Book Review: Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt—and a Giveaway!

Little Girl GoneLittle Girl Gone
An Afton Tangler Thriller #1
Gerry Schmitt
Berkley Books, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-425-28176-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In the first Afton Tangler thriller, the unforgiving cold of a Minnesota winter hides the truth behind an even more chilling crime…

On a frozen night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, a baby is abducted from her home after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

As family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D., it’s Afton Tangler’s job to deal with the emotional aftermath of terrible crimes—but she’s never faced a case quite as brutal as this. Each development is more heartbreaking than the last and the only lead is a collection of seemingly unrelated clues.

But, most disturbing of all, Afton begins to suspect that this case is not isolated. Whoever did this has taken babies before—and if Afton doesn’t solve this crime soon, more children are sure to go missing .

A year ago, I would never have expected this novel from this author and the reason is simple….Gerry Schmitt is Laura Childs and, if there has ever been a Queen of the Cozies, it’s Laura Childs. I really like her various series so, when I heard this book was coming, I was intrigued. For the most part, I think this new direction is successful and quite promising.

One minor quibble is in the label “thriller”. Since we know from the beginning who the bad guys are, I tend to think of this as suspense, not so much thriller. It’s really just semantics, though, and the book world has been debating how to apply labels, subgenres, categories and so forth almost for as long as I can remember so it doesn’t truly matter. In this case, calling it a thriller probably won’t matter to anyone but me 😉

Afton Tangler (nifty name) is a woman who, like many of us, has accomplished part of her dream but isn’t quite all the way there yet. As a liaison between the police and the victims of crime and their families, she has her job with the police but what she really wants is to be a detective and she does whatever she can to connect with the people who can help. That’s not to say she uses them, far from it. Afton is a woman who’s easy to like and her boss, Deputy Chief Gerald Thacker, does recognize her value as liaison and encourages her up to a point. Another supporter, with some reluctance, is veteran detective Max Montgomery and he is the lead on the baby kidnapping case. Since Afton needs to work with the Dardens, parents of the missing Elizabeth Ann, Max includes her in much of his investigation even though Thacker has reminded both that she is not to do any detecting. That right there was enough to make me like Max.

Twists and turns, not to mention the creepy idea of reborn babies, send Afton and Max in more than a few directions and going along with them as they work to find the baby before it’s too late kept me engaged. There were a few spots where Afton’s behavior was out of touch with what a “real” detective would do and where the story dragged just a mite but I really liked that the story is told from multiple points of view including that of the very unsavory bad guys.

Besides being a compassionate, intelligent person, Afton is also a bit of a kickass as an ice climber and the physical and mental qualities, as well as sheer courage, needed to be successful at climbing carry over to her work. She bumbles occasionally, especially with this being such a sensitive and high profile case, but Afton is the kind of person who could make a most excellent professional sleuth given the opportunity. I can’t wait to find out what happens next with this aspiring police detective when Shadow Girl comes out next July.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Little Girl Gone by
Gerry Schmitt,
just leave a comment below. The winning

name will be drawn on Monday night,
November 28th. This drawing
is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

 

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Book Review: Rebel Nation by Shaunta Grimes

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Title: Rebel Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Publisher: Berkeley Trade
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Genres: Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Rebel NationRebel Nation
Shaunta Grimes
Berkley Books, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-26812-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Sixteen years ago, a plague wiped out nearly all of humanity. The Company’s vaccine stopped the virus’s spread, but society was irrevocably changed. Those remaining live behind impenetrable city walls, taking daily doses of virus suppressant and relying on The Company for continued protection. They don’t realize that everything they’ve been told is a lie…

Clover Donovan didn’t set out to start a revolution—quiet, autistic, and brilliant, she’s always followed the rules. But that was before they forced her into service for the Time Mariners. Before they condemned her brother to death, compelling him to flee the city to survive. Before she discovered terrifying secrets about The Company.

Clover and the Freaks, her ragtag resistance group, are doing their best to spread the rebellion and stay under The Company’s radar. But when their hideout is discovered, they are forced, once again, to run. Only this time, The Company has special plans for Clover, plans that could risk her life and stop the uprising in its tracks…

It’s not all that easy these days to come up with a fresh idea in dystopian fiction but, in Viral Nation, Shaunta Grimes did just that and has now followed it up with a nicely done sequel, Rebel Nation. In this second of the trilogy, the reader becomes re-acquainted with Clover Donovan, an autistic teen who happens to be of serious interest to the government specifically because of her autism. It’s possible that other books have been written with an autistic protagonist in a dystopian world; if so, I don’t know of them and I think it would be difficult to find a better characterization of how such a child might fit in. I don’t know a lot of details about the spectrum but I believe Clover would be deemed high-functioning in today’s reality.

Clover is  a unique protagonist and is written so well that she came alive for me on all levels. I appreciated the author’s depictions of Clover’s awareness of those times when her behavior is not quite appropriate and her determination to contain herself. At the same time, we can see that she needs a special sort of assistance which she gets from her loyal and loving service dog, Mango. Her relationship with the very admirable Jude is another highlight of the story and his devotion to her, even when faced with her reactions to certain stimuli, is *so* much more believable than the all-too-frequent romances we find in Young Adult fiction. Jude is the young man I would want on my side if I were Clover.

There are plenty of villains in Rebel Nation but none quite so despicable as Bennett and his single-minded determination to make use of Clover’s abilities comes across loud and clear. Whether Clover and Jude, along with the rest of their ragtag group, could stay out of his clutches and spread the rebellion against The Company kept me reading all night and I didn’t regret a moment of my lost sleep. The Freaks are a resistance group that shoulders a great weight and I really wish I could continue the story now, especially since Ms. Grimes has left us with a humdinger of a cliffhanger. There’s a prequel novella coming out soon—I guess that’ll have to tide me over till the third book  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2014.

About the Author

 

Shaunta GrimesShaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.


Author Links:


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  //  Facebook  //  Blog  //  Newsletter
  //  Goodreads

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5 finished copies of Rebel Nation. International.

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Book Reviews: Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke, Jambalaya Justice by Holly Castillo, and “The President Has Been Shot” by James L. Swanson

Rutherford ParkRutherford Park
Elizabeth Cooke
Berkley Books, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-425-26258-0
Trade Paperback

Shades of everyone’s favorite, Downton Abbey, with a bit of Warhorse thrown in for seasoning. Not that this is a bad thing, since Rutherford Park will prove every bit as addictive as those two. A reader can’t help but become involved in the lives of characters great and small, highest society and lowest servant.

Timing for the story puts us on the cusp of World War One–the Great War. William Cavendish, owner of the massive Rutherford Park estate, is preoccupied with the politics of preventing a war. Octavia, his wife, whom he married nineteen years ago for her money, is stuck at home worrying not only about her children, but about William’s coldness toward her. It is in the midst of a snowy Christmas that Octavia sees her husband kissing another woman, rending her heart. Then her son denies the housemaid he’s gotten with child, and the girl dies. With the Cavendishs so divided, one wonders if the family can survive.

Aside from fortune hunting and matrimonial concerns, manners and the avoidance of scandal—although not always scandalous behavior—preoccupy the upper class. Secrets abound. However, their servants know everything, and in their way, class strictures are as hidebound for them as for their betters. What a world. What a fascinating world!

Excellently written, the prose flows smoothly, the settings scintillate, the history teaches without effort as the characters come alive.

Rutherford Park includes a reader’s guide, handy for book clubs.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Jambalaya JusticeJambalaya Justice
Crescent City Mystery #2
Holly Castillo
Oak Tree Press, August 2011
ISBN 978-1-61009-020-9
Trade Paperback

The Big Easy heats up in Holly Castillo‘s latest mystery thriller. It’s a novel of the cops and the courts and it wouldn’t be New Orleans without some hot romance thrown into the mix. It’s undercover chills, bedroom thrills, and even a judge who insists on jokes in his courtroom. What else is included in Jambalaya Justice? Too much to list here and too much fun to spoil it.

Ryan Murphy, an assistant DA in New Orleans, involves herself in the death of a hooker, the latest in a serial killer’s string of victims. This while also dealing with other cases that include a trial of a slick fancy-dressing mobster, domestic abuse, and the robbery of a French Quarter strip club. Shep Chapetti, her boyfriend and an SID detective, is working the disappearance and apparent death of a prosecutor. One problem with the case is the supposed victim has a background that doesn’t add up but may have family ties to Murphy. The other problem is Shep is teamed up with an annoying ex-girlfriend, another attorney in the DA’s office.

The connections between the individuals in the cases and the characters would need a large chalkboard to figure out. I envy Castillo for keeping everything straight and by dishing out teasers. This kept me guessing and surprised by each revelation. Not everybody is who they claim to be, but you can believe this: Castillo brings a fantastic story to the forefront of mystery fiction. When it comes to writing about New Orleans, an author has to make it big and flashy and exciting. Castillo doesn’t disappoint and I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next novel.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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The President Has Been Shot“The President Has Been Shot!”
The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

James L. Swanson
Scholastic Press, October 2013
ISBN 0-545-49007-8
Hardcover

James L. Swanson is not a new author.  You may recognize his name from his New York Times bestseller The 12-Day Hunt for Lincoln’s Killer.

There are many, many things I like about this book.  The level of detail is amazing.  Rarely, are we treated to such a meticulous account in a non-fiction work.  I believe that these little nuggets of awesome play a large part in making this appealing to younger audiences.  Actually, this adult reader was genuinely surprised by some remarkably interesting points that I had not been aware of, despite learning about Kennedy in history classes.  Jackie slipping her wedding band into Jack’s hand when she realized that he was gone was one of the most endearing things ever.  The explanations as to why it appeared to viewers that Kennedy won the first televised debate, while the radio listeners felt that Nixon was the winner, were very intriguing.  I would be remiss; however, if I did not state that, while this level of detail was greatly appreciated throughout most of the book, the description of the impact and damage caused by Oswald’s bullet felt very gruesome, to me.  Anything less would have detracted from the integrity of the book, I realize and appreciate that; I just think it is worthy of mention for readers with a delicate stomach.

The brief history provided really allows the reader to know Jack Kennedy, the person.  The Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis and The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty were all very important events that no longer seem prominent in history classes today.  I appreciate the refreshers, and I am certain that young readers will welcome this knowledge.

Mr. Swanson painstakingly chose photographs to accompany this telling, again helping the reader to know and appreciate President and Jackie Kennedy.  Also included are diagrams of the motorcade and The Texas School Book Depository’s sixth floor.  Speculation and questions as to why Lee Harvey Oswald decided to assassinate the president are presented in thought-provoking way, rather than just laying out the facts as we know them.

This is a fascinating account of a 50 year old tragedy that we still do not understand.  I hope to see this book in many a Middle-School and High-School library, and I strongly recommend this to History teachers everywhere.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2013.