By: Jonathan Moore
Publication Date: January 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 27, 2017
Jonathan Moore takes his audience on an intriguing journey of mystery and suspense in his current thriller, The Dark Room.
Seasoned SFPD homicide inspector, Gavin Cain, is working a cold-case. He is at the graveyard and while exhuming the body of the victim to his case he receives a call from his Lieutenant. It would seem San Francisco’s mayor, Harry Castelli, is being blackmailed and Cain is ordered to hand the exhumation off to his partner, Grassley. The Lieutenant has bigger plans for Cain and informs him the helicopter will be there momentarily to retrieve him and transport him to San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza.
When Cain arrives at Civic Center Plaza, he’s still in the dark and isn’t sure why he was the one to draw the lucky straw to be there. He is greeted by Inspector Nagata who informs him his FBI contact will be Karen Fisher. It was late at night and Cain was getting increasingly frustrated given the lack of information he was receiving. As he makes his way into the reception lounge, the only source of light was a small, glass-shaded lamp on the receptionist’s desk. Not waiting for further instructions, Cain takes it upon himself to cross the room and enter the mayor’s office. Bent over his phone, Harry Castelli glances up and covers the mouthpiece to the phone. Castelli hangs up the phone and points to one of the two chairs. He looks at Cain, “...you’re Cain—Inspector Cain...?” Castelli elaborates and explains to Cain that he asked for him by name. “...I wanted the best, and that’s why you’re here...” Little did Cain know at that moment that those words were a mere tip to the iceberg of the tangled web he was about to jump into.
Sadly, I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Mr. Moore’s previous titles. However, after finishing the likes of The Dark Room, I will waste no time in stepping back to do so. This author is the real deal when it comes to not only knowing how to write for his intended audience, but seeing the clear path he must take from beginning to end in delivering the quintessential thriller. His prose is flawless and the set up for each scene is superb. He complements his staging with eloquent and succinct, yet powerful sentences that paint a distinct picture of the moment at hand. One sentence that resonated with me was: “...He crossed the entry hall and entered a room that didn’t seem to have any purpose except to be large…” I was barely 50 pages into this read when I came upon this sentence - I literally paused and went back to read it a couple of times I was so taken with it. This is the signature of an author who, in my opinion, values his word placement (and uses it in a way to maintain the attention of his audience). I thoroughly enjoyed this read and must say he packed some great hooks and surprises throughout. Bravo Mr. Moore. I look forward to reading your next body of work.
Quill says: The Dark Room will grip you from its onset and take you on an adventurous and intriguing journey throughout.
By: Laura Wolfe
Illustrated By: Caroline Andrus
Publisher: Fire and Ice YA
Publication Date: March 2017
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: March 23, 2017
After breaking nearly every rule last summer during her time at Foxwoode’s Riding Academy, Brynlei was not sure that she would even be able to make it back for another year but fortunately she was welcomed back. For besides the fact that she broke several significant rules she did solve the mystery of Caroline’s disappearance and now Caroline is actually a Foxwoode instructor. So, even though last year was a rough three weeks for everyone involved, Brynlei is extremely thankful that she has been given another chance to ride at this prestigious camp.
This year the only thing that Brynlei is going to focus all her attention on is winning the top rider award. She is determined to not let her thoughts wander to anything besides perfecting her riding skills and expanding her horsemanship talents. Luckily her good friend Anna from last year has returned but also the spoiled rider Alyssa has returned with her amazing horse Bentley. Brynlei, however, is intent that not even Alyssa will foil her goal of achieving the top rider status.
When Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode she first notices that construction is going on outside of the current riding arena, and she is quickly informed that a brand new indoor arena and barn are being added to Foxwoode. Excited about the potential for a new barn but worried that the extra noise may cause her distraction, Brynlei silently hopes that she doesn’t let this affect her riding. To her relief Brynlei is paired with Jett, the same horse she fell in love with last year and she begins to settle into her lessons. However, despite her efforts to focus only on her riding, strange things start happening that eventually Brynlei cannot ignore.
The strange happenings begin after Brynlei finds an old fashioned doll at the edge of the construction site covered half way up with dirt. Even though this doll in an inanimate object Brynlei has a distinct feeling that through her blue eyes this doll is trying to tell her something very important. This is when the unnerving events start to happen, for Brynlei begins to notice that her bathroom supplies keep being dumped all over the floor, someone is changing the time on the clocks, and she sees strange sightings in the woods of a young girl in a cotton dress. Then to top off the strangeness Brynlei discovers a picture in the tack room of a little girl holding the same doll that Brynlei found at the construction site, but this picture is dated in the year 1965. Even though Brynlei wanted nothing to worry about besides riding she is not sure how long she can ignore the creepy things happening around the camp before they overtake her attention.
After reading Laura Wolfe’s first book in this series, Trail of Secrets, I was excited to get the chance to check out this next installment because the first one was so fun to read. The storyline for this book was actually even better for me than the first, as the supernatural aspects were more prominent for this second novel. In the first book there was a realistic answer to all of the mysterious things that happened, but for this one there is some wonderfully intriguing supernatural characters - which really added a delightful aspect to the story.
Quill says: Another great installment in the Dark Horse series that was exciting to read.
By: Bree Record
Publisher: Page Pubishing
Publication Date: September 2016
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: March 19, 2017
Come along with author Bree Record as she takes you on an eye-opening journey of her tumultuous life as a transgender person in the book The Road to Transition. While a critical aspect of this story may have taken forty days to create, it is the fifty five years of this author’s life, (a life that was often felt as mere existence, rather than truly being alive) that this book also focuses upon. These years were repeatedly filled with unbearable emotional torment that is descriptively written in such extreme detail that the reader can feel and understand what it is to be living in a body that was assigned one gender at birth, but which your mind thoroughly believes is inaccurate, and should be the opposite gender.
It is strongly advised to carefully read the author's prologue, and her first diary entry where she explains that this book is not just a memoir about a past life that was filled with crippling gender dysphoria. More importantly, the other part of her narrative is taken directly, and unedited, from journal entries that were created in the forty days prior to her gender reassignment surgery. The author openly admits that the wording of these journal entries are a bit awkward at times, and while it is true that mining passages directly from the source can indeed yield a plethora of raw emotion that may otherwise be missed if it were to be overly edited, this book could use a bit of fine tuning - particularly because The Road to Transition has such vividly descriptive details and moves from chapters discussing the author’s past starting from childhood all the way to the present day some five decades later interspersed with equally raw present day diary entries. Perhaps splitting this book into two separate sections starting with the author’s past living as a transgender person, and then moving onto the second part where the author embarks on her road to transition surgery by including her forty days of journal entries would make this good memoir clearer and even more impactful. Readers may also become a little bit confused at times when the author refers to her past selves as two different names, one being born as Sarah and the other being Steven. To clarify this, (and ultimately prove how disjointed the author’s life truly was most of her life) the author truly felt that she was born a female and named herself Sarah for the first twelve years of her life despite the fact that her parents named her Steven.
After reading The Road to Transition and looking back and ruminating upon the book’s cover one can truly empathize with the author embarking on a journey that will ultimately lead to transition. Readers will notice that the bottom of the picture depicts a desert road that is rocky and contains a broken road sign with the word “Transition” written on it. This is much like the broken and rocky life that the author led for most of her life. Proceeding up the road is a hazy greenish area in which the transition road leads directly into tall snow-capped mountains - perhaps this could be viewed as the unknown oasis in the future leading up to the better, more beautiful world that the author will be able to live in once the transition is complete.
Quill says: While The Road to Transition is a winding course filled with many bumps for both the author and the reader, it is filled with emotionally charged passages that makes it a good read for not only the LGBTQ community, but for anyone who wants to truly understand what it is like to be transgender.
By: L.D. Critchton
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication Date: March 2017
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: March 23, 2017
As her Volkswagen Beetle breaks down, we find Emma Fletcher back in her hometown of Stonefall - the place she spent her entire life trying to get away from. After growing up with an alcoholic mother and a past she would rather not remember, she returns only out of necessity - it's the only place she could go. After years of not returning home and every intention of leaving as soon as she can, an old childhood friend rides up on his motorcycle. Desperate to not be remembered, she pretends she does not know him and hesitates when he offers to send for a tow truck. Not only can she not afford it, but she knows it will be Tristan behind the wheel, Mateo’s best friend and by far the best looking man in their small town. Emma, too tired to argue anymore, finally relents and Mateo calls Tristan, telling him to hurry as it’s going to rain and he can’t leave a beautiful girl in the rain. Within ten minutes, Tristan arrives and sees Emma, and upon seeing her, old childhood memories of her flood back into his mind. If he thought the reunion was going to be a warm one, he was sadly mistaken, as she is carrying a secret far darker than he could have ever imagined.
Upon arriving at her mother’s house, she finds that her mother may have stopped drinking, much to her surprise, but Emma refuses to get her hopes up, as she has had them broken before. Not long after settling in, Emma's best friend, Marley drops in. Surprised to see her but not surprised Mateo told Marley she was home, Emma comes up with the excuse that she needed to take some time to settle in, and that she’s sorry she didn’t tell her she was coming home. There has been a lot she hasn’t told Marley, and she certainly doesn’t intend to now. After avoiding Marley and Stonefall for three years, when Marley asks her to go to a party with her, Emma is reluctant, but her guilt drives her to go. Mateo and Tristan are there, and Tristan is just as reluctant as Emma to be there. Tristan and Emma end up spending time there together, and this is when Tristan gets the first glimpse that something terrible has happened to Emma, and he wants to help her in any way he can - even though he has deep-rooted problems of his own past to deal with. Both not ready for a relationship or love, they come to find it and together, work through their past problems and tragedies in order to overcome and slay their own dragons, learning that the past can be let go and the present can be better than ever before.
Not only is The Enchantment of Emma Fletcher completely suspenseful and captivating, but it will leave you needing a second volume. This is the type of book that you could easily read a little at a time, but you will dread putting it down. Not only is it well-written and descriptive, but it also deals with all too relevant issues in a manner that is taken seriously and gives the reader hope for the future. The way the internal conflicts were handled and tied in with the other characters and the rest of the story was clearly and easily understood, while not sacrificing the serious material. The lessons that were taught in The Enchantment of Emma Fletcher were deep and thought-provoking, not preachy and cliche. It was refreshing to read a book with this subject matter and not feel awkward or as though it was too lightly discussed. It was taken as seriously as it should have been without going overboard and left you with the feeling that no matter what you have been through, no matter how it altered your life, you have the power to slay your dragons and control your future. This was a beautifully tied-together love story where the female conquered her demons thanks to taking control of her own story, not the man saving the damsel.
Quill says: The Enchantment of Emma Fletcher is a book you will want to spend the entire day devouring, as it’s impossible to put down.
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