I admit, I am utterly charmed by this series of books.

In the second of his three books (so far) chronicling his adventures with Bob, James Bowen tells more about his efforts in sobriety, his challenges selling The Big Issue newspaper ... and how his book contract came about in the face of his increasing fame. A few newspaper articles and some YouTube videos make him a more noticeable person ... and create many fans for Bob.

This is not without its attendant challenges, as some of the Big Issue sellers don't like how Bowen and Bob are able to sell so many more papers ... and some of them are not very nice about it at all.

The story demonstrates amply something I have known for a while: rescue animals also rescue their people. I look forward to reading the next Bob book.

Murder on the Quai (An Aimée Leduc Investigation) - Cara Black

I am a big fan of the Aimée Leduc detective novels, but this one took me a while to get into.

A prequel to the series, this book gives us a 19-year-old Aimée struggling in medical school, losing her boyfriend to another woman -- and deciding on her own to take up an investigation that her father cannot handle due to urgent business surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the process, Aimée winds up witnessing two murders that bring her into the purview of former Nazi collaborators and Resistance alike ... and we see a subplot related to World War II as well.

I didn't feel like this book and its mystery was as tightly constructed as it might have been. However, we do get to see Aimée's back story -- how she gets her dog, Miles Davis, how she meets computer genius René ... the whole shebang. I enjoyed it far more on that level than for the mystery itself.

Rise: A Collection Inspired by Lift - Rebecca K. O'Connor

I've had this short collection on my eReader for a while, and just decided it was time to give it a go.

The book consists of short stories, essays, a few poems, and a glossary of falconry terms. At the end is a sample from another of the author's books, "Wilder," which may not have been published (I cannot find a listing for it).

In any event, the stories are inspired by the author's journey as a falconer -- one I myself shared for a time in the 1990s. For me, the work brought back pleasant memories of flying an American kestrel and a Harris hawk. I enjoyed them immensely as a result. Others who are unfamiliar with falconry may find the sport a bit of a challenge, as it is truly "nature red in tooth and claw."

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Ticket to Paradise (The Cajun Embassy Book 1) - Cherie Claire

The minute we meet Lizzie Guidry and Martin Taylor, they hate each other so much that you just know they're going to wind up together at the end of the book. She works for the mayor; he's a newspaper publisher -- who just happens to refer to Lizzie as the "mayor's pooper-scooper" in an editorial. Yep, that's an auspicious beginning.

We soon learn that Martin's newspaper is in dire financial straits ... and that Lizzie has a winning lottery ticket (although she doesn't know it yet) stuck to the front of her fridge with a magnet. Because Martin knows it's a winning ticket (view spoiler), he decides that pretending to be interested in Lizzie will be a good way to convince her to part with some of the money to help him out.

This book is riddle with editorial errors, like Martin "exhuming charm" instead of exuding it -- although I suppose he could be trying to dig it up after it's died. Lizzie also "balls her eyes out" instead of bawling, and she spends a lot of time "starring" at things instead of staring. The author also can't seem to decide whether Lizzie has auburn hair or brown hair ... and the two are not interchangeable.

And yet, I kept reading ... because I was curious about how the author would resolve the matter of the lotto ticket. Toward the end of the book, I was really sorry I did. Martin and Lizzie actually start to develop feelings for each other, and one night when she is inebriated she makes a confession to Martin about her lack of experience in the bedroom. (view spoiler)

Anyway, everything winds up resolved some far too convenient ways, and I spent the rest of the book ticked off at both of the main characters.

I just can't recommend this book.

Moving House -- So To Speak

Hi, everyone. I've been taking a great Udemy course on Blogging for Authors by Jason Matthews. If you're an author, I highly recommend it!

Anyway, I've been gleaning some great information ... and, as a result, I'm going to move to a different platform for blogging in the near future. I'll sync that blog here so that you'll still see my updates, but I wanted to let you know in advance so you aren't taken by surprise.

I remain convinced that I have the best fans/friends in the whole world. Thank you!