Book Reviews: Colombiano by Rusty Young, Abby in Wonderland by Sarah Mlynowski and Otherwise Known As Possum by Maria D. Laso @SarahMlynowski @Scholastic

Colombiano
Rusty Young
Havelock & Baker, August 2017
ISBN–AU 9780143781547
Havelock & Baker, February 2020
ISBN–US 978-0648445319
Trade Paperback

You can’t truly know what someone else is going through without walking in his shoes. Unless Mr. Young writes about it. In Colombiano, those of us fortunate enough to be far removed from any war zone, see exactly what living amid battles entails; in day-to-day life, as well the overall impact it has on absolutely everything.

Certainly, most people know that the Guerilla evoke evil with their aggressive cocaine manufacturing and distribution. The gross misunderstanding is that the Guerilla are fighting the army and law enforcement; not citizens. Leading to the false conclusion that, if folks go about their business, there’s no real reason for this pesky fighting to bother them. The carefully controlled propaganda supports this theory. Even having the place of worship utterly obliterated by “errant” fire is only an unfortunate consequence.

Pedro has listened to placates until he thought his head may explode. Papi made sure he contained, or at least properly channeled, his rage. There was Camila to consider. Rounding out the small group of people close to Pedro is the somewhat goofy, undeniably adorable, Pallilo. Pedro can push his anger aside for them.

Right up until the Guerilla descended on his father’s farm. In front of his disbelieving eyes, Papi is surrounded as accusations are hurled. The feisty fifteen-year-old cannot watch the depraved tirade and hold his tongue. Boldly, stupidly, Pedro demands an explanation. His father’s crime was revealed with a hint of glee. The farmer had the audacity to allow soldiers from the army to drink water from his well.

The resulting punishment is a defining, dividing moment for Pedro. There are men like Papi. Those who believed, as people of God, it was never right to deny a thirsty man a drink. And there are monsters masquerading as men—the Guerilla.

The situation that Pedro is forced to face is tragic. His retaliatory actions, atrocious. And yet…the author manages to demonstrate how a furious and yes, frightened, adolescent can morph into a ruthless mankiller—all the while reminding the reader that Pedro remains, essentially, a boy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.

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Abby in Wonderland
Whatever After Special Edition #1
Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic, Inc., October 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-74667-0
Trade Paperback

Sustaining a series is no simple task. Inserting a special edition story that is somehow as fresh and fun as the very first book seems insurmountable. Except to Ms. Mlynowski.

This fairy-tale-esque fantasy adds adventure and humor absolutely appropriate for younger readers, while maintaining a subtle, something-more; making it compelling and quirky enough for older audiences as well.

I enjoyed being the proverbial parrot-on-the-shoulder as four friends share a day off from school. Per usual, Penny’s parents are not around, but her house is huge and her nanny is happy to host. Penny has planned the entire day and she is not going to let a little cold air or a brisk breeze ruin the card game on the patio.

But when the wind whipped a card across the yard and into the neighboring golf-course, Abby abruptly abandoned the game to give chase. The other three follow until Frankie falls into a hole. Penny’s agenda is pushed aside. The girls have a real problem to solve.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

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Otherwise Known As Possum
Maria D. Laso
Scholastic Press, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-93196-0
Trade Paperback

Possum, to me, is kind of a country Pippi Longstocking. Both young girls are wise to the ways of the world, if not properly educated. Tough, fiercely independent with lasting loyalty and a heart bigger than her small body should be able to hold, Possum is another exemplary young lady.

Certainly a smile-through-tears kind of story combining spunk, mischief and intuitive, undeniable kindness, I thoroughly enjoyed the bitter-sweet reflections from the late 20th century in this captivating Juvenile Fiction from Ms. Laso.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.

Book Reviews: Cheeseland by Randy Richardson, Bone Shadows by Christopher Valen, and Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham

CheeselandCheeseland
Randy Richardson
Eckhartz Press, May 2012
ISBN No. 97-0-9848049-2-4
Trade Paperback

It is graduation time and Daniel McAllister’s parents have a big party planned but the guest of honor will not be attending.  Daniel’s friend Lance Parker talks him into a road trip to Wisconsin to celebrate the end of high school.  It was supposed to be three friends celebrating but Marty Torlikson, the third member of the group, had committed suicide.  Daniel and Lance were still reeling from their friend’s funeral.

Against his better judgment, Daniel agrees to gas up his car known as “The Bomb” and the two head out of town with the music blasting.  Somehow, the subject of Marty comes up and Lance reveals that he knows the reason behind Marty’s death and that he is responsible.  Lance told Marty a secret about Marty’s father and Marty could not cope with the knowledge.  The two continue on their trip and get in one scrape after another but manage to keep going and even have a little fun as well as a whole lot of trouble.   Eventually they meet Clinton G. Buckner, known as Buck.  Buck turns out to be a real friend to the two although the true extent of his friendship isn’t revealed until later in the novel.

Daniel and Lance manage to finally make it back home and go on with their lives.  The two connect again some years later after they both are married.  Daniel is a successful attorney while Lance hasn’t met with much success.  The secret revealed by Lance on their road trip has bothered both men over the years but more so with Lance than with Daniel.  Lance’s marriage is on the rocks and his life is not going smooth.  The story of the friends reconnecting and yet another road trip is told in the second part of the book.

Cheeseland is a great story of true friendship and a look inside the minds of two young men ready to step out into the world.  The author, Randy Richardson, is donating $1.00 from each sale of this book to Elyssa’s Mission, a local suicide prevention program.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2012.

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Bone ShadowsBone Shadows
A John Santana Novel
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press, October 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-9800017-5-4
Trade Paperback

John Santana is a homicide detective in St. Paul, Minnesota and is very good at his job.  However, there is a lot more to Santana than just his job.  Born in Columbia, Santana lives under a cloud knowing that at any time his deeds in Colombia prior to fleeing the country can come back to haunt him and seek revenge.

When the body of Scott Rafferty, age 23, is recovered from the Mississippi river, the initial reaction is death by suicide.   Santana is not immediately buying into the fact that Rafferty’s death is a suicide.  Santana’s past experience with suicide by drowning has been that of an orderly scene with the victims clothes removed and neatly folded. This is not the case with Rafferty’s body.

Rafferty’s father, Hank Rafferty, is a police officer and his wife, Rachel Hardin, is a Ramsey County Judge.  Hank informs Santana that a drowning simply does not make sense.  Hank states that Scott saw his mother drown and Scott has never liked water.  Rachel Hardin, Scott’s stepmother, explained that Scott was seeing a psychiatrist.  Hank explained that the doctor was treating Scott for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  Hank said that Kimberly Dalton, Scott’s girlfriend, had contacted him a few nights ago concerned that she had not heard from Scott.  Hank suggested that she file a missing persons report.

As Santana is attempting to determine how to proceed with the investigation, he is approached by Jack Brody.  Brody is a freelance journalist.  Brody was once an award-winning reporter but he hasn’t had a good story for awhile.  He offers Santana a theory that there is a serial killer operating along the I-94 corridor.  Jordan Parrish, a private investigator, hired by the parents of another victim tells Santana that she is in agreement with Brody.

The case becomes even more confusing when Santana is approached by Ed Kincaid of the FBI.

Kincaid tells Santana it would be best if he closed the Rafferty case as a suicide by drowning.  In order to back up his suggestion he begins questioning Santana regarding Santana’s last trip to Colombia.  Santana is having none of Kincaid’s veiled threats and makes no bones about telling Kincaid.

As Santana digs deeper into not only the death of Rafferty but also other deaths by drowning, he discovers the story gets more exciting and complicated.  Bone Shadows is an exceptionally good read and a great addition to the John Santana series.  The series can be read out of order without a problem but to really get to know Santana it is best to start at the beginning.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2012.

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Say You're SorrySay You’re Sorry
Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books, October 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-316-22124-5
Hardcover

Say You’re Sorry is a gripping story of two young girls who became known to the public as the “Bingham Girls”.  Bingham is a small English village and the girls had attended a local funfair the night of their disappearance.  There are rumors that Piper Hadley and Tash McBain ran away.  Although hundreds of people were searching for Piper and Tash it seemed as though the girls just vanished into thin air.  Eventually the public eye moved on to other news.

Piper Hadley tells the girls’ side of the story.  Piper reveals to the reader the horrors faced by the two girls, as they are held captive in an unknown location.  The horrors suffered by the girls are so bad it is a wonder that they were able to hold onto their sanity.  They are convinced that working together at least one of the girls can escape and bring help back for the one left behind.

Three years later, after a blizzard hits the town, a husband and wife are found murdered in a farmhouse.  The farmhouse is where Tash McBain had lived at the time of her disappearance.  Her family had moved away and the murder victims had no connection to Tash other than the fact that they lived in Tash’s former home.

When Joe O’Loughlin, clinical psychologist, is asked by the police to help in solving this double murder he gets the feeling that the murders are connected in some way to the missing girls.  Joe and ex-cop Vincent Ruiz persuade the police to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of the two girls.

The book skips back and forth between the current investigation and the thoughts of Piper Hadley still being held captive.  The characters are strong, the story moves swiftly, and keeps the reader’s interest every step of the way.  I can’t wait to read more books by Michael Robotham.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2012.

Book Reviews: Bad Weeds Never Die by Christopher Valen, The Good, The Bad and The Murderous by Chester D. Campbell, Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis, and Danger Sector by Jenifer LeClair

Bad Weeds Never Die
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-0980001730
Trade Paperback

“Santana is destined to become one of my favorite detectives,” is a quote from my review of White Tombs, the book that introduced Detective John Santana.  The Black Minute, the second Santana book, was even more exciting than the first book.  Now author Christopher Valen has brought Detective John Santana back in Bad Weeds Never Die.  “Bad weeds never die,” is an old Colombian saying and turns out to be an excellent title for this book.

John Santana was born in Colombia.  He had avenged his Mother’s death and he was forced to flee leaving behind his younger sister Natalia.  Santana hopes someday to locate her.  He knows that his sister could be dead but his dreams and his senses tell him that she is still alive.

Santana’s current case is the death of Teresa Blackwood.  Teresa’s vehicle is found in a parking lot. The car is full of blood and some dirt and an orchid are on the floorboard of the car. Although the vehicle was empty, the police felt that someone had died in that car and that the body had been moved.  When Santana and his partner Kacie Hawkins call on Jonathan  Blackwood, Teresa’s father, they discover that Teresa has a twin sister, Maria.  Blackwood tells the detectives that although the twins are identical their personalities are very different. Teresa is head of an adoption agency.  Maria is a part time musician and mystery writer with a history of some drug problems.  The twins were adopted by the Blackwood’s when they were six months old. The twins were adopted in Colombia.

As Santana delves deeper into the case, he finds suspects at every turn.  Teresa lived with Steven Larson, a man who was cheating on her.  Blackwood’s family attorney was having an affair with the other daughter, Maria.  To make things even more tedious in the investigation Rita Gamboni, Santana’s boss, admitted that she had dated Jonathan Blackwood.

When the case becomes more complicated Santana decides that he has no choice but to travel to Colombia and investigate the agency that was working with Teresa’s adoption agency in the states.  No one wants Santana to make this trip since he has enemies in Colombia that would like to see him dead.

Santana feels that in order to solve his current case as well as face his demons and hopefully find his sister he must make the trip.  The trip does prove to be a dangerous move and readers will be shocked at the facts that Santana discovers in Colombia.

The case is finally solved but there are no end of surprises and no way to predict the final outcome.  An excellent book that will keep the reader on edge until the last page.  It is not necessary to read the first two books in the series to enjoy the current book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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The Good, The Bad and The Murderous
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press, LLC, November 2011
ISBN No. 978-0-9846044-4-9
Trade Paperback

At the request of Jaz LeMieux, private investigator Sid Chance agrees to help Djuan Burden, who is accused of murder.   Djuan’s grandmother is a long time friend of Jaz’s live-in housekeeper, Marie Wallace.  Djuan has only been out of jail for about six months and now he is back in jail on a murder charge.   His grandmother is convinced that he is innocent and Jaz wants to do everything she can to help a friend of Marie’s.

Jaz is an ex-cop and wealthy business owner but enjoys being a sidekick on Sid’s investigations.  When the two visit Djuan’s grandmother, they discover that Djuan went to a small medical equipment store in Nashville’s Green Hills section. The purpose of his visit was to complain about charges on his grandmother’s Medicare account.  Djuan’s grandmother, Rachel Ransom, had not paid a lot of attention to the many notices she received from Medicare but when Djuan saw that she had been charged for items such as a power wheelchair he decided to complain.  Rachel has never owned a wheel chair and has no need of one.    When Djuan went to the equipment store to complain, he found a dead man behind the desk.  Frightened that he would be accused of murder because of his prison history, he ran.  A witness spotted Djuan leaving the scene of the crime and the police immediately charged him with murder. A crooked cop who had no qualms about planting evidence didn’t help Djuan’s case one bit.

Besides trying to assist Sid in the murder investigation Jaz was also dealing with a problem of her own. Jaz’ company has been accused of racial discrimination.  There was no basis for the accusation, but the fact that it had been made brought about a lot of bad publicity for Jaz and her company.

Before Sid can prove that Djuan did not commit murder, Jaz finds that she is in trouble with the police.  As the two work together to clear both Djuan and the false accusations against Jaz, it becomes obvious to Sid that there is a professional hit man in town and it would appear the hit man has decided that Sid will be his next victim.

This is a great addition to the Sid Chance series.  The problem of Medicare fraud needs to be addressed because so many older people like Djuan’s mother don’t take time to analyze all the information they receive from Medicare so phony charges many times are paid and go unnoticed.

Chester Campbell’s books always make good reads but the Sid Chance series is special.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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Murder In the 11th House
Mitchell Scott Lewis
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-950-2
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

David Lowell is not your run of the mill detective.  David is an astrological detective and is very good at his job.  David has studied astrology and has become such an expert that he has used his knowledge of to buy and sell in the stock market and is now a wealthy man.

When Lowell is asked to use his skills to prove the innocence of Johnny Colbert, a woman accused of murdering Farrah Winston, a Judge in the Debit Claims Court in Lower Manhattan, Lowell’s first inclination is to decline.  The fact that Johnny Colbert is represented by Melinda Lowell, David Lowell’s daughter, is a convincing enough fact to make him take the case.

Johnny proves to be loud-mouthed and a rather rough person on the exterior but further investigation proves that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.  When Johnny is attacked in the jail Melinda talks her father into posting bail and letting Johnny stay in his townhouse.  Lowell is not too pleased with this arrangement but tends to do most anything his daughter asks.

Lowell is helped in the investigation by his assistant Sarah as well as Mort, a talented computer hacker.   Lowell’s bodyguard is always right around the corner when Lowell needs him.

It seems that Judge Winston had big plans for her future and, as Lowell finds out, that certain people did not want her plans to become a reality.

This first book in the Starlight Detective Agency series is a good one and shows that astrology can be used in many ways.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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Danger Sector
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press, July 2011
ISBN No. 978-0980001709
Trade Paperback

The last place you would expect to find a Minneapolis Police Detective on leave is working aboard a sailing ship but that is exactly what Brie Beaumont is doing.  The Maine Wind is a working ship owned by Captain John DeLuc.   Brie and John are very attracted to each other but Brie is still uncertain what the future holds for her and is unwilling to make a commitment to John on a personal level or to the ship as a permanent job.

Brie left the police department after her partner was killed and she felt she needed some distance from police work but when the ship makes a stop on Sentinel Island to help John’s friend repair an old lighthouse Brie is immediately caught up in a mystery surrounding the lighthouse and the small island.

Amanda Whitcombe is an artist, a prominent member of the Sentinel Island community and a good friend of Ben, the owner of the lighthouse.  Amanda has disappeared and when Brie finds her cottage unlocked she investigates and some clues lead Brie to believe that Amanda did not leave voluntarily.

Ben inherited the lighthouse when the previous owner died after an accident at the lighthouse.  The previous owner of the lighthouse was also a good friend of Amanda’s.  When John and Brie accidentally discover an old journal hidden in the lighthouse, belonging to the previous owner, the two decide there are mysterious happenings on the island that might bring danger to Ben as well as Brie, John and the crew of The Maine Wind.

Danger Sector is a good mystery.  The descriptions of the scenery around Sentinel Island and the food served by the cook on The Maine Wind makes the reader want to experience a trip by sailing ship although life aboard the ship is anything but easy.

This is the second book in The Windjammer Mystery series.  Rigged for Murder is the first in the series and both are recommended.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2011.