Book Reviews: Parkland by Dave Cullen and Wild Midnight by Kelsey Abrams

Parkland
Birth of a Movement
Dave Cullen
Harper, February 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-288294-3
Hardcover

This book is not about the tragedy on February 14th, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Instead, it is about all that the student activists accomplished in the following year and how they did it. I felt like I’d followed this story pretty closely, but I was stunned by some of the things I learned. And those things are the reasons I want people to read this book.

I think most folks will be as shocked as I was to find out how ATF background checks are conducted, and why it is that way.

I was floored by all that these students accomplished over one summer and I was delighted to see their efforts to include other young activist groups that were not receiving the same media attention, such as Black Lives Matter, BRAVE & The Peace Warriors.

As expected, being familiar with Mr. Cullen‘s work, Parkland is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Honest, yet hopeful and inspiring.

I simply had to share this with “my” students. I took it in this week, and donated my copy to their classroom library. There was so much interest, I’m going to add a couple more copies soon. Everyone that wishes to read Parkland should have that opportunity.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wild Midnight: An Emily Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-157-3
Trade Paperback

It should not surprise me when a Juvenile Fiction book pulls me in and holds my attention almost as tightly as a well-written, true-crime testament. And yet, when my reading of Wild Midnight: An Emily Story by Kelsey Abrams was rudely interrupted, I was absolutely more annoyed than I should have been.

Admittedly, I picked it up planning to savor it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Second Chance Ranch series, so reading the last book seems bittersweet. But, I got so caught up in Emily’s quest to acquire a mustang there was no way I was going to stretch it out.

After careful research and a fruitful family meeting, Emily’s parents agreed to apply to participate in the upcoming auction of free-roaming horses, recently rounded-up. Approval was not a surprise, the Ramirez family’s commitment to rescuing animals is well-known in this part of Texas and Mrs. Ramirez is the go-to veterinarian for the area. However, caring for the critters currently residing on their ranch is expensive. Emily had only a small budget and was easily outbid.

Understanding the emptiness after seeing your dream horse slip through your fingers, her oldest sister, Natalie, promises to help Emily find the perfect equine partner. It is not enough. Emily’s heart is so broken that even Chandler the Emu cannot lift her spirits. But, when she’s invited to visit the mustangs at a near-by ranch, it is possible that a beautiful, black beast and a persnickety stable-hand can help her heal.

I loved the feel of adventure and action as humans attempt to encourage wild horses to acclimate. Also adrenaline-pumping: matter-of-fact preparation for an approaching storm, while potential danger pulses through the air. Softened by a sweet, strong young lady, this is a stellar story.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2018.

Book Reviews: Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones and Taking Chances by Kelsey Abrams

Tinfoil Crowns
Erin Jones
Flux, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-032-3
Trade Paperback

Fit is tearing me in two. Wounds from warring emotions: fury, disbelief and a deeply-buried desire to forgive, are palpable and painful. Part of me needs to give her a hug.

Vehement denial that horrific symptoms may manifest from a mental illness is easy to understand. Unless you’ve been through it or witnessed it, first-hand. With knowledge gleaned, I also easily imagine shaking this young lady by her shoulders.

All moms make mistakes. And, at first, it seems as if Fit and Frankie’s mother messed up big-time. Even if she was suffering from postpartum problems, solo.

Frankie’s willingness to forgive should surprise no one. Fit’s younger brother is clearly a sweet kid, and the talented artist has never been one to hold a grudge.

Dubs, the dad that witnessed his daughter’s downfall, then took in her two tiny children, well, he’s somewhere in the middle. He may not want to wholly wrap his mind around the intricacies of psychosis, but he may have to, if he wants to hold onto his belief that his beloved off-spring was honestly unable to control her actions, or even ask for assistance.

When the day arrives for mom to move into the already crowded apartment, Frankie and Dubs are annoyingly overjoyed. Grim determination keeps Fit from feeling anything, aside from a simmering anger and overall sense of betrayal. Besides, she’s got no time for this, she is about to be big.

An agent in New York City saw his niece sporting jewelry she’d crafted from tinfoil, entranced by one of Fit’s You-Tube videos. He decided then and there that Fitted Sheet would be his next client. And it is here that our Fit manages to take self-absorption to a whole new level.

Even for a seventeen-year-old with sparkly stars in her eyes, who has happily left logic at the door. And, ok, it is not her role to be skeptical of the money man from the City, particularly since she’s seen him catapult a few of her favorite You-Tubers to fame; but, right now, this chick isn’t hearing anyone. And we don’t always know what is best at such a tender, impressionable, stubborn stage in life.

On the one hand, it may seem as if there’s nothing funny about psychiatric disorders. But, if we need to laugh at ourselves, then it would stand to reason that mental illness and humor are not mutually exclusive. Not an easy thought to convey. Ms. Jones broaches this brilliantly, in a Broad-City style that I found awesomely authentic. So happy that I’ll be able to share this with ‘my’ students before graduation!

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Taking Chances: A Grace Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-149-8
Trade Paperback

This review demands to be written a bit differently. Perhaps by listing the things I love, from the very beginning. No. Before that, even. Let’s talk about the cover and title of the third book I’ve read from the Second Chance Ranch series. An atypical Juvenile Fiction front shows a disheveled and obviously distressed young girl clinging to a cat. The police car parked behind, perfectly pulls it together to pique my interest.

The title means two things, absolutely delightful! Chances, in this case, is an award-winning, purebred Persian. Grace Ramirez is the risk-taker. Sibling support from her twin and their two older sisters, sees that she stays somewhat unscathed. But, when Grace agrees to take over Miz Ida’s chores for two weeks…well, even the Ramirez girls may not be a match for all of that gardening, plus guarding the fancy feline.

Taking Chances: A Grace Story moves as quickly as the main character without feeling rushed or jumbled. It’s impossible not to love the impulsive little girl with the world’s biggest heart and it is quite a treat to watch her work so hard to be a better person.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

Book Review: Deadly Aim by Paty Jager

************

Title: Deadly Aim
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: July 21, 2017

************

Deadly Aim
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, July 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveal Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles; deadly ones.

Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined not to let that happen.

Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?

Big game hunters are not the most popular figures in the real world or in fiction so it isn’t easy to have much sympathy when Shandra finds J.W. Randal’s animal-ravaged body on her property. Perhaps it would be better to say my sympathy was with Shandra, first for finding another body on her Huckleberry Mountain and second for her finding out she had such a reprehensible neighbor. I guess this just goes to show that large properties can make it hard to know your neighbors. At any rate, finding a body on her own land at least provides some justification for Shandra sticking her nose in where it doesn’t really belong.

It’s fortunate for Shandra that the deputy sheriff, Ryan, is not averse to her sleuthing and, in fact, he respects her spiritual connection to her Nez Perce ancestry and the dreams that seem to lead them to important hints. What occasionally gets in the way is the growing romance between the two and their “mating dance”, if you will. I appreciate the way Ms. Jager is allowing a natural growth of their mutual attraction rather than the instalove we see too often. I was happy to learn that they still haven’t told each other their deepest secrets but that seems to be coming soon.

Meanwhile, back to the investigation…clues begin to mount that point in different directions including potential bad blood in the game hunting business and a possible illicit liaison. Most intriguing is a particular necklace whose provenance is difficult to track down .and this part of the hunt brings Shandra’s particular creative expertise to the forefront. When things come to a head, though, there’s more than one surprise

In this entry, a bit more editing could have been useful as occasional flaws are more obvious than in previous books in grammar and word choices as well as in shifting points of view. Also, while Ann M. Thompson is a better than average narrator, she did pull me out of the story every now and then with mispronunciations and odd pacing. Still, an interesting mystery and Ms. Thompson’s reading made this an appealing tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

************

About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

************

Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Book Review: Tarnished Remains by Paty Jager

************

Title: Tarnished Remains
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: April 14, 2017

************

Tarnished Remains
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, April 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Murder…deceit…greed….

Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.

Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.

Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?

When Shandra digs up the boot with a bone in it, the discovery naturally leads to an entire body and its identity doesn’t take too long. What’s surprising is Lil’s response to the news and her attitude is what leads the county’s detective, Ryan, to suspect that she may have killed the man for very personal and emotional reasons. That’s when Shandra feels the need to step in because she just doesn’t believe that her ranch hand is either guilty or crazy.

Fortunately for all three, Ryan doesn’t mind—although he has a few qualms—Shandra inserting herself into the investigation. He knows from a previous experience that Shandra is unusually intuitive and thoughtful and, in fact, he respects the dreams she receives through her deceased Nez Perce grandmother. It also doesn’t hurt that Ryan and Shandra are engaging in a bit of a romantic connection.

As pieces of the truth behind the cowboy’s death come to light, the attention points in an entirely different direction that has a lot to do with very dysfunctional family issues as well as Lil’s love for the late lamented Johnny. Along the way, light is shed on the reasons behind Lil being called “Crazy Lil”.

Ann M. Thompson does a fine job with the narration, using distinctive voices for various characters, and her tone is appropriately nuanced to emphasize stress and emotion. Occasionally, I heard a little hiccup, for lack of a better word, in the narration but certainly not enough to bother me much.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

************

About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

************

Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Book Review: It’s Not Destiny by Kelsey Abrams

It’s Not Destiny: An Abby Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-145-0
Trade Paperback

Abby Ramirez does not like change, she craves consistency. So, she’s been struggling in her fifth-grade class. For the first time since first grade, she is not accompanied by her service dog. Amigo is transitioning from a working canine to a playful pet as Abby searches for his replacement.

She is the little girl that knows a whole lot about dogs. Being in charge of them at Second Chance Ranch comes naturally. Not just raising and training, but she is also the best match-maker any canine and human could hope to encounter.

When a disappointed owner brings in a gorgeous German shepherd that proved to be a poor guard-dog, it does not take Abby long to understand the importance of placing Destiny with the proper human. This pup has been through tough times, she will need an owner who understands that.

It isn’t often that a story centers around an autistic character, especially when autism spectrum disorder does not particularly pertain to the plot. And Abby absolutely does not allow it to define her. Rather, it is a part of who she is and we see that, not just while she is with Amigo, but even more clearly when she reaches for him, even in his absence.

I am amazed by how many layers this tiny tome contained, while managing to be a quick, compelling read. I even learned the history of the Iditarod.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

Book Reviews: Wake the Hollow by Gaby Triana and Two to Tango by Kelsey Abrams

Wake the Hollow
Gaby Triana
Entangled Teen, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-63375-351-8
Trade Paperback

A sudden death snatches Micaela out of her senior-year-state-of-mind in sunny Florida, to slap her down in the sleepy little hollow of her past. Never popular with the locals, the eerily empty station is exactly the homecoming she expected. Her mother’s beliefs had always deviated from popular opinion, ostracizing Micaela by association. Perhaps Mami could be a bit peculiar, but for the town’s people to be personally offended by her claim to be a direct descendant of Washington Irving is preposterous.

Counting on compassion from her childhood comrade, Bram, and hoping for help from family friend, Betty Anne; her plan is to quickly take care of business for a rapid return back to her real life. But Micaela was pulled here for a bigger purpose. Legends are coming alive, secrets stuffed into far away corners are seeping out and the myth of a historical treasure may be true.

Resolving to squelch suspicions, to solve the mystery once and for all, Micaela soon sees that someone else has the same goal, but for a greedy reason. After speaking with the few folks unable to maintain the collective stony silence, the only lesson learned was that essentially everyone has lied to her. With only herself to trust, self-doubt surfaces; she’s not sure of her own sanity right now.

One of the first stories that I fell in love with was Mr. Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it remains a fond favorite. It’s fair to say that I may be a bit biased about any twist of that tale, but I reveled in the reimagination of not just the haunting headless horseman, but also of Washington Irving and another awesome author of the same time. Gripping and keeping me guessing, Wake the Hollow galloped out of the gate, tearing through the narrative to a heart-stopping halt.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2018.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two to Tango
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1631631535
Trade Paperback

Natalie Ramirez loves her life on Second Chance Ranch. She handles the horses, but nothing about their upkeep feels like work to her. Besides, this is the best way to find Rockette’s replacement. Out-growing the pony that she had paired with to win so many junior barrel-racing prizes was inevitable, but still somewhat sad.

When a beautiful bay tobiano trotted onto the scene, Natalie saw the solution to all of her problems. In her enthusiasm, it was easy to over-look the atypical aspects of this rescue. He wore a quality halter with a nameplate. Tango appeared to have been well-cared-for and even trained, at some point. When he followed her commands, it was in a hesitating, confused manner.

For a twelve-and-a-half-year-old, Natalie has a lot on her mind and maybe she misses the obvious at first. But as she begins to see Tango as the horse that he is and not a rodeo-pony-in-the-making, she takes a closer look at herself and finds room to grow.

I cannot imagine a better book for the animal-loving-reader. Quickly captivating, Natalie’s story canters along with humor, action and an impressive equestrian vocabulary (I did not know that a horse has a frog). Two to Tango is one of four in the Second Chance Ranch juvenile-fiction series and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

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.