Book Reviews: The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Isenberg and Cogheart by Peter Bunzl @frumpenberg @HachetteBooks @peterbunzl @JollyFishPress

The Third Rainbow Girl
The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia
Emma Copley Eisenberg
Hachette Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-44923-6

The summer of 1980 gave the people of Pocahontas, and its neighboring Greenbrier county, something brand new to gossip and gripe about. A bunch of (probably) dirty, drunk and drugged-out dudes and chicks were about to descend. The Rainbow Family Gathering was moving east for the first time and the meeting place this year was in the Monongahela Forest in West Virginia.

Individually, the people are quite warm and welcoming. However, many did not want this Rainbow Festival happening on their pristine land. Some did long for a spectacle, eager to see a ‘freak show’ of nude, free-loving, tree-huggers dancing and skinny-dipping, flitting through their forests like true faeries.

I was only nine years old. I remember grumblings almost masking anticipation.

Before the gathering properly began, two female travelers were killed merely miles from their destination. Based on the location alone, there was no doubting that the shooter was a local. Determining who it was and why, though, would prove to be more challenging than anyone imagined.

Conducting an investigation when essentially everyone knows each other isn’t easy. There really aren’t secrets in small towns. Yet, the inexplicable killing of two “Rainbow Girls” was not a mystery to be solved quickly, or with collective satisfaction.

I remember watching an America’s Most Wanted episode about “The Rainbow Murders.” Jake Beard was a suspect, whereabouts unknown. Only, my younger sister piped up quickly, “He’s in Florida! I just got a letter from (his daughter).” Before leaving the mountains, Beard would pull his snazzy red convertible into our driveway and happily haul my sister and his daughter around town.

We did not immediately assume his innocence, though. Public opinion was absolutely split down the middle between the people who couldn’t believe Beard would flick off a flea, to the ones that swear he always had a wild, hateful streak.

Finally, there was a trial and a conviction. But that conviction was overturned.

Would the killer ever be identified? Or, do we already know who got away with murder?

I was excited to learn of The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg; although I admit to some apprehension due to a protective feeling towards my home state. I was pleasantly surprised and tremendously pleased with how well this author was able to understand the mountaineers and convey their way of life in an honest, objective manner.

I found her research and study of this criminal case to be tenacious and thorough without being too tough. The way that she shares what she learned was informative, but not suggestive. When I finished this book, my opinion of who killed those young ladies so many years ago has changed. And, I’m feeling a tiny bit homesick.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2020.


A Cogheart Adventure #1
Peter Bunzl
Jolly Fish Press, February 2019
ISBN 978-1-63163-287-7
Trade Paperback

Set in the skies above and the streets running through London, this scintillating story of clockworks, mechanimals, hybrids and humans is the book that will keep kids reading well past bed-times. It has to be hard for a young reader to step away from this fast-paced, perilous plot because as an adult, I found myself hurrying through a chore or four so that I could get back to the search for the oh-so-secret cogheart.

Professor John’s airship was attacked and it seems the sole survivor is Malkin, the mechanimal fox that serves as family pet and pseudo-protector. He must get a message to John’s daughter, Lily, but even a creature as clever as he cannot make that journey alone.

Slinking and thinking, Malkin has no idea he has been spotted. The teen-aged boy living above Townsend’s Horologist’s was having trouble sleeping and he spied the fox from his window. With a watchful eye, Robert realized the fox was a mechanimal and impulsively sought him out to see if he could be of assistance. He is his da’s apprentice, after all.

Robert and Malkin are indeed an unlikely duo, but it is apparent that they must work together to get to Lily, because they are definitely being pursued. Mr. Creepy-Mirror-Eyes Scary-Face (not his real name) and his equally alarming pal are popping up everywhere and it soon becomes obvious that the four share the same goal but for very different reasons. One pair wants to protect Lily and provide comfort, the other is after the Professor’s greatest invention.

When we finally meet Lily, and she pulls her little nose out of her beloved penny dreadful, we see a young lady that needs no protecting. But she’s no fool, so she is willing to let Robert and Malkin assist in her quest to obtain the elusive perpetual motion machine and to keep it safe from the heinous hybrids and whoever they are working for.

Cogheart could be categorized as an epic action-adventure and that would be accurate; but there are also some subtle, yet intriguing, conversations that provided unique points to ponder. I just love everything about this book and I cannot wait to give my copy to my favorite classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2019.

Book Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron—and a Giveaway!

The Dark UnwindingThe Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-32786-2

The Dark Unwinding begins like this: “Warm sun and robin’s egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one’s uncle to a lunatic asylum.”

Katherine Tulman is a seventeen-year-old orphan living in 1852 London with her Aunt Alice and cousin Robert, the heir of Uncle Tully’s entailed estate. Katherine clearly understands why her widowed Aunt Alice is sending her to Stanwyne, an isolated estate in the countryside. She is to assess her uncle’s mental stability and then recommend his commitment to an asylum so that the inheritance can pass to Robert.

What Katherine finds at Stanwyne is unexpected and full of surprises. One of the most charming aspects of this novel is the estate itself. Although I would enjoy describing it here, I’m sure you will have much more fun reading about it along with Katherine as she discovers Stranwyne’s many quirks and peculiarities. Uncle Tully is another of the novel’s charms. He is a character I will not quickly forget. This is a very visual novel and would make a delightful movie.

I had a lot of fun trying to guess along with Katherine, attempting to piece together seemingly unrelated elements as they occur and figuring out the central question here – what is going on? I could make little sense out of it and when I thought I was beginning to understand, I was usually wrong. Lots of pleasing surprises in this one.

The only caveat here that I will offer is to encourage the reader to read The Dark Unwinding quickly, over a brief period of time, in just a few days. Then, I think you will find the pace of the novel and its conclusion quite enjoyable. And if you enjoy it as much as I did, you will be happy to know that there is a published sequel, A Spark Unseen.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, April 2014.


To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy of
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, leave a
comment below. The winning name will be drawn
Sunday evening, February 1st. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.


Come back on Monday, February 2nd, for
the review of the sequel, A Spark Unseen,
and a giveaway of a pre-publication copy.

Book Review: The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

The Chronicle of Secret RivenThe Chronicle of Secret Riven
Keeper of Tales Trilogy Book 2
Ronlyn Domingue
Atria Books, May 2014
ISBN 978-1-4516-8891-7

This story, which is Book 2, introduces Eve (Secret) Riven, as a small quiet child. So quiet, she never speaks. When she is only four years old Secret discovers she can talk mind-to-mind to plants, insects, and animals—and they can speak back to her.

Secret’s mother has the uncanny ability to speak and translate arcane languages and spends her time working for a single patron whose translation needs take up all her time, leaving little for Secret. And although Secret’s father dotes upon her, he is often away from home on business. The child is very lonely.

The story follows Secret through her school years, where she graduates with honors, until she takes a job with Fewmany, an enormously wealthy inventor and entrepreneur. His background is obscure and mysterious.

During this time, Secret makes a few friends. Nicholas, who will become king of the nation, for one. Another is Old Woman, who lives in the forest reached only through a mysterious tunnel, and gives the child the love for which she yearns. And there is Cyril the squirrel, who first led the child through the mysterious hollow tree that takes her into a peaceful land where time stands still.

The world-building in the story is breathtaking. The characterization is beautifully developed. The writing is lovely. The plot? Well, it moves very slowly, allowing time for all the above mentioned features to progress. Although Secret’s story is a fine one, in the end, the book left me a bit unsatisfied. I wanted to see some resolution, but instead am left hanging, presumably to await the third book of the trilogy.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.