Book Review: Aftermath by Clara Kensie

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Title: Aftermath
Author: Clara Kensie
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre:  Mystery, Young Adult

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aftermath-kensieAftermath
Clara Kensie
Merit Press, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-4405-9870-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad’s a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte’s twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life–the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.

When occasionally a child (or adult, for that matter) is found after having been abducted and held in captivity for a long time, it’s a top news story, as well it should be. The very rarity of such a case makes it even more frightening and we’re completely fascinated along with being horrified and can’t help feeling thankful it’s happening to someone else. That’s not a callous reaction, just human nature.

Ms. Kensie has done a really good job of tapping into the feelings of the abducted girl, Charlotte, and those of the people in her world and outside it. It didn’t take long for me to connect with this teen, with her lingering fear, her confusion, her determination to make things right—or, as right as they could be—for that other girl. Charlotte is an intelligent girl, severely hampered by her isolation for so many years, but she manages to find her way and I liked her attitude and personality very much.

No thanks to her parents or her sister, Charlotte comes across as healthier, mentally and emotionally, than the people who were left behind when she was taken. It’s important to note that this isn’t the author’s way of making light of such an abduction; rather, Ms. Kensie opens a window onto the damage that’s done to all parties when horrible things happen. After all, there isn’t much that’s worse than being snatched from everything and everyone you know but losing a loved one to the unknown and having no answers ranks a very close second.

Aftermath is not Ms. Kensie’s first book but it’s the first I’ve read and, if this one is any indication, I think I’m going to like her other work as much as I did this. At the very least, I’ll enjoy finding out if I’m right.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

About the Author

clara-kensieWinner of the 2015 RITA Award for Best First Book

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today, Clara is the author of dark fiction for young adults. Her debut, the super-romantic thriller RUN TO YOU BOOK ONE: DECEPTION SO DEADLY is the winner of the prestigious RITA Award for Best First Book.

The RUN TO YOU series was named to several Best Books of 2014 lists, including RT Magazine Editors’ Pick. The two-book series was originally published as a six-part serial by Harlequin Teen in 2014 (First Sight, Second Glance, Third Charm, Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense). By popular demand, the six-part serial is now available as two full-length books: DECEPTION SO DEADLY and DECEPTION SO DARK.

Her next book is AFTERMATH, a dark, ripped-from-the-headlines contemporary about a girl who returns home four years after being kidnapped, only to find her family has fallen apart in her absence. To fix her broken family–and help find the body of her captor’s first victim–the girl must first heal herself. AFTERMATH is a story of hope, healing, and triumph over tragedy, perfect for fans of ROOM and THE LOVELY BONES. Available November 15th 2016 from Merit Press.

Clara’s favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

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Book Review: Unlocked by Margo Kelly

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Title: Unlocked
Author: Margo Kelly
Publisher: Merit Press

Publication Date: October 1, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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unlockedUnlocked
Margo Kelly
Merit Press, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-4405-9359-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

A provocative thriller involving hypnosis, mystery, love, and friendship!

Someone has been moving the stuffed pink elephant in Hannah’s room. She thinks. And ants crawl over her hands, across the steering wheel, all the time. Don’t they? They’re what made her crash the car on the way home from the fair, and she wouldn’t have freaked out, wouldn’t have caused her friend’s death, for no reason. But she doesn’t know if a person is messing with her, if the paranormal is messing with her–or if she’s just going psychotic like her dad before her.

When her friends bail, Hannah is left floundering. Not even her boyfriend Manny believes her, and new girl Chelsea is practically replacing her at school. Only artsy outsider and self-proclaimed occult expert, Plug, agrees to help Hannah find out the truth about hypnosis and demons, and even he can’t help Hannah reclaim her mind from whatever’s taking over. She’ll have to do that herself if she wants to save her friends, her mom and herself.

Some reviews are more difficult to write than others for a variety of reasons. In this case, I was affected by the premise of Hannah’s story.

I’m not speaking from personal experience, thank heavens, but I think it must be so very hard to believe you’re losing your mind, especially when you’ve sen it in your family, giving the possibility a lot of credence. Imagine, then, how much worse it must be when Hannah has to cope with the fact that she has killed a friend when in the grip of one of these episodes.

Knowing that there might be other explanations for what’s happening to her isn’t exactly comforting and the way her classmates distance themselves from her doesn’t help. It seems there are very few people in Hannah’s court but she at least has Plug, a guy who’s far more reliable and caring than she could have expected. With his help, Hannah will soon find that the demons are far worse than she feared but that she has an inner strength that just might save her.

Hannah is a girl I can like, very vulnerable but resilient, but it’s her new friends who really captured me. Plug, Nick and Kyla are refreshing and loyal and, above all, they have faith in Hannah.

Although Ms. Kelly has done a fine job with an emotionally wrenching topic, I do have to say I wasn’t crazy about the structure of the book, specifically the very lengthy chapters. I prefer being able to come to a natural stop more often (I hate putting a book down in the middle of a chapter) and that’s especially true with such an intense story; I need a break sometimes. Still, Ms. Kelly has caught my attention with Unlocked and I’m looking forward to seeing more from her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

About the Author

margo-kellyMargo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Her critically acclaimed debut, Who R U Really?, was published by Merit Press (an imprint of F+W Media) in 2014. Her second novel, Unlocked, will be published by Merit Press in October 2016. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.

Margo Kelly loves to be scared … when she’s reading a good book, watching a good movie, or suffering from the hiccups. She loves writing thrillers for young adults and hopes her stories give you the goose bumps or the itchies or the desire to rethink everyday things. Margo is represented by the not-so-scary, but totally awesome, Brianne Johnson of Writers House.

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Book Review: Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross

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Title: Half in Love with Death
Author: Emily Ross
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: December 16, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

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Half in Love with DeathHalf in Love with Death
Emily Ross
Merit Press, December 2015
ISBN 978-1-4405-8903-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.

Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.

Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

To lose a sibling at any age and under any circumstances is painful but how terrible it must be when you’re a teen and no one knows what happened to your sister. I watch a lot of crime shows on the ID channel and I’m particularly struck by the stories of the “Disappeared”. There’s so much left hanging and no real resolution until the missing loved one is found either alive or dead and teens and younger children must be especially bewildered by this world they thought was safe.

When Caroline’s sister is lost, her parents don’t exactly feel less love for her; it’s just that they’re consumed by their grief and fear and their need to place blame. As you might expect, they all turn inwards and fail to comfort each other as much as they could, creating the perfect chance for Jess’s boyfriend, Tony, to step in to Caroline’s life with promises that, together, they can find Jess. It’s hardly surprising that Caroline would be drawn to this man but her inexperience and innocence, her desperation to find her sister and her near-abandonment by her parents blind her to Tony’s true nature.

Much of what happens in this novel would be unlikely today with our much-heightened sense of the evil that exists in the world but the 60’s were a more innocent time with thoughts of peace and love for one another and just general trust mixed in with our acute awareness of war and the atrocities that go with it. Sure, there was evil then, too, but it just did not have the same pervasiveness as today and, let’s face it, many of us believed in an Ozzie and Harriet universe. I did quite a few things as a teen that would give me heart seizures now if my 20-something grandson did them, much less a teenaged daughter. It’s that difference in how we see things now that makes Half in Love with Death such a powerful novel even though the story itself is pretty predictable.

Caroline herself is painfully naive, more so than any 15-year-old I knew back then, but her family is unusually dysfunctional and it’s clear she’s struggling to find her own way. As much as I wanted to shake some sense into her and, sometimes, I really didn’t think she had a brain, I also liked her and wanted her to find some comfort. The journey toward that hope kept me reading until the end and, predictable or not, I enjoyed the trip.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

About the Author

Emily RossEmily Ross’s YA mystery/thriller HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is forthcoming from Merit Press(12/2015). She received a 2014 MCC Artist Fellowship finalist award for fiction, and is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. When not writing she works as a web developer and is the mother of two millennials. Find out more at http://www.emilyrosswrites.com/ or https://twitter.com/emilyross816.

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Book Review: Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader

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Title: Escape from Eden
Author: Elisa Nader
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: 08/18/13
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
    

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Escape from EdenEscape from Eden
Elisa Nader
Merit Press, August 2013
ISBN 978-1-4405-6392-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Since the age of ten, Mia has rebelled against the iron fist of a fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join a fanatical family of followers. At “Edenton,” a supposed Garden of Eden deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the reverend’s strict and arbitrary rules–even about whom they can marry. Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in and the curious out. When the rebellious Gabe, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees her chance to escape and to free her family. But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s facade are more shocking than anything they imagined. While Gabe has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friend and freedom fighters. But there’s no time to think about love as they race against time to stop the reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock–but not himself–from this corrupt world. Can two kids crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman whose only concern is his own secrets?

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I’m dating myself, I know, but I remember Jonestown very well. For those of us on the outside, it was unbearably sad but also a real shock to our sensibilities because we had never really experienced anything remotely like this. There had been other megalomaniacs before Jim Jones—Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung come to mind—but, so many years later, most of us just didn’t contemplate the possibility of a “civilian” having such total control over the people who believed in him. Those other men operated with immense cruelty but they were generally removed from the acts of their followers while Jones was right in the midst of it. Besides the incredible sadness of all the lives lost, we were confronted with the reality that some people are so lost and in search of meaning in their lives that they could be completely swayed by the glibness of a madman to the point that they would murder their own children because he told them to do it.

There have been other cults with their own kinds of disasters and leaders, like Charles Manson in the 1960’s and David Koresh in the 1990’s, who also could twist the minds of vulnerable people but Jim Jones is a name that will always be the epitome of cultish horror. In recent years, though, cults have become less of a news item. They certainly still exist but their activities are no longer in the public eye as much as they were back then. That makes what Elisa Nader has done even more remarkable than a casual reader might realize.

Ms. Nader is far too young to remember Jonestown and her target audience certainly won’t but she has created a story that brings to life how a cult leader like Jim Jones can operate.  Certain traits hold true with Reverend Elias Eden including isolating his people from general society, controlling what they eat and where they go , even naming the community after himself as another subliminal means of imprinting on these people who are not allowed to keep their own family names. What’s so amazing, in real life and in this story, is how far those people will go to support their leader and I think Escape from Eden will help today’s young adult readers understand the serious pitfalls of such a life.

Yes, the scenario is frightening and sad and a matter of incredulity for those of us on the outside but here is where Ms. Nader introduces an element that relieves the sense of doom—she creates hope in the persons of Mia and Gabe, two young members of the hidden society who don’t believe, who seek to break free and perhaps bring an end to the tyranny. I appreciated the support they gave each other although I didn’t particularly care for the potential romance or Mia’s propensity to let her attraction to Gabe get in the way but it’s such a relief to have these kids bring hope to an untenable situation. Mia, in particular, is refreshingly not always the brightest bulb in the box  and Gabe has his own tragic background to overcome but they have the passion to survive. Along the way, the reader is faced with intense suspense and fast-paced action, frequently feeling the need to chew fingernails.

Elisa Nader Book Quote

The combination of appealing and credible characters, and some who are not so appealing, with such a bonechilling plot led me to race through the story because I just had to know what was coming on the next page while I was also dreading the end. I was afraid of what might happen but wanted the story to keep going. Elisa Nader has brought us a real winner with Escape from Eden and I hope we won’t have to wait too long before her next work. Perhaps she could come up with a novella or two to tide us over in the meantime ;-).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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About the Author

Elisa NaderHi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.

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Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey—and a Giveaway

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Title: Deceived
Author: Julie Anne Lindsey
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: 09/18/13
Genre: Mystery, Young Adult

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DeceivedDeceived
Julie Anne Lindsey
Merit Press, September 2013
ISBN 978-1-4405-6389-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad’s demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went – until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn’t her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father’s desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

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Young adult fiction is largely focused on the dystopian and fantasy genres these days so I’m always glad to find a novel rooted in mystery. Deceived falls into that category quite nicely  and hits a lot of my hot spots.

The whole point of a mystery is to present the reader and the protagonist with a situation filled with questions and then the reader follows the protagonist through solving the puzzle(s), sometimes leaping ahead by figuring it out first, either by the author’s design or because the clues are somewhat obvious. In this case, I did have a pretty good idea early on—and my guess turned out to be correct—but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of Elle’s journey at all.

Elle is a character with some depth and I felt her need for stability after a lifetime of constant moves but, of course, any reader would know that her thinking she’s finally come to a place to call “home” is merely a lead-in to her learning a great deal more than she could ever have foreseen. Yes, she makes some choices that are naive and ill-considered but she is, after all, a teenager who has been protected all her life by her father so we shouldn’t expect her to be all-seeing, all-knowing and totally mature. Elle behaves pretty much as I would have expected my own teens to behave in a similar scenario.

The one thing that absolutely did not work for me was the romance. I hate so-called “insta-love” because it’s trite, makes no sense and almost always casts the girl in a bad light for being so idiotic. People say boys are ruled by their hormones but I really think girls put boys to shame when it comes to losing all sensibility over the opposite sex. That failure of good sense becomes even more important when Elle realizes she may be in the cross-hairs of a serial killer known as the Reaper and she will be even more surprised at some of the secrets that come to light.

When push comes to shove, Elle’s intelligence kicks in when she needs it most and she becomes the strong-minded girl I like to see in a novel of suspense. Despite an occasional plot hole and my irritation about the romance, I enjoyed Deceived and I’m looking forward to trying some of Ms. Lindsey’s other titles.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

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About the Author

Julie Anne LindseyJulie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomes five new releases in three genres including her newest title, Deceived, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, Murder by the Seaside, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).

Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Find her online:

Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey
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Pinning the pretty on Pinterest
Tumbling lamely on Tumblr
Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile
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Book Reviews: King of the Dead by Joseph Nassise, The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab, and Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick

King of the DeadKing of the Dead
The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle

Joseph Nassise
Tor, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-7653-2719-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In a devil’s deal, Jeremiah Hunt sacrificed his human sight in exchange for the power to see the hidden world of ghosts and all of the darker spirits that prowl the streets. Hunt uncovered a world of murder and magic that took his daughter from him and nearly cost him his life, but that was only the beginning….

Now Hunt is on the run from the FBI, who have pegged him as a mass-murdering dark sorcerer. His flight from the law is diverted to New Orleans when his companion, a potent witch, has a horrific vioiledsion of the city under magical siege. When they arrive, they realize that the situation is more dire than they could have imagined: the world of the living faces a terrifying attack by forces from beyond the grave. King of the Dead, the second book in this groundbreaking series, promises more of Nassise’s electrifying writing that will enthrall readers looking for a supercharged, supernatural thrill.

 

One of the best combinations that has come about with the tremendous growth of crossgenre fiction is crimefighting supernatural beings. Early players—meaning in recent years because crossgenre is certainly not a new thing—such as Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher) and Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison) whetted our appetites and many readers, including me, are always on the lookout for more, especially those that are a bit different.

And Jeremiah Hunt is decidedly different. We’ve had central characters who can wizard or witch their way through life, or chase down bad guys while in the form of werewolves and vampires and such, but how often do we come across a guy who can see ghosts and all the scary things in the dark and can do so BECAUSE he’s blind? To make it even more unique, Jeremiah actually wanted his blindness, unlike so many who gain their abilities through no desire to be able to do these things. Jeremiah and his cohorts, a witch and a berserker, ought to be kickbutt.

Unfortunately, they don’t quite do it for me and I’m not entirely sure why. Part of the problem is a bit too much infodumping in an effort to bring the reader up to speed in this second book. I appreciate the effort because knowing some background helps when you haven’t read the earlier books in a series (a frequent happenstance for reviewers) but it’s a little too heavyhanded in this case. I was also a little put off by the shifting points of view—generally, I like that but the shifts were sometimes too abrupt and I would lose my connection to the story while taking the time to figure out who’s speaking.

Having said that, the worldbuilding is very good and I like these characters, especially Jeremiah. I’ve heard excellent reports about the first book, Eyes to See, so I think this may be one of those rare occasions when I should have read the first book first. King of the Dead interests me a lot and I think I’ll enjoy it much more if I start at the beginning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

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The Girl in the WallThe Girl in the Wall
Daphne Benedis-Grab
Merit Press, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-4405-5270-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ariel’s birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family’s east coast estate, and all of Ariel’s elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who’s dreading the party is Sera, Ariel’s former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel’s father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

One of the dreaded tropes of young adult fiction is femjep, female in jeopardy. This goes way back, to the days of “The Perils of Pauline” nearly a hundred years ago and earlier. At times, it seems as though many writers of young adult fiction can’t come up with a story without it, and that has led to a craving for those tales that feature girls with a brain, girls that can actually take care of themselves most of the time. It’s an even greater pleasure when an author is able to craft a story around a girl of, shall we say, substance, involved in a situation of jeopardy.

Ms. Benedis-Grab has accomplished this in spades with The Girl in the Wall and there are, in fact, two very capable girls, Sera and Ariel. The author makes good use of the hostage aspect and watching the girls cope with such deadly circumstances is knuckle-whitening. I literally raced from one chapter to the next and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way. Some of Ariel’s behavior raised my eyebrows and Sera is faced with an impossible choice but I really liked both of these teens and found them highly interesting.The action is intense and frightening and I loved getting to know both Sera and Ariel.

This is a pair of girls I’d like to have by my side in a dark alley.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

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Dog in the MangerDog in the Manger
Mike Resnick
Seventh Street Books, November 2012
ISBN 9781616147105
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hired to investigate the disappearance of a Westminster winner, Eli Paxton stumbles into a web of intrigue.

A dog is missing. Not just any dog. The number one Weimaraner in the country and current Westminster winner.

Down-on-his-luck private eye Eli Paxton is hired to find him. Not exactly an elite assignment, but better than nothing. Maybe it will help him pay his rent.

It turns out to be anything but a routine case. People start dying in mysterious ways, a cargo plane goes missing, and someone is taking shots at him. It makes no sense. Even a top show dog isn’t worth that much.

Now the hunt is on. Paxton needs to find this dog to save his own skin. The trail leads to Arizona, then Mexico, and finally back to his hometown of Cincinnati—Where he finds the startling solution.

 

Dog in the Manger is a reprint of a book first published in the mid-1990′s and I’m just so glad somebody decided to dust it off. I’ve been familiar with Mike Resnick‘s work for many years but it was his science fiction that I knew—I had no idea he’d ever written a mystery.

Eli Paxton seems like the typical down-on-his-luck private eye and, in many ways, he is but there’s more to him than that. Whether he wants to or not, Eli cares about his cases; they’re more than just a paycheck. When he first agrees to find out what happened to Baroness von Tannelwald, he almost sees it as having sunk as low as the low can go, a desperate move by a man having a little difficulty making his income stretch to cover his bills and allow the occasional good seat at a Reds game. It can’t be all that hard to find a dog, especially when her handler, Hubert Lantz, is willing to pay a tidy sum for Eli to track her down, right?

But wait, why has everybody who’s been connected to Baroness in the last few days  disappeared—or turned up dead?

Mr. Resnick may not have spent his authorial career writing mysteries but Dog in the Manger shows that he clearly knows how to do it. This book has nasty criminal stuff going on as well as a good deal of sly humor and a true puzzle and Eli is a guy I’d like to hang out with. Luckily, we’ll get to see Eli again when his second book, The Trojan Colt, comes out next June and I must say I’m delighted to know he’s in my future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

Book Review: Louder Than Words by Laurie Plissner

Louder Than WordsLouder Than Words
Laurie Plissner
Merit Press, December 2012
ISBN 9781440556654
Hardcover

What a cool, and very sneaky book!  It begins with our main character, Sasha, reliving a terrible accident that ripped her from a normal life; leaving her a shell of a person, with no parents or siblings, no childhood memories, and no voice.  As if the perils of adolescence aren’t challenging enough, Sasha uses a “speak box” to communicate.

Before too much sympathy can be evoked, we learn that Sasha chooses to use the robot-voice on her voice box, rather than trying out the human-esque voice choices.  Despite being an adorable teenager, she balks at fashion, existing in sweats and tees.

Like it or not, she attracts attention.  As she walks home from the library one evening, four male classmates surround her.  It can’t be good.  Enter our amazingly dreamy male lead, Ben.  Well, technically, he entered at the library about an hour ago, but this is more dramatic.  Not only is he hot, but he happens to be on his way to martial arts class.  Through a few well-placed punches and kicks, he convinces the boys to move on.

Oh, okay, it is going to be a romance….I’m down with that.  Of course Sasha and Ben are immediately attracted to each other, when it becomes clear that Ben has an extra ability, above and beyond his black belt.  Ah, intrigue…..this is going to be more than a romance!

As Sasha finally begins to live again, memories begin to surface.  Was the car wreck really an accident?  Of course, slick roads, going too fast, it made sense; but didn’t feel right.  Sasha risks a visit to the crash site to find white tulips and very bad poetry.  The remnants of older bouquets are there, as are more cryptic notes.  No.  Not an accident.  Someone tried to kill her entire family.  But, why?  Now that Sasha knows, won’t she be targeted?

Aha!  We have a mystery.  This story keeps giving.  The tumultuous journey to unravel the mysteries is absolutely riveting.  Now, you won’t be able to put the book down.  It’s okay, it’s totally worth it.  Skip your chores and finish the book right now.

While, I (clearly) enjoyed this book, there is one thing I feel I would be remiss if I left out.  Sasha and her best friend speak rather frankly about sex—not actually having sex, just the stuff a typical teen would find in a Cosmo; however, it is enough (in my humble opinion) to leave out a younger audience. Without the sex-talk, I would easily recommend this to young teens.  I would even suggest it for Middle School, Jr. High and High School libraries; but with the sexual language, I feel that I can really only recommend it to high-school students.  This makes me sad, because it is such an amazing story, and I really didn’t feel that those conversations added anything.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2012.