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Review & Giveaway: Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills

DEEP EXTRACTION
An FBI Task Force Novel, Book 2
by
By DiAnn Mills
  Genre: Contemporary / Mystery / Christian
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: April 4, 2017
Number of Pages: 413
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A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore’s life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution.

A bombing at one of Nathan’s oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional—the victim’s wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI’s prime suspects.
Clearing Sally’s name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer—and to each other—the more intent someone is on silencing them for good.
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Praise for Deep Extraction
“Combined with intense action and stunning twists, this search for truth keeps readers on the edges of their favorite reading chairs.”  Romantic Times

“Mills many fans will devour” Library Journal

Goodreads readers praise Deep Extraction
“This was truly an amazing, suspenseful read that can be held up as an example of what good Christian suspense should be.” 

“DiAnn Mills’ writing is evocative of an excellent crime show. Sharp and to the point. Just how I imagine law enforcement work, think and talk.”

“Mills’ has captured the rush of adrenaline along with a good romance. Suspense and adventure are the real stars of this book.  Her motto is, “Expect an Adventure,” and she achieves it in this book.”
 
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Mills has a clear vision of who her characters are and what it is they go through precisely. This talent is what makes it very hard to put this book down. Every chapter propels you to the next, anxious to see what clues might surface or what danger might befall the lovely Tori or handsome Cole. Cole. Now that’s a name that makes you feel safe inside but you know that there’s more beneath the surface. And while we’re on the subject of names, you have a hunch that Tori is short for Victoria, and it makes you wonder why Mills went with the nickname Tori over the more popular Vicky. Answer: This chick is tough and a Vicky would not have cut it at all.
Even more impressive than these complex characters working together to solve a murder, Mills keeps surprising the reader with each new revelation about Nathan Moore. I can honestly say that I have never been more interested in a character whose actual living presence in the book is so brief. I found myself torn between not wanting to know more about the secret life of this respectable business and family man, and morbidly fascinated with just how far down the rabbit hole goes.
Mills is a master at making you question your gut feeling with subtle details sprinkled here and there. And before you can berate yourself for being so dense, she reminds you of the history and relationships between the characters. Even they couldn’t believe their eyes or ears. They can hardly trust their own decisions.
I have more of a tendency to focus on little things when I like a book as much as this one. Like a coach nitpicking his star player, I would like to share my constructive criticisms. The problem with having laser-like vision as a writer is that time is of the essence if you’re not making a particular adventure into a trilogy. We lose some characterization because there just isn’t any time for it. Even though I know it’s going to happen, the attraction and relationship between Tori and Cole feels a bit off. Their professions and personalities make it very easy to envision the two coming together, but it doesn’t ring as true as it should.
Strangely enough, while Mills is the farthest thing from an angsty teenage boy, I found the character of Lance to be most believable and interesting. Especially when you hold him up against his sweet and uncomplicated brother Jack, the kid is pretty amazing. I hope that Mills considers following him as an adult since I see a future detective or something equally cool brewing in there.
Without ruining the ending, I was pleased with finding out who did it and why. I have read some great mysteries over the years who fumble that last bit, but Mills brings it in for the winning touchdown. The motive is clean and the clues were subtle. Mills has a way of painting every person of interest as a viable bad guy. And when you see the true antagonist(s) and the inner workings of their minds, you will be equally bewildered and impressed.
Great read and really, truly hope to read a book about Lance in the future!

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.
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Review and Giveaway: Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon

 SANDPIPER COVE

A Hope Harbor Novel, Book 3
by
By IRENE HANNON
  Genre: Contemporary / Christian / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: April 4, 2017
Number of Pages: 352
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Irene Hannon welcomes readers back to the enchanting seaside town of Hope Harbor, Oregon, in her novel Sandpiper Cove, releasing April 2017. Praised by Library Journal as a “master at character development,” Irene Hannon steps away from suspense writing once again to deliver another powerful, multifaceted romance that is sure to have readers coming back for more.

 

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities—including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either—but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief?

 

 

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different—and better—future planned for them than either could imagine.
Review
I was immediately pleased to find that the dog on the cover of the book is a prominent character. I was not pleased, however, how Adam Stone referred to Clyde the dog as a stupid mutt and other unsavory names. But further down the page, you realize that he doesn’t mean those nasty words and actually loves Clyde more than anyone in the world. His attempt to belittle the dog is just his tough guy way of trying not to care about someone else so deeply.
Lexie Graham also has a tough exterior, but she is able to have normal friendships and loving relationships with her family. But you start to wonder if you will ever know what really eats away at her. What is it about the death of her husband that keeps her from going to church on Sundays (after an upbringing as an avid churchgoer)? And you know it’s a conflict she holds on her own since she doesn’t prevent her mother from taking her son, Matt, to church with her.
You find out that Adam and Lexie have seen each other around, but have never had a conversation before. So it’s a little surprising that there’s electricity between them when Lexie goes to his cabin to investigate the damage from some recent vandalism. Although Adam has been on the right side of the law for the last 18 months, he feels foolish for thinking he could have a chance with a good woman, let alone the police chief of their town. Lexie feels similarly but for different reasons. Adam is the complete opposite of her beloved, departed husband. She also feels like she doesn’t deserve a second chance at love.
As Lexie puts together the pieces of the mystery behind the vandalism, she and Adam begin a timid relationship that is encouraged (and also predicted!) by the people that care about them most. Adam sees what a loving family should be like and Lexie trusts him enough to bear her soul.
Much like Adam rescued Clyde the dog, he patiently earns the trust of a young, troubled boy and encourages him to take the right path. When terrible rumors start flying around, the small town rallies together with a surprising conclusion.
An enjoyable read all around. I hope to get around to reading the two books preceding this one, and look forward to reading the next installment.
PURCHASE LINKS
 
* * *
PRAISE FOR THE HOPE HARBOR NOVELS:
“Fan favorite Irene Hannon brings a whole new cast of characters to life in a charming Oregon seaside village. Emotional and heartwarming, this story invites reader to come home to Hope Harbor.”

 

Christian Retailing on Hope Harbor

 

“A place of emotional restoration that readers will yearn to visit.”

 

Publishers Weekly on Hope Harbor

 

 

 “Summer romance doesn’t get much better than this.”

 

Examiner.com on Sea Rose Lane


Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including One Perfect Spring, Hope Harbor, and Sea Rose Lane, as well as the Private Justice and Men of Valor suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Carol Awards, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, three HOLT Medallions, two Booksellers’ Best Awards, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. She is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. In 2014 she was inducted into the Romance Writers of America’s elite Hall of Fame, and in 2016 she received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work.
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Review and giveaway: A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot

A STOLEN HEART
Cimarron Creek Trilogy #1
by
AMANDA CABOT

  Genre: Historical Romance / Christian

Publisher: Revell / Baker Publishing Group
Date of Publication: March, 2017
Number of Pages: 352
 Scroll down for Giveaway!

 

“Endearing characters, a tender love story, and intriguing mystery all work together to make Amanda Cabot’s A Stolen Heart a compelling and enjoyable read.”
—Margaret Brownley, author of Left at the Altar
Bestselling author Amanda Cabot takes readers back in time to the 1880s Texas Hill Country in her new historical romance novel, A Stolen Heart. This is the first book in a brand-new series packed with tension, mystery, and a tender love story that readers won’t soon forget.
Cimarron Creek seemed like an idyllic Texas town. But as soon as former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford stepped onto its dusty streets, she noticed a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. 
That won’t get Lydia down, though. She looks forward to the day when she reunites with her fiancé—until she discovers her fiancé has disappeared without a trace and has left behind a pregnant wife. The handsome Cimarron Creek sheriff urges Lydia to trust him, but she is having a hard time trusting anyone in a town where secrets and suspense prevail.
Cabot weaves an elegant tale of pure love amidst heartache. With an absorbing plot and engaging characters, A Stolen Heart is a springtime showstopper fit for every historical romance reader.

 

Review
Lydia takes a leap of faith following her fiancé to Cimarron Creek. Etiquette of the times aside, Edgar’s hands were covered in blood when he proposed to her. That alone makes you wonder if things will work out the way she hopes. Despite being a scorned Yankee every step of the way, Lydia leaves behind the safety of a home and the security of a good job to follow the man she loves.
If the bloody proposal didn’t make you think that maybe Lydia was too hasty to say yes to Edgar, the handsome sheriff of Cimarron Creek certainly makes you think twice. The attraction is instantaneous at both sides. Every moment that those two are together and fighting their feelings is as delicious as the candy Lydia makes. I imagine. Oh, if only you could taste the food when reading a book!
Even though you can guess who Lydia ends up with, it is still suspenseful to see what has happened to Edgar. And you can’t help but hold your breath until you find out how he could have possibly fell out of love with Lydia, and into love with the plain Opal.
Cabot does a great job of using misdirection so that it’s not completely obvious who the bad guy is. I think some of the clues laid out are a bit too much, but the characterization of each suspect softens any hard conclusions I tried to draw.
This is another Christian book that doesn’t hit you over the head with God and the good word. I think that readers who shy away from the genre would like this book a lot. It reads like a great historical romance, not a Christian book that is trying to sell or defend the faith.
From a Christian point of view, I like that this book clears up the tussle between “Honor your father and mother” and cleaving to your spouse. I think that is not addressed enough in the church and many real love stories have fallen apart because of the confusion.
I genuinely enjoyed this novel and had difficulty putting it down. I am eager to read the next two installments.
 Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of At Bluebonnet Lake, In Firefly Valley, and On Lone Star Trail, as well as the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.

  

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Review: The Big Inch by Kimberly Fish

THE BIG INCH
by
KIMBERLY FISH
  Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
Date of Publication: January 19, 2017
Number of Pages: 344

 

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Kimberly Fish’s debut novel, The Big Inch, was released in February, 2017 and it reveals the lengths to which Texas oilmen, state, and federal governments would go to get Texas crude oil to the troops fighting their first mechanized war. With Nazi threats (and a steady stream of oil tankers sunk by German submarines) speed was necessary, as was OSS intelligence. The Office of Strategic Services was often staffed with female spies and Longview’s World War II efforts were critical for success. 
Lane Mercer, sent to Longview, Texas in July 1942, is part of a select group of women working undercover for the fledgling federal agency, the Office of Strategic Services. Assigned to protect the man carrying out President Roosevelt’s initiative to build the nation’s first overland pipeline to hurry East Texas crude to the troops, she discovers there’s more to Longview than the dossiers implied. There’s intrigue, mayhem, and danger. Shamed from a botched OSS mission in France, Lane struggles to fulfill her mission and keep from drowning in guilt. Getting involved in local life is out of the question. Between family, do-gooders, and Nazi threats, she’s knitted into a series of events that unravel all of her carefully constructed, plans, realizing that sometimes the life one has to save, is one’s own.

 

 ***

 

 

PRAISE FOR THE BIG INCH:
“With an eye for detail, Kimberly Fish weaves a compelling story of a war widow who finds herself in Longview, Texas in 1942. Reading Kimberly’s novel was a bit like going back to a cloak and dagger time, and I enjoyed the local references. Longview was an amazing place to be during WWII.”   — Van Craddock, Longview News Journal, Columnist
“Kimberly Fish’s unique writing style snatched me out of my easy chair and plunked me down into the middle of her character’s life where I was loathe to leave when my real life called me back. Her descriptive visual writing drew me in on the first page. Can’t wait to read more stories by Mrs. Fish.” — Vickie Phelps  Author of Moved, Left No Address

 

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From the get-go, Fish reels you in with vivid descriptions. I can feel Lane’s trepidation on this journey, although I haven’t gotten to know her enough yet. I am at the train station, too, overwhelmed by the chaos of activity and people. And as intrigued as I am by Lane’s snippets of life in Paris, I am even more in awe of her situational awareness. I instantly  become a fan when she outwits a pickpocket and, cool as a cucumber, is swept away by train to her new life.
I apologize if my gushing makes the novel sound melodramatic. Believe me, it is far from that. The people are very real and the situation even more so. The subject of oil is a touchy one, especially when there’s a war going on. No hunch is too small to investigate. And no person is insignificant it seems.
As an attractive, single (widowed) woman, Lane has to navigate small town life carefully. And that’s easier said than done when her boss is a handsome lady’s man. When she isn’t busy batting away blind date offers, Lane has to fend off a few tempting suitors as well. While some women would fall prey to men like that, Lane is truly a completely different breed of woman. Her dedication to her job and sense of honor allows her to brush off society’s misconceptions and the annoyances that result from them.
Lane has to tail her boss constantly to ensure his safety, earning her the nickname “Elmer”. As in the glue. Get it? Haha! Even the people working closely with her couldn’t help making assumptions. I was amazed that her honor wasn’t completely drowned in the gossip pool. Several times, her good deeds got her into a bit of trouble. Submerging her further into that pool. But Lane is an exceptional swimmer.
I might have made her out to be perfect, but Lane does manage to underestimate a handful of characters. Which leads to surprisingly good and unfortunately bad ends. I can’t get into all that without ruining the story. But let me just praise Fish a bit more on her ability to fashion such a compelling and believable protagonist. I really enjoyed learning a little bit about Lane each time she slipped up and let another character get to see who she really is.
And Ms. Fish, if you’re reading this, I would really like a novel about Sergeant Tesco.
Kimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won a Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting. She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats, She lives with her family in East Texas.
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Review and Giveaway: Love Give Us One Death by Jeff P. Jones

LOVE GIVE US 
ONE DEATH
  Bonnie and Clyde in the Last Days
by
Jeff P. Jones

**WINNER: 2016 Idaho Author Award**
**WINNER: 2015 George Garrett Fiction Prize**


Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Texas Review Press
Date of Publication: October 25, 2016
Number of Pages: 232
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Bonnie and Clyde are the most famous outlaw pair in American history. Frank Hamer, the legendary Texas Ranger, was hired to stop them. Part prose, part verse, with historical artifacts interwoven, the well-researched novel tells the story of their deaths on a lonely Louisiana back road, as well as their bloody and short lives together. Its many voices invite the reader to become a ghost rider along with Bonnie and Clyde, while it also exposes the forces of injustice and greed that created them.


 PRAISE FOR LOVE GIVE US ONE DEATH:
“If you are a fan of historical fiction, you must secure a copy of his debut novel in which Jones ‘added, subtracted and distorted facts’ adroitly and creatively in his re-telling of Bonnie and Clyde’s last days. There are very few writers who can write like Jones — in many voices and in various forms — but he choreographs his work like an award-winning producer, designating him as unique as the members of the Clyde Barrow Gang.” -Idaho Statesman
“Love Give Us One Death delivers not only a knock-out story of brutal adventure, and love, across the heartland of the Great Depression, but a story about the very character of the republic itself.” -Robert Wrigley, Poet
“This is the history of love and destruction you didn’t know you needed. In a time of Public Enemies, we see the last legs of a journey between the violent and manic Romeo and Juliet-like pair. The last public outlaws are riding away into their last sunrise, and this book serves as its journal.” -Atticus Books
“The language is absolutely stunning. Characterization, historical setting, ambience are all accurate and depicted with great clarity. A terrific achievement.” -Mary Clearman Blew, Author of All But the Waltz
“This is historical fiction raised boldly to the level of myth.” -Tracy Daugherty, Author of The Last Love Song

  

300b2-review

Everybody knows who Bonnie and Clyde were. To my knowledge, they were the first real ride or die outlaw couple. I’m not one romanticize crime, even if their love was more epic than Bobby and Whitney, so I never mooned over their story. I never took the time to research what their story was before (I do this all the time about random things, especially historical figures, so this is unusual. Trust me.). Jones has changed all that for me.
From the first page, I was hooked with the imagery and the first glance into what made Bonnie tick. Fake it until you make it comes to mind. Shaking off fear or insecurity by throwing your arms up in the air and whizzing through life going, “Wooooo!” like a roller coaster. You get that vibe from Bonnie the few times she gets unsettled. To be honest, she is what kept this story rolling for me. I didn’t find Clyde all that interesting, but Bonnie was something else.
I knew a girl who reminded me of Bonnie. She, too, was small of stature and seemed to batt away the potential coddling by establishing her sailor’s mouth before anyone can get a word in sideways. But that’s about where their similarities end. Bonnie has a husband locked away somewhere. I had no idea about that tidbit and got a bit ruffled that one of history’s most (in)famous love stories is adulterous. But then I remembered Elizabeth and Richard, Angelina and Brad, and got over it. Maybe I’m just in the Bonnie’s Club now, but I found it endearing that she didn’t have the heart to divorce her man while he was in the slammer.
Jones’ imagery and free flowing dialogue are a real treat as you get to know the couple separately, and then witness their first meeting. You can feel the heat between them and the strength of their characters through their deliberate speech. I don’t know how accurate that would be to how they were in real life, but given from the testimonies of people recalling them in between chapter, I like to think that Jones has them painted right.
And what a light has been shown on that painting. I always thought of Bonnie and Clyde as a couple of gunslingers running around in fast cars with their middle fingers up in the air. I didn’t know that Clyde had tried numerous times to live the straight life. That the law kept finding and forcing him out back into a life of crime. I really like this quote from Nelson Algren: “Who were Bonnie and Clyde? They were children of the wilderness whose wilderness had been razed.” People think mostly about children, little children, when you think about how an environment changes people – nature vs nurture, that kind of thing. For all they’d already experienced in their lives, Bonnie and Clyde were teenagers. Barely through with being children.
The change in storytelling style and perspective keeps everything fresh. It sort of feels like you’re flipping through a scrapbook of all their news clippings or something, mixed in with sound bytes from the various people they came across. I’m really impressed with what went into making such a cohesive and interesting read. I know this is historical fiction, but it all felt very real. It did its job of making me more curious about the actual historical events. Jones’ afterword is a great read too. You really respect all the effort that went into this work.
JEFF P. JONES’s ancestors were sharecroppers in east Texas. He was born in Denver, and was educated at the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Washington, and the University of Idaho. He’s a MacDowell Fellow, and his writing has won a Pushcart Prize, as well as the Hackney, Meridian Editors’, A. David Schwartz, Wabash, and Lamar York prizes. He lives on the Palouse in northern Idaho. This is his first book.

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Review and Giveaway: The West Texas Pilgrimage by M. M. Wolthoff

THE WEST TEXAS PILGRIMAGE
by
M.M. Wolthoff


  Genre: Contemporary / Coming of Age

 

Publisher: River Grove Books
Date of Publication: February 29, 2015
Number of Pages: 220
 Scroll down for Giveaway!

 

 

 

Hunter’s friend Ty survived war in the Middle East only to succumb to cancer at home. On a quest with his college buddies and Ty’s father, Hunter journeys from South Texas into the mountains and desert of West Texas to bury his close friend. During this trek, they’ll drink, hunt, party, and encounter unexpected people and enthralling landscapes as Hunter deals with his grief, compounded by his struggle with depression and obsessive–compulsive disorder. 

The West Texas Pilgrimage is a love letter to West Texas and the wild culture that defines it. Author M. M. Wolthoff vividly depicts the regional landscape, exploring intriguing stops along the way and the authentic context of music, food, and language integral to this generation of Texans, while frankly and thoughtfully addressing relationships, mourning, and mental illness, with characters as unforgettable as the region itself.


 

***


PRAISE FOR THE WEST TEXAS PILGRIMAGE:

 

I laughed. I cried. This is a book that is real, honest and reminds all of us that life is filled with ups and downs. The only way to keep moving forward is to get real with ourselves about whom we are and accept our beauty and our pain. This young author has amazing wisdom that is so articulately shared with readers of all ages. 
5 Stars, Amazon Verified Purchase
The West Texas Pilgrimage was insightful into the mind of a privileged, pre-adult male who tries to self-medicate his OCD condition with alcohol. While reading, I felt the main character’s vulnerabilities as he struggled with his feelings regarding his career choice, the loss of a good friend to cancer, and the complications of his search for the right female life mate. The book was a quick read…only because I could not put it down! There were several “ah-ha” moments when I thought: oh my, that’s really how a pre-adult male thinks??!? I never knew!! 
5 Stars Donna J Millon
I read the first half of the book in one night; it draws you in with believable characters and real challenges they face. Could have been written about people you know or have met. It covers some tough topics but is an enjoyable read. — 5 Stars Peter Day
Really nice read. Very detailed description of so many things made me feel like I was right there with them. 2 nights to read for a non reader like me makes for a really easy and entertaining time. Thumbs up. 
5 Stars Nunya
The book brought me right back to the border towns of my youth. Step outside any bar and be hit with the smell of fajita and sewer. Glorious!  — 5 Stars Amazon Verified Purchase
Review
Only moments into this novel I thought to myself, Wolthoff knows a lot about guns. Hunting, game animals, and cowboy gear, too. And after waiting to see if Hunter (funny how that’s his name and he never pulls a trigger) will shoot down the biggest buck ever seen, I found that I had been holding my breath. I was so taken with the beautiful description. Well, minus the talk about taking a piss. I suppose there must be some allegory at play there but I’m not very good at dissecting literature like that.
Hunter is not the kind of guy that I hung out with or lusted after during my UT years. I didn’t run in circles like his either, so his and Cinco’s shenanigans are things that I’ve only heard of or seen in National Lampoon and American Pie movies. But all of their douchiness fades a bit when you realize they’ve come together to remember their dear friend who lost his battle to cancer. Only in the memories of his friends do you get to know Ty. From cocky playboy to soldier to smitten man to loving father. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel teary eyed to find Ty hung on just long enough to meet his newborn baby.
I’m not a fan of went on in Mexico, but I guess boys will be boys. Especially when in Boys’ Town. I don’t really understand why Hunter and Cinco went there. Hunter tried to find the humanity in a hooker and then boinked her brains out. I was just confused. They run into trouble, of course. I’m not going to say why but I will say that I didn’t see the point of it. The novel would have been just as real and touching if that whole section was removed and the guys just met up with Ty’s dad and the crew to go on the hike.
On a side note, I wouldn’t have minded a little more interaction between Hunter and Stacey, Ty’s little sister. That might just be the chick lit lover in me, but that would have been a great replacement for the Boys’ Town saga.
I can say for certain that the climb up the mountain was literal and figurative for Hunter. Even I’m not too thick to see that. I got teary eyed again as all the guys laid their memories in with Ty’s ashes. When I put my phone down (I read the ebook from my phone), it occurred to me that not much happened in this book. Yet, I felt like I had been on a journey. Not a pilgrimage, not for me, at least. But I could definitely see how that short journey, short in both time and distance, was the beginning of a new life for Hunter. I hope he doesn’t squander it.
Matthew Martin Wolthoff lives in McAllen, Texas, with his wife, Lucy Ann, and three children, Hunter Ann, McCoy Martin, and Kerr Dunkin. He grew up in a military family, living all over the world until finding home in South Texas, where he went to high school in San Antonio. He is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio. His parents instilled a passion for reading and writing in him early in life that grows stronger every day. An avid outdoorsman, he finds his inspiration—and peace of mind—in the shallow waters of the Lower Laguna Madre and the wilderness of the South Texas brush country. His first West Texas pilgrimage was in 2010. It was a life-changing event.  

 

 


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Review: The Island of Lost Children by Kim Batchelor

THE ISLAND OF 
LOST CHILDREN
Book 1
REIMAGINING THE STORY OF 
PETER & WENDY
by
Kim Batchelor
 
Genre: Middle Grade / Fairy Tale / Fantasy
Publisher: Luna y Miel Publishing
Date of Publication: November 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 188

 

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Peter is still the boy who doesn’t grow up. Wendy is a girl who had to grow up too soon. And Wendy’s brother, Michael, has autism and a connection to The Island of Lost Children, a book for readers 8-12 and any fan of Peter Pan. When Peter leaves his island home, it’s to search for pick-up soccer games and mock sword fights. Wendy spends her evenings looking after her two brothers—sometimes bratty JJ as well as Michael—while her parents work nights. In the midst of several unusual events including the disappearance of her classmate, Lily, at odds with her adoptive mother, Wendy doesn’t realize that Peter’s pirate nemesis is keeping an eye on her. Everything changes for Wendy and her family when a peculiar fairy named Bellatresse helps Peter find the girl whose stories he once listened to outside her bedroom window. 
With its quirky humor and occasionally touching moments, The Island of Lost Children is about children creating their own stories, families, and communities, all while swashbuckling, navigating mystical rivers, riding child-made roller coasters, and, of course, sailing high through the open skies.
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There are so many great things about this book. Where to begin? First off, I LOVE reimaginings. Even when they’re not entirely successful, I still appreciate the creativity needed to see a different angle of such well-loved and well-known stories. Up until now, the only reimagining of Peter Pan that I’m familiar with, if you can call it that, is the movie Hook. So please excuse that some of the comparisons that I make are more with that movie than the original text; which I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember in great detail.

The cover is beautiful and the style of it gave me the impression that maybe the ethnicities of the characters would be played with. I don’t know if it’s the cocoa color of Peter’s skin and the dark hair, or maybe even just the style of the artwork that gave me that idea. As if to answer my unspoken question, the opening scene features a family praising their son Miguel as he plays soccer.

This is where I get confused for the first time. I knew that Wendy has two brothers, Michael and John. So I thought for a few pages that Miguel was Wendy’s brother, so there would be a Juan and whatever the Spanish equivalent of Wendy, right? Oops, I outed myself for stereotyping. Miguel is not Michael. The ethnicity of the family is ambiguous. I was a little let down by that, but the other types of diversity to be revealed made up for it.

The Darlings are a more realistic family in this version. The parents are quarreling over money and careers (hey, that’s sort of what happened in Hook, too), Wendy is having to play mom to her two younger brothers because their parents work all the time, and Michael has a cognitive disability. Also, poor Nana runs away when Mr. Darling tries to take her to an animal shelter. These Darling children have more reasons to want to run to Neverland than the originals, that’s for sure.

I don’t want to ruin the story but I will share that how Captain Hook enters the story is an interesting choice. His target for revenge didn’t make much sense to me though, and when everything gets more or less resolved, I don’t understand why someone isn’t arrested or interrogated at least. I guess because this is supposed to be a children’s story? Okay, I’ll chill.

I like the added dimensions to Lily (although I wonder if people would prefer she had stayed Native American), and not to mention the number of girls in Neverland! It always bothered me that Tiger Lily and Tink seemed to be the only girls in the original. Well, mermaids too if you count them (I didn’t). Batchelor topped Hook with that addition. However, the invisible feast and rollercoasters sounded a lot like Hook. Unless that stuff was in the original, too, and I just forgot. My apologies if they are.

I really liked the tender moments between Wendy and Michael, and how Michael had his peaceful spot in Neverland. I imagine this could open up dialogue about being sensitive to individual needs. Also, finding joy and hope in milestones reached. I closed this book feeling like I understood Wendy and Michael. Sadly, JJ fell by the wayside. Typical middle child, I guess.

What are my favorite moments? I think that Batchelor pokes fun at the Tinkerbell character, Bellatresse, by emphasizing her erratic behavior and thinking. Peter and Trudy pretty much say that the fairy does things for no apparent reason and that they’re not sure whether she really likes them or not. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe she’s just supposed to be bipolar. Or all the sugar just made her cray cray.

And Peter thinking he’ll miss Wendy because she’s like a sister? Pffft. Let’s not let our reimaginations run away now.

Kim Batchelor writes books for children and adults, stories both real and fantastical, foreign and domestic. She has been published in the Texas Observer, The Best of Friday Flash, and local literary journal, Contexas. She teaches creative writing to incarcerated women and lives in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, with a spouse, two dogs, and way too many cats. One of her prized possessions is a busted tambourine given to her by Eddie Vedder. Okay, he tossed it to her in a dark stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, but the real story is never as interesting as the one she makes up.

 

  

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