Book Review: Deadly Target by Elizabeth Goddard @bethgoddard @RevellBooks @partnersincr1me

Deadly Target
Rocky Mountain Courage #2
Elizabeth Goddard
Revell, November 2021
ISBN 978-0-8007-3799-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Criminal psychologist Erin Larson’s dreams of a successful career come to a screeching halt when she nearly loses her own life in a boating accident on Puget Sound and then learns that her mother tried to commit suicide. She leaves her job as a criminal psychologist to care for her mother in Montana. At least she is able to produce her podcast, which focuses on solving missing persons cold cases.

Nathan Campbell’s father was investigating such a case when he was shot, and now Nathan needs to enlist Erin’s help to solve the case. She’s good at what she does. The only problem? She’s his ex.

As the two dig deeper, it becomes clear that they, too, are being targeted–and that the answers to their questions are buried deep within the past Erin struggles to explain and longs to forget.

It’s not always easy for an author to achieve a good balance between plot and character development but Ms. Goddard does so quite handily in Deadly Target. Erin and Nathan each have their own baggage, so to speak, and I particularly empathized with Erin and the life choices she’s had to make since most of us need to eventually take on the care of our parents to some degree.

As for the storyline, I found the tension a little mild in comparison to other crime fiction but I think that’s to be expected with Christian-based suspense. I don’t read much of this subgenre but, once again, the author finds a satisfactory balance and I never felt the kind of preachiness I’ve encountered before. This book was my introduction to Elizabeth Goddard’s work but I’ll certainly look for more, beginning with the previous entry in the Rocky Mountain Courage series, Present Danger.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2021.

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An Excerpt from Deadly Target

1 Puget Sound For a few hours every Saturday morning, Erin Larson could forget that evil existed. And usually, only on the water. She dipped the double-bladed paddle into the sea, then again on the other side—left, right, left, right, left, right—alternating strokes in a fluid motion to propel her kayak across the blue depths. Her friend Carissa Edwards paddled close behind. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right. On the water she was close to nature and far from the chaos and noise of the city even though she and Carissa paddled along the shoreline and could see the cityscape in the distance. The quiet calmed her mind and heart. The rhythmic paddling mesmerized her. The exertion exhilarated her. Cleansed her of the stress and anxiety acquired after a week of forced labor. Okay, that wasn’t fair. Her suffering certainly wasn’t physical in nature. Water. Mountains. Sky. She took in the sights and once again . . . forgot. Beautiful snowcapped Mount Baker—the Great White Watcher—loomed large in the distance to the east. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right. The slosh of paddles along with the small waves lapping against her boat soothed her and were the only sounds except for seagulls laughing above her—ha, ha, ha. To the west, the impressive Olympic Mountains begged for attention. Erin couldn’t wait for Mom to join her out here, when she finally convinced her to move. A salty ocean breeze wafted over her as peace and beauty surrounded her. She couldn’t ask for more. She shouldn’t ask for more. But God . . . I need answers. Carissa caught up with Erin and paddled next to her kayak. “Thanks for coming with me today. I needed this.” “The exercise or the scenery?” Erin had just broken a sweat despite the early morning cool. “How about a little of both. And the company makes all the difference, I’m not going to lie.” “Yeah,” Erin answered with reluctance. She and Carissa had an understanding between them. On their kayaking excursions, peace and quiet were supposed to reign. “By the way, I listened to your podcast last night,” Carissa said. Maybe she’d forgotten their unspoken pact. “Oh?” Erin wanted to know Carissa’s thoughts, but at the same time, she didn’t want to hear the criticism. Nor would she trust any praise. “Why keep it anonymous?” “It could get complicated.” Carissa’s laugh echoed across the water. “In my case, I’d probably want the dean of the college and my students to know. But then again, I wouldn’t be talking about crime or missing people. I’d be talking about history. So, what took you so long to tell me?” Erin lifted a shoulder, opting for silence. Maybe it would be contagious. Now she wished she hadn’t told Carissa, but letting her friend in on her secret was a step toward opening up. She kept too much hidden inside. Erin had never been good at letting others in. Although as a psychologist, she was all about learning what made people tick on the inside. Erin breathed in the fresh air, listened to the mesmerizing ripple of the water, felt the warm sun against her cheeks, and chased away thoughts of crime and work. “Cold cases. Do they ever get solved?” Carissa asked. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right. “Some do.” Few. “Why do you do it?” “I need a hobby, I guess.” Erin couldn’t begin to explain the complex events that drove her to talk about missing person cold cases in hopes that answers could still be found. “I’ve been thinking.” Carissa’s kayak inched ahead. Erin remained silent. “We do this every Saturday,” Carissa continued. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right. “It’s been a lifesaver,” Erin said. “Thanks for inviting me along.” After a week working for the State of Washington, the endless hours spent researching and writing reports for forensic evaluations, she needed the break. The job wasn’t what she had dreamed about when she’d become a criminal psychologist. Still, she hoped it was a means to an end. In the meantime, she’d started the cold case crime podcast. “How about we switch it up? Go hiking. Mountain trails and lush forests all around us.” “This is close. We don’t have to drive far. Plus, I really love the water.” And have an aversion to dense forests. Carissa didn’t need to know that, as a psychologist, Erin was a walking oxymoron. “I thought you might enjoy a change.” “No, I’m good with this.” Erin’s shoulders and biceps started burning. She was relieved they would soon turn around and head back. “I hope you’ll think about it. I’d love for you to join me next weekend. I’m hiking in Mount Baker National Forest, and I’m inviting you to join the group.” “What? You’re ditching me to go hiking?” “Um . . . Is it just me, or is that boat heading directly for us?” Panic edged Carissa’s voice. Erin glanced over her shoulder in the direction of Carissa’s wide-eyed stare. A thirty-foot cruiser sped toward them. She and Carissa had strayed a bit from the shoreline. Regardless, that boat shouldn’t be approaching them in this area or at that speed. “Hurry.” Erin quickened her pace. “We can get out of its path.” “We won’t make it.” Carissa stopped and raised her paddle, waving to get the boater’s attention. “Hey, watch where you’re going! Kayakers on the water!” Arms straining, Erin paddled faster and propelled the kayak forward. Her friend hadn’t kept up. “Carissa, let’s go! Just angle out of the path.” Carissa renewed her efforts and joined Erin. Together they paddled toward the shoreline that had seemed so much closer moments before. Carissa screamed. Heart pounding, Erin glanced over her shoulder. The boat had changed course and was once again headed straight for them. Fear stole her breath. “Jump! Get out of the boat and dive!” It was all she could think to do. “Now, now, now!” She sucked in a breath and leaned forward to flip the kayak until she was upside down in the water for a wet exit. Holding her breath, she found the grab loop and peeled off the skirt. Then she gripped the sides and pushed the kayak away from her body as she slid out. Instead of heading for the surface, she kicked and dove deeper. She was grateful she was wearing a manually inflatable life vest over her wetsuit or it would drag her back to the surface, which was normally a good thing. But today that could get her killed. She pushed deeper, deeper, deeper . . . away from the surface. We’re going to make it. Erin twisted around to glance upward. The water was murky and visibility was only about ten feet, but she could still see her friend struggling to get free of her kayak. Terror stabbed through her. Erin swam back to Carissa to help her, even as the boat raced toward the kayaks and was almost on them. Her eyes wide, Carissa pushed forward, freeing herself. The hull of the speeding boat sped right over the top of the kayaks, breaking Carissa’s in half—the stern of her broken kayak propelled toward Carissa. Her head jerked forward. All the bubbles of air burst from her lungs, then her form floated—unmoving. Unconscious? Or was she lifeless? Her pulse thundering in her ears, Erin swam toward Carissa, grabbed her, and inflated their life vests. They rose quickly to the surface. Erin broke the water and gasped for breath as she held Carissa. The water remained disturbed from the speeding boat’s wake and crashed over them. Erin confirmed what she already feared. Carissa wasn’t breathing. Adrenaline surged through her. She had to keep moving. Holding on to Carissa, Erin started swimming them back to shore. She spotted the errant boat making a big circle. Coming back? Had someone lost control? She had to make it to shore to give Carissa CPR. And maybe even to save them both. Stay calm. Panic wouldn’t help either of them. The water was cold, but not so cold that she needed to worry about hypothermia. At least not yet. The whir of a boat from her left drew her attention, kicking up her already rapid heartbeat. As she took in the slowly approaching trawler—a far different boat from the speeding cruiser—relief eased the tension in her shoulders. Three men and a couple of women waved. A silver-haired man in a Seahawks cap shouted, “Do you need help?” “Yes! Hurry!” The boat edged slowly toward her, and she swam to meet it. The men reached down and pulled Carissa up into the boat. Erin used the ladder on the side. “She needs CPR. She’s not breathing!” When she hopped onto the deck, she saw that one of the men had started administering CPR. A redheaded woman wrapped a blanket around Erin. “Oh, honey, are you okay?” Hot tears burned down her cold, wet cheeks. “No . . . no, I’m not okay.” She dropped to her knees next to her friend. Carissa coughed up water and rolled onto her side. When she’d finished expelling seawater, she sat up and looked around. Erin hugged her and spoke against her short, wet hair. “I thought you were done for.” Carissa held on to Erin tightly, then released her to cough more. Erin took in the group standing around them, their watchful eyes filled with concern. “I’m Vince. And this is my wife, Jessie.” The man with the Seahawks cap gestured to the redhead, then made introductions. John, his son, and Terry, John’s friend, and Mavis, John’s girlfriend. A family affair. “I’m Erin, and this is Carissa.” Jessie placed a blanket around Carissa. “Why don’t you have a seat? I’ll get you something warm to drink.” “Thank you.” Erin sat with Carissa on the cushioned bench and took in her friend. She looked shell-shocked, and why shouldn’t she? Was she going to be okay? Carissa closed her eyes. Was she in pain or thinking back to what happened? Jessie had disappeared below deck to grab warm drinks. Mavis, Terry, and John were trying to recover the kayaks and bring them onto the trawler. Vince remained standing, his arms crossed as if he were a sentinel sent to protect them. And at this moment, Erin needed that reassurance. “If you hadn’t come when you did,” she said, “I don’t know what would have happened. I can’t thank you enough.” She searched the waters around them. “Is that boat . . . Is it gone?” “What boat?” Mavis approached and glanced at Vince. “You didn’t see that?” Erin got to her feet and pulled Carissa with her. She searched the waters. “A boat came right for us. Ran over our kayaks and almost killed us. They must have lost control. Maybe they were drunk or something.” “I saw a boat heading west,” Vince said, “but I didn’t connect that to seeing you in the water swimming to shore. Kayaks and canoes are hard to spot sometimes. I’m sorry that happened. But I’ll contact the Seattle Police Harbor Patrol and let them know. In the meantime, is there somewhere we can take you?” “Back to the marina at Port of Edmonds. We could talk to the police there and tell them what happened,” Erin said. Vince eyed Carissa. “I’ll let SPHP know we’re on the way and to meet us there. Should we get you to the hospital?” Erin shared a look with her friend. “She sustained a hit to the head. Maybe an ambulance could be waiting for us when we get to the harbor.” Carissa nodded but said nothing. Erin ached inside. She’d almost lost Carissa. She was grateful that her friend had survived. They had both survived. Erin replayed the events in her mind. Had the boat deliberately veered toward them or had she imagined it? These boaters who’d helped them had simply been out enjoying the day when they spotted Erin and Carissa in the water, their kayaks floating, Carissa’s in two pieces. I can’t believe this happened. The water had been her place of peace and tranquility. But no more. Erin pulled her ringing cell from the plastic bag tucked in a pocket on her suit. She didn’t recognize the number, but it was a Montana prefix. Her heart jackhammered as she answered, “Erin.” “Dr. Larson . . . Erin.” The familiar male voice hesitated. “This is Detective Nathan Campbell.” Dread crawled up her spine. Nathan would never call her without a good reason. “Nathan . . . what’s going on?” “It’s . . . your mom. She’s okay. But she tried to commit suicide. I’m so sorry.” A few heartbeats passed before she could answer. “Wha . . . What?” Nathan apologized again and repeated the words. The air rushed from Erin. She couldn’t breathe and stood. She headed for the rail and hung her head over the water, gasping for breath. “Erin! Erin, are you there?” Nathan’s concerned voice shouted over the cell loud enough she could hear him despite the boat’s rumbling engine and rushing water. Carissa joined her at the rail. “Erin, what’s happened?” The darkness closed in on her all over again, but this was different from before. Why hadn’t she seen the warning signs? She had to fix this. Squeezing her eyes shut, she lifted the cell to her ear again. “I need details.” Nathan relayed that her mother was in the hospital and in stable condition. Ending the call, she stared at the cell. Mom was in trouble. The fact that the awful news had come from the man she’d left behind compounded the pain in her chest. This, after she and Carissa had barely survived a boating accident. Evil wouldn’t let her forget that it existed, even for a few hours. *** Excerpt from Deadly Target by Elizabeth Goddard. Copyright 2021 by Elizabeth Goddard. Reproduced with permission from Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

 

Elizabeth Goddard is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Present Danger and the Uncommon Justice series. Her books have sold over one million copies. She is a Carol Award winner and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry.

For more information about Elizabeth Goddard:

www.ElizabethGoddard.com
Goodreads

BookBub – @ElizabethGoddard

Instagram – @elizabethgoddardauthor
Twitter – @bethgoddard

Facebook – @ElizabethGoddardAuthor

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Elizabeth Goddard and Revell. There will be ONE (1) winner for this tour. The winner will receive ONE (1) physical copy of both Present Danger & Deadly Target by Elizabeth Goddard. This giveaway is open only to residents in the US or Canada. The giveaway runs November 1 through December 5, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Review: Under the Shadows by Gwen Florio

Under The Shadows
A Lola Wicks Mystery #5
Gwen Florio
Midnight Ink, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5053-8
Trade Paperback

We’re all creatures of habit and the older we are, the more ingrained those become. Lola Wicks spent much of her adult life being independent and free to follow her instincts into dangerous locations as an investigative journalist. It took her late husband Charlie, who was a member of a Montana Indian tribe and a county sheriff, years to wear her down and marry him. Part of those wearing down years involved the birth of their now eight year old daughter, Margaret.

When Charlie was killed, smothering a bomb planted by eco-terrorists, while they were on vacation in Arizona, the unexpected wave of grief was so strong and unexpected that Lola found herself not only shadowed by Charlie’s ghost, but so distraught that she couldn’t take care of herself or her daughter. Her best friend, Jan, along with the Aunties (women elders of the tribe) did an intervention.

The result isn’t something Lola is initially willing to consider. The Aunties and Jan will care for Margaret while Lola goes to Salt Lake City where Jan has arranged for her to do a story on foreign adoption by Mormon couples for a church owned publication. Everyone’s hope is that the challenge, the geographic change, and the threat of losing her daughter to the Montana social services department will provide the kick in the rear she needs to return to the ranks of the living.

What Lola alone knows is that her nails-screeching-on-the-blackboard hold on sanity is being held together by industrial strength pain pills, sometimes the only thing that allows her any sleep and relief from Charlie’s ghost. They also compound her gradual distancing from caring and life.

No sooner does she arrive in Salt Lake City and gets off on the wrong foot with her new boss by almost sleeping through her initial meeting, than she discovers that Trang, now called Frank, the Vietnamese teen adopted at age ten, has been arrested and accused of the murder of his girlfriend’s mother. Since it was his hockey stick that cracked her skull, although her death was the result of a vicious slash across the woman’s throat, nobody seems interested in looking for an alternate suspect.

What this major upset in plans does do is start a faint rekindle of the spark that used to drive Lola’s investigative instincts. After she’s bought Vicodin from a nervous teen in a sketchy downtown park, nearly had her own throat cut, realized a smell from her own youth is attached to someone who might be the real killer, made friends with the accused teen’s girlfriend, discovered just how strange and inflexible Mormon culture can be around certain social issues and nearly been thrown in a Vietnamese jail, you, the reader, are feeling a bit like you just got off a wild carnival ride.

While many elements of the story are straightforward mystery plot items, what sets this apart are the intensity of Lola’s grief, how that has spread to impact others and how much secrecy and deceit occurred long before Lola ever landed in Salt Lake City. It’s part of a series, but can be enjoyed a lot without having read any of the others by Gwen Florio.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, May 2019.

Book Review: Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis

Crow Mountain
Lucy Inglis
Chicken House, June 2016
ISBN: 978- 0-545-90407-0
Hardcover

Sixteen year old Hope lives in London with her extremely feminist, scientific researcher mom. She has very little contact with her actor father who took off with his pregnant co-star around the time Hope was born. Mom is extremely controlling…Of Hope’s schooling, her diet, what she can do, pretty much everything.

When Mom heads off to do an ecological study on a Montana ranch, one of the few remaining unspoiled ones that practices environmentally friendly ranching, she drags her daughter along, even though Hope wants to stay in London and be with her friends.

Crow Ranch has been in operation since the 1870s and run by the same family. When a handsome young man, Caleb, the owner’s son, meets Hope and her mother at the airport in Helena, she feels an immediate attraction, but her shyness keeps her from saying anything. When they stop in Fort Shaw and the local sheriff harasses Cal, as he prefers to be called, while hinting to Hope about unsavory behavior in Cal’s past, it’s her first inkling that there’s trouble ahead.

It doesn’t take long for Cal and Hope to start talking and become very aware of their growing mutual attraction. After he shows her the room above the barn where she can hide out from her mother, Hope discovers a diary written by a girl named Emily who was on her way to an arranged marriage in San Francisco via Portland Oregon, by stagecoach in the early 1870s. She’s fascinated by the story and takes the diary with her the following day when she and Cal head off through back country roads in the national forest on a trip to get Cal’s mother who has been caring for her sister in law following a broken bone. They’re also hauling a horse trailer as they’re to bring back a couple horses.

At this point, the book begins to alternate chapters between Hope and Cal following a scary accident, and diary entries telling the story of Emily and the mysterious young man she first sees outside her hotel room in Helena, as they encounter an eerily similar fate. To say more might spoil the plot, but I can say that first off, I bought this immediately following my reading of her other book City of Halves, which is equally stellar.

This is an excellent book, part adventure, part love story, part historical fiction and a book that forces you to keep reading because of the tension and uncertainty facing both couples. It’s one that deserves a place in many libraries, both school and public. If you like it, read her other book, City of Halves.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, June 2018.

Book Review: Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz

Treble at the Jam Fest
A Food Lovers’ Village Mystery #4
Leslie Budewitz
Midnight Ink, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5240-2
Trade Paperback

Jazz guitarist Gerry Martin, one of the headliners at the Jewel Bay, Montana, jazz festival, falls to his death from the rocks above the Jewel River. Local police call it an accident, that Martin slipped while out hiking, but Erin Murphy has her suspicions. Erin is manager of Murphy’s Mercantile, a general store in this food lovers’ town. There seems to be bad blood between Martin and Dave Barber, local musician who upstaged Martin in the concert on opening night. Newcomer Gabrielle Drake and her pushy stage mother also seem to have a problem with the headliner.

When Erin examines the crime scene, she notices a discarded coffee cup overlooked by the police, as well as the footprints left by the victim. Would Gerry Martin wear dress boots when setting out for a hike along rugged terrain? No, but he might if he was planning to meet someone.

Subplots and supporting characters surround Erin and her store—she hires a new salesperson, finally gets to meet her boyfriend’s best friend from childhood, and her mother has news of her own. Erin is more level -headed and believable than many of the protagonists in cozy mystery series, and Jewel Bay is a setting than carries the story along. Who wouldn’t like to visit a town with such a variety of restaurants, shops, and festivals, set in the natural beauty of Montana? Recipes are included, rhubarb fans will be especially pleased. This is the fourth book in the series, but it stands well on its own.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2018.

Book Reviews: Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward and Code Red by Janie Chodosh

Girl in a Bad Place
Kaitlin Ward
Point, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-10105-8
Hardcover

Commune. A calm word, calling forth images of folks immersed in wilderness; frolicking with forest creatures, blissfully coexisting with Mother Nature. Idyllic, sure; but Mailee certainly didn’t anticipate the sad-looking metal shacks she saw upon arriving at the Haven. No matter how odd and uncharacteristic the visit to this remote area may be; she is determined to be positive; after all, this peculiarity is the only thing Cara has shown interest in all summer.

Mailee never expected a super-celebratory Senior year. The ache of Cara’s loss lingers and her home is still shrouded by a palpable dark cloud of sorrow and anger, sucking up all hope of happiness. Moreover, Mailee has noticed changes in Cara that cause concern. So, even though “…nature is gross. And filled with spiders,” Mailee is willing to make the pilgrimage as pleasant as possible.

The founder, a man dubiously dubbed Firehorse, seems more like a shifty, misogynistic pig than a peace-loving-Earth-boy and everyone else emanates a surreal, suspicious, semi-aggressive vibe. Initially surprised that Cara is smitten; Mailee is soon stunned by her best friend’s frenzied fascination of the creepy cooperative.

Maybe Mailee was willing to—temporarily—omit meat and dairy from her diet as a show of support; but as Cara raves, Mailee researches. The line between commune and cult begins to blur. Against her better judgment, Mailee agrees to attend a celebration at the commune with Cara. Guessing that she will need to provide more than moral support; Mailee has no idea how dangerous and dire the circumstances will be.

A bad place can be literal, figurative, or even both at once. Sometimes, as in Cara’s case, a metaphorical bad place leads to an actual bad place. In the same way that a phrase can mean more than one thing, this keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, compelling conundrum is not just a suspense-filled mystery, but also a survival story. One about learning to live in spite of loss, loyalty, and the immeasurable value of friendship.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2017.

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Code Red
A Faith Flores Science Mystery, Book Two
Janie Chodosh
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-1-929345-28-1
Trade Paperback

Faith Flores is a bit of an atypical protagonist insofar as she’s somewhat rough around the edges. Of course, considering her circumstances, she’s a remarkably well-adjusted adolescent. Knowing the bare minimum about her father, really raising herself—while doing her best to take care of her addled, addicted mother—Faith’s occasional avoidance of silly social graces seems just about right. Above-average intelligence and a freaky-fast mind also, understandably, contribute to her curtness.

Having recently figured out ‘who-done-it’ when her mother was murdered (Janie Chodosh’s Death Spiral, A Faith Flores Science Mystery), Faith needs a change of scene as much as something to wholly occupy her inquisitive intellect. And so begins her internship in Santa Fe where she will be assisting in studies of genetically modified chiles. The fact that her always-absent-father supposedly inhabits this town certainly won’t distract her (she wishes) but the headline “A New Drug for Northern New Mexico” just might.

Smoothing the story with more than soul-soothing songs, we have violin virtuoso, Clem. Quite frankly, there is no going wrong with a dude named after Vassar Clements <bows deeply to Ms. Chodosh> and this young man is no exception. Aside from his evident awesomeness, for the first time ever, Faith feels a possible connection…perhaps he can identify with her “…own mixed race too-brown-to-be-white-too-white-to-be-brown ethnicity…”.

Santa Fe has several surprises in store for Faith and suddenly, her luxurious length of time here seems lacking. To focus on the inexplicably angry threats against her lab and GMO crops, grab a few minutes here and there with Clem, and attempt to take advantage of opportunities with new-found family; Faith definitively does not have time to delve into the intrigue of Liquid Gold, the latest in dangerous dope. Unless there’s a link that would render her choice irrelevant.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

*Not to go full-out-nerd on you but when I began writing this review I realized that I still felt relatively ignorant about the term “GMO” & the arguments against it. This Mental Floss article saved the day: What is a GMO?

 

 

Book Review: Membrane by Michele Corriel

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Title: Membrane
Author: Michele Corriel
Publisher: Leap Books

Publication Date: October 10, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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membraneMembrane
Michele Corriel
Leap Books, October 2016
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the multi-verse people may look familiar, but no one is who they seem.

In a small town in Montana, Sophie lives with her quantum physicist mother, and her equally brilliant, but dangerously obsessed step-father.

Her father disappeared years ago under mysterious circumstances, but Sophie is still haunted by memories of him that seem so real she swears she feels his presence one night as she drifts off to sleep.

Realizing that somehow her missing father is trying to send her a message, Sophie decides to take a big risk.

With her friend, Eli, Sophie must discover what strange experiment her father did and understand the startling impact it has on her world and another, just across the membrane dividing the multi-verse.

Isn’t that cover eye-catching? Better yet, it reflects the story as well as any I’ve seen in a long time. The fractured title evokes the thin barrier between Sophie’s Earth and…whatever is on the other side…and the image of the man, who surely must be Sophie’s missing father, is almost haunting, kind of a ghost. Kudos to the cover artist, Nina Gauthier Gee.

The thing I really appreciated about Membrane is its simplicity. Here we have a girl living in a less-than-fabulous family, a girl whose father went missing years ago without any resolution. When she begins to believe he’s trying to reach out to her, she’s compelled to go through his journal for hints as to what might have happened to him, leading her to an incredible adventure with her friend, Eli. What they discover is life-altering and Sophie may be humanity’s last hope.

Sophie is a smart girl with plans for her future but, at the same time, she’s protective of her mother and has learned to cope as well as possible with her increasingly paranoid step-father, Ted. Eli could easily become more than a friend if only Sophie would allow herself to let him in and I have to say Eli is possibly the most appealing guy-friend-potential-love-interest I’ve found in young adult fiction. I’m so glad there’s no insta-love here, just a naturally growing connection between two decent kids.

On the whole, Membrane is an intriguing tale with vivid characters and twists you never see coming. Although we’re left with some unanswered questions, that’s quite natural and I turned the last page feeling more than satisfied.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

About the Author

michele-corrielMichele Corriel lives and works in Montana’s scenic Gallatin Valley, surrounded by seven mountain ranges.

Her work is as varied as the life she’s led, from the rock/art venues of New York City to the rural back roads of the Rockies. With her fourth book just out from Leap Books, she’s also a prolific freelance magazine writer with articles regionally, nationally and internationally. Michele has received a number of awards for her non-fiction as well as her poetry. She also enjoys teaching, presenting writing workshops and speaking on panels across the country.

When she’s not writing you may find her on the golf course, hiking or slogging her way through the snow on what some people like to refer to as “skis.” You might also find her in the kitchen creating exciting new flavors or recreating classics.

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Book Review: Buffalo Jump Blues by Keith McCafferty

Buffalo Jump BluesBuffalo Jump Blues
A Sean Stranahan Mystery #5
Keith McCafferty
Viking, June 2016
ISBN 978-0-5254-2959-3
Hardcover

From the publisher:  In the wake of Fourth of July fireworks in Montana’s Madison Valley, Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather and Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger investigate a horrific scene at the Palisades cliffs, where a herd of bison [a/k/a buffalo] have fallen to their deaths.  Are they victims of blind panic caused by the pyrotechnics, or a ritualistic hunting practice dating back thousands of years?  The person who would know is beyond asking, an Indian man found dead among the bison, his leg pierced by an arrow.  Farther up the valley, fly fisherman, painter and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan has been hired by the beautiful Ida Evening Star – – a Chippewa Cree woman who moonlights as a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill  – to find her old flame, John Running Boy.  The cases seem unrelated, until Sean’s search leads him right to the brink of the buffalo jump.

This is the fifth entry in the series, and to call it eclectic would be an understatement.  Both the fishing and wildlife aspects of it, which predominate in the early sections, are entirely foreign to this reader, whose usual preference is for character-driven novels.  But the header for Chapter 8, “A Mermaid, an Arrowhead, and True Love,” captures the elements of most of the rest of the book.  The aforementioned Ida is the first of these, the arrowhead a piece of evidence in the search for the murderer of the Indian Man, and true love is – well, as Sean says: “True love knows not logic nor lust, but the synchronized bearing of hearts.”

The bison was the “icon of the West” that only a century ago had stood at the brink of extinction.  When Harold comes upon the first body, he puts the dying animal out of its misery.  He muses, “The irony of what he had done, killing the first bison to have returned to these ancient hunting grounds in one hundred and fifty years, was not lost on him.”  But he had done what he had to do, and cannot second-guess himself.  Shanahan is a terrific protagonist, of whom Martha says “You’re what I call a Montana Renaissance man.  You have about five different jobs and still you have to stick a hose down a gas tank to siphon up enough fuel to get to the store.”  (He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines and paints in the winter (or when he gets a commission).  He says of himself “I’m a better artist than I am a detective.  Or fishing guide.”  But he is selling himself short, as he demonstrates during the ensuing investigation, assisting Martha in the search for the man or men behind the events.  The geography of Montana is vividly presented.  The writing is terrific and filled with humor, e.g., “Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.”  The beauty of Montana is vivid, and that and the wonderful writing have pointed me to the fourth novel in the series which I had somehow missed, Crazy Mountain Kiss, next up for this reader.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2016.