A gripping tale of suspense, family dynamics and trauma’s fallout.

WHAT JENNIFER SAW

Schweig’s debut novel is a psychological murder mystery that traces the undoing of a family after tragedy strikes.

The Harris family, by all appearances, has it all in. Wealthy, beautiful and adored, parents Jim and Mary Beth enjoy the good life with their four children and many friends in idyllic Monroeville, Mo. But all is not as it seems both for the community and its favorite family—one night, Jim Harris is murdered while dozing in his home, unraveling the security of his family. As the police swarm, eager to determine who could have done the unthinkable, each member of the Harris family changes dramatically in the aftermath of their tragic loss. Mary Beth sheds her old skin as the domestic mother and emerges as a promiscuous femme fatale entangled in a string of affairs. This raises suspicion within her own son, witness to the fact that his mother “now moved, talked and even drove the car with a personal authority he has never seen…she had transformed herself into…a freewheeling spirit…as if some yoke had been lifted from her soul.” Even more disturbing than Mary Beth’s shocking response to her husband’s death is the contrast to the reaction of her daughter, Jennifer Harris, whose trauma from losing her father has left her unresponsive and emotionally scarred. Mary Beth blithely ignores Jennifer’s obvious need for help, leaving the problem to psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Adler to solve. But will his own emotional baggage prevent him from seeing this through? Did someone from Jennifer’s own family kill Jim, and is she the one who knows? Told in quick chapters and straightforward prose, this mystery novel takes on grief, trauma, murder and even insanity with a deft hand. The layers of insight and research are apparent as the characters struggle with one another and themselves with an admirable verisimilitude. Readers who find mysteries to be lacking in depth and character development will be pleased to find both areas well tended to here, executed effectively within a fast-paced and exciting read.

A gripping tale of suspense, family dynamics and trauma’s fallout.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1612962733

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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