Saturday, February 4, 2012


by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
ISBN: 978-0439023511
$8.99 Hardcover, $5.98 Ebook

The third book in The Hunger Games finds Katniss, along with her family and Gale, living with the rebels in District 13. Katniss has no idea what has become of Peeta and fears he is dead. She unwillingly and reluctantly has become the symbol of the rebellion and the rebel leaders urge her to exploit this via video feeds to the 12 Districts. Katniss at first feigns infirmity but eventually caves in after negotiating an agreement with the rebel leaders that they will not harm Peeta or the other Hunger Games survivors if they assume leadership. Much as she was manipulated by the government, Katniss now finds herself in the same circumstance with the rebel leaders. When Peeta is rescued, Katniss is greatly relieved, but Peeta has been tortured and brainwashed to the point that he is no longer the same person. Katniss vows to kill President Snow for what he has done to Peeta and joins the rebels in trying to overthrow the government. When her chance comes to kill the president, Katniss does something unexpected that could lead to her death.

Collins ruthlessly depicts the war between the Capitol and rebels in a grisly, violent fashion, leaving nothing to the imagination. Once again, she proves adept at peeling away layers of personas of pertinent characters. Katniss is portrayed as a young woman who wants to live a simple life and does not care for her perception as a heroic young woman ready to lead the cause for freedom yet finds herself thrust again and again into this role. The ending will surprise some readers, although this reviewer sees no other way it could have concluded.


by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0439023498
$9.99, Hardcover

This follow-up to The Hunger Games finds Katniss back in District 12, residing in a prestigious house in Victory Park with her mother and sister. Peeta and Haymitch live nearby although Katniss rarely sees them. She occasionally goes on hunting sprees with her best friend Gale but they never speak of their feelings for one another. Just before Katniss is scheduled to leave with Peeta for the mandatory Victory Tour though the 12 districts, President Snow pays her a visit, letting her know he believes she does not truly love Peeta and used this to manipulate the prior games. Snow tells her that her small act of rebellion has incited unrest in the districts and threatens her if she does not thwart this. Although Katniss tries to downplay her victory and let Peeta do most of the talking during the tour, a speech she makes in one of the districts does the very thing Snow warned her against. Snow’s punishment is to make the upcoming 75th Hunger Games a special one, throwing prior victors into the arena to fight to the death. Katniss and Peeta are chosen from their district and once again Peeta tries to protect Katniss by proclaiming she is carrying his baby. Katniss makes the decision that Peeta will be the one to survive these games and she will do everything possible to ensure he is victor. But Haymitch has been working behind the scenes and Katniss soon finds she has no control over anything, including ending her own life.

Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy skips over scenarios readers may be curious about such as Katniss’s reunion with Gale after her return from the Hunger Games, how she and Peeta dealt with the aftereffects of the games, etc. However, this does not take away from a powerful tale of love and danger, the confusion of a young woman over her feelings for two men, and the political insights into a corrupt government sliding into rebellion. Collins gives her readers characters to love and hate; an intensely graphic, bloody battle; and three people caught up in an at times agonizing triangular relationship. Undoubtedly, fans will be anxious for the next and final book in this galvanizing series.


by Cindy Sample
L&L Dreamspell
ISBN: 978-1603184274
$16.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

Single mom Laurel McKay reluctantly agrees to take dancing lessons for a routine for her best friend’s upcoming wedding in Lake Tahoe. Klutzy Laurel trips during a practice dance, breaking the heel of her shoe. Later that night, that same heel is found sticking out of the mouth of one of the male instructors, dead in the parking lot with a pool of blood under his head. Laurel thinks things can’t get much worse but they do when Detective Tom Hunter shows up to investigate. Hunter pegged Laurel as a suspect in a prior murder and now it looks like the same thing is happening all over again. To add insult to injury, Laurel’s still reeling over the fact that Hunter dumped her without an explanation after a two-week dating spree. To make matters worse, Laurel’s mother is now engaged to Hunter’s retired partner, a man who also pegged Laurel as a murderer. When the wife of Laurel’s boss becomes the primary suspect, he asks Laurel to help clear his wife’s name. Laurel’s only too happy to do so and off she goes on another amateur sleuthing rampage, dancing all the way, with a whole plethora of suspects to investigate.

This follow-up to Dying for a Date featuring Laurel McKay is another hilarious romp filled with twists and turns and a vexing mystery. Sample introduces her readers to the fiercely competitive world of competition dancing and does not disappoint with the sizzling chemistry between Laurel and Detective Hunter. Sample’s one-liners are amusing and her development of Laurel McKay as a caring, self-deprecating, everyday woman is well-done. This reviewer looks forward to the next in this series.


A Smoky Mountain Novel
by Lin Stepp
Canterbury House Publishing
ISBN: 9780982905418
$15.95 Paperback

Social worker Alice Graham has trouble placing six orphaned children without breaking them up, which she does not want to do, so Alice decides to foster the children. Needing a larger home, she finds a beautiful house in Greenbrier, Tennessee. While touring the home, she sees a man astride a horse on a ridge above, watching her. Alice feels a pull toward this man that is puzzling. When she and the children move into the home, Alice discovers this man, Harrison Ramsey, is her neighbor. Chemistry definitely sizzles between them but Alice, a widow, feels her priority is raising the six children, and Harrison, left at the altar by two different women, has no desire to get involved with another one. But circumstances keep throwing the two together and both turn to God for an answer to the future of their relationship.

This heartwarming story, third in the Smoky Mountain Novel series, will engage the reader from beginning to end. Stepp nicely develops the chemistry between Alice and Harrison, along with the prickliness of their relationship as the two go through a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with their feelings and interactions. Readers will root for the relationship to bloom as Alice’s foster children develop a fondness for Harrison, and he for them. With finesse, Stepp blends romance, inspiration and the intricacies of family dynamics into a charming, uplifting book.


by Carolyn Haines
St. Martin’s Minotaur
ISBN: 0312351607
$9.34, Hardcover

Post World War II, Jade Dupree owns her own beauty shop and is also the undertaker’s assistant in the small Southern town of Drexel, Mississippi. Jade is half-black, her white mother Lucille Longier having handed her over to her black handyman and his wife to raise. Jade’s white half-sister Marlena is married to Lucas Bramlett, the wealthiest man in Drexel. Although Jade’s skills as a hairdresser are sought after by the rich, white women of Drexel, she understands she will never be considered anything but black and these women are not above pointing this out. When Marlena is brutally raped and her daughter disappears, Jade begins to spend time with her sister, hoping to find out who raped her and where her daughter is. Sheriff’s deputy Frank Kimble is investigating the case and he and Jade share an attraction for one another which Frank is more than willing to pursue but Jade reluctant.

Haines excels at portraying the temperamental atmosphere of a small Southern town’s racial infrastructure. There is a melancholic cast to the story, told from Jade’s point of view, that brings to heart the biases blacks faced during that era, as well as the prejudices some held against whites and their own race. The mystery isn’t a complex one and more tertiary to the story than the complexities of and interactions between characters.


by Nancy A. Kaiser
Aronya Publishing
494 Timber Lakes Dr.
Todd, NC 2884
ISBN: 9781613645864
$13.22 paperback/$7.99 ebook

Nancy Kaiser, known for her poignant memoir Letting Go: an Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Journey of Healing & Transformation, has penned another powerful read with Master Teachers, her first book in her Tales of an Animal Communicator series relaying her work as an animal communicator and the lessons learned from the animals with which she communed and treated. Kaiser’s background as a pharmacist and assistant to her veterinarian husband along with her deep love of horses and dogs certainly helped pave her way to becoming an animal communicator. She takes her reader along on her journey of transformation as she realizes the special gift she has and begins to apply it to healing and communicating with animals. We learn the lessons taught with each animal she introduces us to, their perception of afterlife, which is so uplifting, and the spirituality of each of these beautiful animals. Her skillful writing draws her reader into tales of great joy and deep sorrow, of fiercely holding on and learning to let go, and learning to live in the moment. One cannot read this book without coming away knowing animals have souls and are, indeed, our true teachers on this earth if only we will open up our hearts and minds and listen to what they have to tell us.


By Kean Koontz
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway
New York NY 10019
Kindle Single $2.99

12-year-old Crispin lives on the streets with his dog Harley, who has an uncanny ability to guide Crispin out of danger. At 9 years of age, Crispin witnessed the disappearance of his sister and the horrific murder of his brother and now he’s running for his life from his mother and stepfather and a multitude of people who share their beliefs. But Crispin knows he cannot be free until he puts an end to the evilness that resides in his parents’ house.

No author can meet Koontz’s skill at portraying evilness and the characters that do its deeds. As always, there is a heroic dog involved, which this reviewer appreciates, but this time the protagonist is a child instead of the usual adult(s) on the run from whatever deviltry is after them. With great skill, Koontz weaves a suspenseful story made more horrific because it could actually be reality. A tale one thinks can have no happy ending yet Koontz manages to end it on an upbeat note. This novella reminds this reviewer of Koontz’s earlier work, which was so powerful and thrilling to read.