Reviews — Fiction and Children’s Books

Song.cover_rev16July    ‘Song of the Yukon covers more than music growth, more than homesteading in the wilderness, and even more than testing one’s abilities against a foreign environment. Most of all, it’s about one woman’s determination to achieve her dream against any odds – and it provides readers with not only a solid background in frontier experiences, but a sense of self and accomplishment that heroine LaVerne learns through hard experience. Song of the Yukon is a powerful saga, recommended for a broad range of readers.’ ~~ Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review ~~

‘I read Trisha Sugarek’s novel Song of the Yukon, as I’m generally interested in homesteading and off-grid stories. Trisha’s novel, set in Alaska, more than satisfied my curiosity. It’s about LaVerne, a teen and budding song writer who followed the poet Robert Service’s trip into the wilds of Alaska. The inclusion of Service’s life offers a welcome layer to the story, and the references are inserted harmoniously so that they seem a natural instead of forced companion to the primary plot of LaVerne’s life: she impersonated a boy to be hired aboard a freighter who took her from Seattle to Alaska; along the way, she experiences boat rides on the Yukon, meets members of native tribes, files homestead papers and works the land.

Song of the Yukon also delights due to its structure of seamlessly weaving poetry, song lyrics and correspondence within the novel’s narrative. For example, here is a scene around a fire where LaVerne gets to know the indigenous guide and his mother, Black Eyed Joe and Edna—Service’s poem is woven into the dialogue where Edna makes an observation about Mother Earth.

Sugarek’s use of correspondence also doesn’t grate in the narrative flow. My personal experience is I’ve found the insertion of correspondence to be an interruption or a cheat in writing a story, but such isn’t the case here. Here, the correspondence makes the story more personal as well as is effective in bringing onto the page the rest of the world beyond LaVerne’s particular environment.

Last but not least, the story weaves in a lesbian experience, perhaps not the first time but a rare point of view within the genre of homesteading, off-grid Alaska and Wild West stories.  All in all, Sugarek’s multi-layered approach uplifts SONG OF THE YUKON from the crowded field of such stories.’ ~~EILEEN TABIOS, Senior Editor The Halo-Halo Book Review

‘One of my favorite fantasies is that I have a time machine and can travel back in time to see what the world was like at a certain time in a certain place. Recently I got my wish.  “Song of the Yukon” by Trish Sugarek is a time machine to a period of history I’d not thought much about. The normal view of the Yukon is in terms of the late 1800s, during the gold rush era. That gold rush created an awareness of the area that was previously a mystery to most of the world. Add to that the Robert Service poems from the era and the romance of the north led to a settling of Alaska that persisted beyond the initial gold fever.

“Song of the Yukon” takes us on a ride with a daring young woman, LaVerne, who leaves family and friends in Seattle to make her way to Alaska and a homestead of her own in a time just after the first world war. I have always loved historical novels (my desire for a time machine is not new) but am a picky reader. I want accuracy but I also want a good story. Trish Sugarek delivers both.

As “Little House on the Prairie” is for the Midwest in the 1870s and “Clan of the Cave Bear” is for Europe in prehistoric time, so “Song of the Yukon” gives a living look into the difficult and exciting life of the Alaskan homestead at the beginning of the 20th century.
The book is well researched. There were a couple of references to animals that I thought of as being from the upper Midwest, but when I double checked, I found that they are indeed native to Alaska. I told you I’m picky. Now that I knew the author had done her homework, I settled in to enjoy the establishment of LaVerne’s homestead, the relationships with her neighbors, and the development of this young woman who arrived in the Yukon with stars in her eyes.
Over the course of the book she learns, she grows, she loves. And in her learning and growing, we get to experience life with the natives and the white settlers who came from all over the US to settle this wild northern Eden.
Some historicals are long on story but short on detail. This book balances both, so that you can get a feel for what it was like to make your way into the Alaskan wilderness without having to slog through a dry non-fiction account. Although the book is based on a real person, this is not a biography but a novel, a plus for me. If you like a historical novel that also lets you know what daily life is like in the setting where it takes place, I highly recommend “Song of the Yukon”. You’ll be singing “North to Alaska” for weeks after.’~~ D.Johnson


“Powerful and innovative story about the women who wait outside the prison walls. This story focuses on three women; A hard working African American with four children.  An exotic dancer with her teen-aged daughter, and a wealthy socialite. Each woman has her own story and experiences.  One visiting day something happens that will change each of their lives forever.  A convicted murderer takes the wealthy socialite hostage in order to escape prison and find his missing daughter. 

Based in truth and inspired while the author visited the Dixon Correctional Facility waiting to visit a convicted murderer (not related to this story).  As she waited she observed wives, mothers, sisters, daughters waiting with her. But while the author was there on a detached mission of research these women were visiting a loved one. Someone, regardless of their crimes, was family. 

The author gives the reader a stunning and realistic view inside these women’s lives.” Midwest Book Review


A Review from N.A. Granger,

Trisha Sugarek, is in my opinion, one of the best cozy writers around. She recently sent me a copy of  Taste of Murder, book five in her World of Murder series, and it didn’t disappoint.  The time the murder takes place on the set of a televised cooking competition show, when someone with a serious ax to grind poisons the food of Executive Chef Jeff Kirikos. The killer is never found and Detectives Jack O’Roarke, tall and second generation Irish, and Stella Garcia, petite and with a Cuban husband and children, get it as a cold case three year later. They get the directive with an order to solve it from their commander. Turns out Kirikos is the brother-in-law of the new mayor, so they have to overcome their aversion to cold cases on the spot. O’Roarke and Garcia have featured in the previous four books, and their relationship is easy. The reader gets a view of Garcia’s family life and the detectives’ interaction with the grandmotherly, gray-haired Chief Medical Examiner, Ruby Crutchner.

Ms. Sugarek takes us backstage into the world of cooking shows – how they are run and how they are filmed — as O’Roarke and Garcia maneuver through the politics of investigating the mayor’s relative and taking over another investigator’s case. There are plenty of suspects; the chef’s widow, the man for whom the chef left her, people fired from the show, and obsessed fans. The reader has no clue right up to the last chapter.

I highly recommend The Taste of Murder for a short, enjoyable read to curl up with on a rainy or snowy day, and I look forward to the next in the World of Murder series.

1.Creative.Write.BookCoverImageThe Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook
Trisha Sugarek

‘The Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook’ series was developed for students, women, and men and is customized to spark creative writing. The Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook begins where so many writers’ guides should: with the basics of how to pursue one’s dream job as a writer. The problem with most writers’ guides is that they assume some prior degree of excellence or experience; but this handbook poses something different: the opportunity to begin with absolutely no prior skill level or experience. All that’s needed is the desire and passion to be a writer: everything flows from there.

So if you ‘scribble’, if you like words, if your stories ‘find’ you, and if you aspire to be something more (say, a published blogger); then here’s the next step in the process.  Now, those who have no experience writing may find themselves stymied by a blank page, or by ‘scribblings’ that need much development. The Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook takes the guesswork out of the next step: “You have a story idea in your mind. Write the first sentence. Write two more that are different for the same story idea. Now choose the one that is your ‘hook’. Ideally, the start of a book should capture the reader from the first sentence. This will launch your writing and your story. Be certain that the main characters are well developed before you get too far into the story. There is a chapter here for ‘character building and character analysis. Use this chapter to not only develop your fictional characters but to jot down your observations of real people that you see.”

From how ideas begin to how they are nurtured and written down (there to be refined until they see the light of day – i.e. other readers), this journal offers support, insight, and ideas for jump-starting the creative process and linking it to action.  White, lined journal pages offer a workbook approach that augments white space with inspirational quotes from other, successful writers: so while you’re staring at the usual journal blank pages, inspiration can ignite from others’ experiences and insights.

This isn’t just about prose, either: Sugarek includes sections on different formats, from haiku poetry to writing a stage play. Each section offers inspirational insights into format, structure, and writing challenges – then uses the journal/quote format to encourage readers to put something down on paper.  With its nuggets of information spiced with the encouragement of fresh lined, white space that, The Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook offers a success formula beginners can easily absorb; all packaged in a survey that assumes no prior familiarity with the writing process.
Midwest Book Review


new.cover. angelofmurder_COVER  Angel of Murder, Book 4 in the series, The World of Murder
Midwest Book Review~~

The Angel of Murder is Book Four in the ‘World of Murder’ sequence, and though it can easily be picked up by those with no prior familiarity with the series, it is (ideally) a choice for former fans of cops O’Roarke and Garcia, who face yet another puzzling murderer.  This serial killer is after children and leaves their bodies around New York, dressed up for communion. There are no clues left behind to help track him, so there’s nothing the two investigators can use to even begin building a profile or a solid search. Even more appealing is the fact that readers (even those solidly immersed in the murder mystery genre) remain just as puzzled as the police throughout the story.

If it’s one thing you can say about the murder mystery genre, it’s that it tends toward redundancy. It’s always about the crime, there are savvy investigators (either professional or unprofessional), motives tend to become clear as the plot thickens… and most of this is about as predictable as can be. In terms of a dance, it’s the type of ballet where the art lies more in conventional movement than surprising leaps of faith.

But the avid murder mystery fan keeps searching for those gems that offer something different, such as emotionally compelling and involving characters, events that don’t form linear patterns or move in logical, predictable paths, and conclusions that are satisfyingly unexpected. For this reader, The Angel of Murder is a winner.

It’s chillingly realistic, its setting and plot are both believable and ever-changing, and The Angel of Murder both relies on the personalities of protagonists developed in previous books and introduces brand new characters who hold different concerns and strengths.

It takes a tightrope artist of a writer to create chapters that successfully delve into a killer’s thoughts without revealing his identity in the process, but Sugarek achieves this with a dance of introspection that reveals a killer’s religious rituals and the emotional turmoil surrounding everyone involved, from families mourning their children to officers trying to investigate a crime with no clues.

P.I. Vito’s discovery could break the case wide open – but what he finds will challenge police protocol and shake religious foundations alike. There’s a series of movements involved in The Angel of Murder : the focal point of ritual, discovery, revelation, religious justification encircled by a cutting edge of insanity. Sugarek creates this dance and eventually not only characters but readers find themselves gingerly treading on dangerous ground as the truth moves closer and closer.

It’s also a dance on the part of this reviewer not to reveal the surprise outcome of this murder investigation. And so Angel of Murder is about confessions, heaven and hell, innocence defiled, and ultimately the involvement of church and state in a case about an evil allowed to blossom in the very heart of religious institutions.  As this performance draws to a close, the ballet evolves into a complex series of rituals and steps that eventually reveal the killer’s identity – but at a great cost to all involved. It’s the ultimate consequences of this kind of crime that will pull at reader heartstrings even as it injects elements of surprise into a presentation that draws to a close not just with a whisper of motion and emotion, but with a sudden leap of insight and faith.

 New.cover. actofmurder_COVERAct of Murder is Book 3 of ‘The World of Murder’ series, and continues exploring the partnership and investigative skills of Detectives O’Roarke and Garcia, who once again have a healthy list of suspects to choose from in a murder case: this one revolving around a much-hated Broadway director.

Now, one might expect that it’s better to have too many possibilities than not enough; but as in their past cases, the detectives find this simply isn’t true: the theater world is simply packed with suspects who not only have good motives for murder, but more than enough resources to pull it off.    It’s up to the detectives to eliminate suspects and motives, and The Act of Murder is all about this process and its results. As with previous investigations in ‘The World of Murder‘ titles, readers are also in the dark about the perp’s identity – and are given just as many clues as the detectives on who the murderer could be. And also in keeping with the approach and progress of previous books, problem-solving and sleuthing skills are as much the focus as character development.

The blend keeps readers interested, capturing attention first through probing the emotionally-charged personality of an abusive director and then by offering a series of clues that embrace the essence of a murder mystery puzzle along with insights into motivations on all sides. Director Ruben DiMaggio isn’t just any Broadway success; he’s “…the most feared and beloved director in the past three decades. He was a tyrant towards actors, stage managers, producers, and terrorized set designers, sound men, and lighting technicians.” In his relentless quest for success Ruben tolerates neither fools nor failure: a quality that nearly destroys anyone involved in his productions.  As chapters progress, murder mystery fans are drawn into an ever-complex, changing story that holds not just too many perps, but many twists and turns of plot.

It’s a convoluted web of intrigue that emerges as The Act of Murder becomes darker and darker and the investigators draw every closer to a deadly truth that may in fact wind up fingering the wrong perp.     Can love and murder exist side by side? Can relationships turn deadly with little warning? And can irrefutable evidence be turned under court inspection? The story evolves to a gripping, unpredictable courtroom conclusion and will involve murder mystery fans every step of the way, creating directions that change at a moment’s notice. ~~ Midwest Book Review


Brush with Murder (Book 1 of the World of Murder Series)

Midwest Book Review ~~ ‘‘Brush with Murder is Book One in ‘The World of Murder’ series and tells of one Montgomery (‘Monty’), a struggling, shy artist in Soho who admires his beautiful neighbor from afar, painting her image and dreaming about her. It all seems so innocent … until she’s murdered and the police turn up at his door, asking about his ‘obsession’ with his dream woman.

Now Monty is caught in a dangerous game he never asked for: one that involves proving his innocence against impossible odds.
What Detectives O’Roarke and Garcia uncover during the course of their investigation will involve them all in a highly charged case that reveals as much about Samantha’s life and personality as it provides clues about the circumstances surrounding her death.

Brush with Murder is replete with emotionally-charged writing capturing not just the process of a murder investigation, but the emotions of all involved: “Sam’s gone…she’s dead…He told the river. No more ridiculously high stilettos dancing down the street. No bright call of greeting. No more dazzling smile that she bestowed on everyone but me. They killed my muse, my reason for painting. And those cops…they think I might have done it…slaughtered the most beautiful thing in the world.”
This focus differentiates The Art of Murder from other murder mystery approaches, adding a human element which, after all, is always a part of any murder scenario – but is too often under-explored in traditional murder mysteries.

As the crime-solving duo find theory after theory dissolving, they find themselves learning more about Sam’s love life than they had bargained for – and suddenly everything begins to make sense…

Billed as a ‘cozy’, this is a short, quick read; but don’t let that fool you. It’s also steeped in emotion, with a sensational cast of characters and interconnected circumstances that weave together to form a neat, involving story line with a tidy finish. The Art of Murder represents a satisfyingly rich story. ~~Midwest Book Review

 Dance of Murder  (Book 2 of the World of Murder Series)

‘Some murder mysteries focus primarily on personalities and psychology while others focus nearly exclusively on sleuthing tactics. Much like a crossword puzzle, The Dance of Murder focuses on clues that successfully pair readers with Stella and O’Roarke’s thought processes as they work through a range of possibilities in their case.

The Dance of Murder offers a strong focus on problem-solving and sleuthing. This allows readers to test their own skills in piecing together the puzzle, and to become involved in a story line that focuses on eliminating suspects and arriving at truth.

With its swift assessments of possibilities and motivations, it’s a satisfying murder mystery that deftly captures the interactions between murder detectives and their professional and political challenges in solving crimes. Any murder mystery reader will find The Dance of Murder a fast-paced, involving read.’  ~~ Midwest Book Review




Praise for Trisha Sugarek 

and the Fabled Forest Series


fairies, books for children, literacy, reading, bullying, bullies, elves,Bertie the Bookworm and the Bully Boys” is an illustrated early chapter book for excited pre-novella readers. A cast of familiar but colorful magical forest characters parade through this gentle teaching tale about bullying, the value of literacy, and ageism.

All the Fabled Forest residents who wish to attend a regular spelling and reading circle with Bertie the Bookworm, a wise forest elder. Many nods to familiar fairytale characters weave in and out of the story gracefully, and the magical Fabled Forest is a good learning ground for all. Children of middle school age will enjoy this combination of fantasy and reality in a good manners and literacy teaching package. The colorful illustrations add just the right touch of mystery and fantasy to the story. ~~ Midwest Book Review

‘It’s hard to be a hero when everyone just thinks you’re trouble. “The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf” is a fantasy fable of friendship and heroism as author Trisha Sugarek crafts a story of Emma, a young girl captive by a cruel spider. Only Cheets, an elf running away, dragons, friendship, circus, fairy tales, fables,no one trusts, remains as her only hope. A fun read for young readers about to cross over to novellas, “The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf” is a fine and much recommended pick.’ ~~ The Midwest Book Review ‘Sugarek’s remarkable fiction is her ability to draw depth into what might be cartoon characters. City Slick is my favorite. He has the slyness of a huckster, but is genuinely friendly. He gets Stanley into trouble by selling him to the circus. The story grabs your attention and imagination. The generous dialog makes for a great book.’~ ‘A


‘Sugarek's remarkable fiction is her ability to draw depth (Stanley, the Stalwart Dragon)into what might be cartoon characters. City Slick is my favorite. He has the slyness of a huckster, but is genuinely friendly. He gets Stanley into trouble by selling him to the circus. The story grabs your attention and imagination. The generous dialog makes for a great book.’

greed, ecology, elves, warlords, love, friendship




‘A warm, funny little tale about a little dragon who breathes bubbles! I have read this book twice and

enjoyed it immensely both times… each character is unforgettable, and has their own unique quirks that

make for very imaginative reading. And Sugarek has a very special way of tying together fairy tale and

fable to make a story that’s fun, believable and instructive too! Children will love this book.’ ~~ Must Read Book Review, India


‘This book has an excellent story line that children of all ages can enjoy. The characters are well defined and lively. The plot tells a story and teaches a lesson.  What I enjoyed most was the visual imagery that was throughout the story. As an educator, I could see how this book could be use to stimulate a child’s ability to make pictures in their mind. The descriptions of the settings and the characters were vivid. They screamed out for a child to illustrate the pictures that were made by the words. I can’t wait to use this story with my classes at school.’  —Chatham Academy, Principal

[Stanley, the Stalwart Dragon]  ‘I have read this book twice and enjoyed it immensely both times… each character is unforgettable, and has their own unique quirks that make for very imaginative reading. And Trish has a very special way of tying together fairy tale and fable to make a story that’s fun, believable and instructive too! Children will love this book.’  —PM,  India

‘….what a hoot. In the beginning pages of this delightful fable when Cheets, the elf scampers into the forest clearing announcing that he ‘smells dragon breath’ my kids and I were sold. This is such a clever little story and my kids loved that Stanley couldn’t breathe fire.’~~M. Carter, Artists Outlet 

‘Cheets is a perfectly irrepressible elf. Stanley the dragon is the opposite of his name.  He only wishes he could be more ‘stalwart’.  These ten characters live deep in the enchanted forest where all is bathed in dragons, fairies, fairy tales, elves, running away, circus, books for childrenbeauty and peace.

A perfect tool to teach young children to live better lives and respect folks that might be different from you.  Stare, the rhetorical owl reminded this grandpa of the comedians, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the skit ‘who’s on first’. A wonderful book, highly recommended. ~ Grandpa and Jordan. 

‘…my 7 year old daughter and I read “The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf…” together and enjoyed it every step of the way! It was a magical tale and we are looking forward to reading the next book in the series.’  ~~Jill & Lily