Cry of an Osprey by Angie Vancise

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Cry of an Osprey by Angie Vancise is, in short, an emotional roller-coaster. Although the main topic seems to be an alternative love story, this is only the backdrop for a bigger picture to which each reader can relate to a certain degree. It is a story about family ties, solidarity and losing a loved one.

At the center of the story stands Jax Vanbeerman who only at the age of 48 suffers a stroke. This is the trigger that unites a dispersed family, a current and a former lover and many more people to share a couple of agonizing days in close quarters. At which point there is a temporal bifurcation, on one hand we are in the present next to Jax in the hospital together with the loved ones, but also in the past, reliving memories of the good old days. It is in this process of remembrance that regret creeps in as characters wonder about alternate decisions and actions, about what could have been. In fact, as Jax fades away from the living, he grows ever stronger in the hearts and memories of the people who loved him. Perhaps this is the most important lesson of the book.

The File: A Mother & Child’s Life-Changing Reunion

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

It is very frightening for a teenage girl to find out she is pregnant but just imagine if this pregnant girl is the daughter of a pastor.

Anita had a loving family; they were close and supportive. Her father was the pastor and her mother was the church musician. Being the child of the pastor had advantages and disadvantages; Anita could sleep a little later because the church was right next-door but on the other hand if her father caught Anita talking during the sermon, he would call her to the front of the church and make her sit by herself.

Anita was friends with Allison and Brent. Brent was in love with Allison but she wanted to keep their relationship as friends only. Anita and Brent had a class together during their senior year and they went out on a date. They became bored at a party and left to be alone so they could talk more. They ended up in a place where a lot of the kids went to make-out. They also ended up doing more than talking and things went a little too far.

Anita soon discovered that she was pregnant. There was a difficult decision to be made. She could keep the baby, have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. Her first thought was to have an abortion because it seemed the easiest. No one would know. Her parents wanted her to make the decision but offered some advice. They told her that an abortion would be hard for her to live with since she would be taking a life.

Anita went into her closet and began to cry. After a lot of praying and crying, she decided to give the baby up for adoption. Little by little she started to tell her siblings and her best friend of her pregnancy. They were all supportive. Her father was the pastor of a new church and he asked the bishop if he should step down. The news was given to the congregation and Anita asked if she could speak. She told them how truly sorry she was for bringing this upon the church.

As time went on, Anita began to feel her baby kicking. She was starting to have second thoughts as she was feeling emotionally attached to the baby. She signed up for a couple of college courses to take her mind off things.

The day had finally arrived. Anita went into labor. She had to make another difficult decision. Did she want to see the baby after it was born? Would it be easier to give the baby up if she did not see the child? She decided it would be easier to not see the child. She heard the doctor say it is a little girl. They did tell her how much the baby weighed. They moved Anita to a room away from other mothers who would be taking their child home.

After Anita returned home from the hospital, she had to make arrangements to sign more paperwork. The adoption was not final yet. She, again, began to have second thoughts. Her parents, once again, offered their support if she wanted to keep the baby. This only made it more difficult.

Once everything was finalized, Anita began to feel a little better. The judge assured her that the adoptive parents had the same spiritual beliefs as her and that they would provide a good home.
As Anita tried to get her life back to normal, she received a call from a young man she had met before. He asked her out. She soon realized that he was the one for her and it did not take long for them to get married.

Even though she seemed happy, she hardly had a day go by without thinking of her daughter. Anita knew she could not have any contact with her daughter until she reached the age of 18.
Anita and her husband had four children but she still wondered about the daughter she gave up for adoption.

The one thing Anita could do for her adopted daughter was to place items in “the file” at the agency. When her daughter turned 18, she could ask to see the file.

Will Anita’s adopted daughter ask to see the file?

I am not going to say anything more because this would be giving away “spoilers”. I want readers to find out for themselves what happens.

The File is a book that shows the heartbreak a mother has when she makes the decision to do what is best for her child. You could feel the pain in every decision that Anita had to make. On the other hand, this book also shows how happy an adoptive family can be when they have the opportunity to bring a baby into their loving home.

The author has done a wonderful job in weaving every piece of this story together. From sad emotions to joyous ones, the reader will feel like Anita is sitting right beside them as she tells her story. The File also shows how important spiritual beliefs can help in the process of making very difficult decisions.

On a personal note, I attended a workshop where Anita Keagy was the speaker. She spoke about giving her baby up for adoption. Her emotion and tears told the audience everything they needed to know. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anita Keagy speak, please do yourself a favor and sign-up.

Don’t Wake Up: A Novel by Liz Lawler

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine waking up stripped of your clothes, strapped to an operating table, and threatened with unimaginable physical cruelty. This is what happens to Dr. Alex Taylor, who works at a hospital in Bath, England. After Alex’s terrifying experience, she is convinced that she was violated, however, no physical proof exists that supports her story. Alex’s life takes a downward spiral, as she tries to convince everyone the attack was real and not a delusion. She starts drinking too much. When a pregnant nurse dies, Alex is convinced the same person who tortured her is responsible. No one believes Alex’s allegation. It appears as if Alex needs psychological help, and deadly incidents involving her only make things worse. Relationships with her colleagues and boyfriend suffer, and Alex worries she is losing her grip on reality.

In Don’t Wake Up, Liz Lawler expertly utilizes multiple third person point of view. Lawler only switches character perspectives between chapters or scenes, and it is clear whose eyes readers are looking through. The majority of this engrossing story is told from Alex’s perspective, but readers are also shown the viewpoints of key characters and their reactions to Alex’s claim of an attack. The different viewpoints pull readers deeper into the heart of the story in which Lawler skillfully interweaves not only things such as criminal acts, police investigations, prejudice, disloyalty, jealousy, violence, and dedication but also the effects of psychological trauma, overindulgence in alcohol, and reliance on anxiety medication.

The Next President by Joseph Flynn

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is the first of Mr. Flynn’s books that I have read and it is quite a story. In my eyes, although it is some ways hard to believe, I truly think that most all of the happenings could occur. The entire story is about a new presidential candidate who happens to be black and how there is an involved plot to have him assassinated. How those who are planning this endeavor ever decided the best person to do the job would be a sharpshooter who served in the army under one of the planners is somewhat a mystery. It appears that he might be the best qualified?

Senator Franklin Delano Rawley is the candidate and Jefferson Davis Cade is the original sniper that is set up for the attack. (You have to like the FDR and Jefferson Davis implications in the book if you think about politics while reading.) J. D. Cade has just recently killed a man in his hometown in a very strategic and fascinating way. His former commanding officer in the army knows of this secret and decides to use it to force J.D. to pull off the assassination under fear of being tried for the murder at home plus a threat to J D’s son is implied.

Forgotten Bones (Dead Remaining) by Vivian Barz

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Forgotten Bones is the first installment in the Dead Remaining series. Police Officer Susan Marlan and College Professor Eric Evans play the central characters. The prologue draws readers in with a realistic and dramatic opening that leads to a creepy mystery for law enforcement to solve. It involves the accidental discovery of one child’s dead body in the small town of Perrick, California, and the uncovering of more bodies. The FBI takes over the case, and they zero in on one man as the guilty party. However, Susan questions the validity of the FBI’s rationale and decides to conduct her own unauthorized investigation. Eric is experiencing uncanny and horrifying visions that seem to correlate with the gruesome findings of the corpses. Are Eric’s hallucinations from his own imagination, or do supernatural elements play any kind of role? Eric teams up with Susan to help discover if the police have the right suspect in their sights.

Girl Most Likely: A Thriller (Krista Larson) by Max Allan Collins

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Max Allan Collins book, “Girl Most Likely” introduces us to Krista Larson, young chief of police of a small Midwestern town named Galena. She is only 28 years old, which makes her the youngest female police chief in the country. She learned from the best, her father, retired detective Keith Larson.

Chief Larson is attending her 10-year high school reunion. The reunion is held over a weekend with several events planned. Sadly, a year earlier one of her classmates was murdered in Clearwater, Florida. Then, during the reunion, another classmate is killed. The second victim is a high-profile journalist for a Chicago TV station. In high school she was known as a boyfriend stealer and not the most well liked. Digging into the past can be tricky and old grudges and drama cause resentments to flare. Keith’s wife, Krista’s mother, recently died. To help deal with his grief, Krista invites him to help with the investigation.

The Better Sister: A Novel by Alafair Burke

Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

I really enjoyed reading this book. I’ve long since enjoyed her father’s mystery novels and Alafair measures up.

We first meet the younger sister Chloe who has the splashy life working for a popular magazine. Chloe is now married to Adam and they have a stepson Ethan; however, nothing is as it seems – the happy marriage is not so happy and the son is not a happy teen.

The Summons by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This, without a doubt, is one of Grisham’s best books! A very well written story of Ray Atlee who is summoned to come back to his father’s home in Clanton Mississippi. His father, Judge Rueben Atlee, is one of the most well-known and highly regarded chancellors in the state. Although he and his two sons, Ray and Forrest, have never been very close the boys have always respected and responded to their father’s wishes. He has sent each of them a very official summons telling them what day and what time they are to be at the old homestead for a meeting.

Ray knows that his father is dying of cancer and fears that this may be the last meeting they will have. What he doesn’t know is what he finds out when he arrives. He goes into the house to find his father asleep (he thinks) on a couch so rather than wake him Ray sits outside on a porch for a bit. Finally when he does go in he touches his father’s hand and realizes that he is already dead! There doesn’t seem to be any criminal type cause of death. He has been taken away by the cancer and it occurred while he waited on his sons to arrive.

As has been somewhat typical for some time however Forrest doesn’t show up and Ray begins to look around the house to see if anything unusual is or has happened since his last visit. As it turns out, in one of the storage closets Ray finds among other things a cardboard box and when he opens it to see what is inside he finds stacks of hundred dollar bills. By a quick overview and observation it appears each box has over a hundred thousand dollars in it. And there are at least twenty of these green storage boxes in the closet! Where did this come from?

Ray also finds a newly written will which his father had just written and was laying on the table by his sofa. The will explained everything was to be handled through the courts and then divided between the two sons. Ray was to act as the executor of the estate. The will only mentions about six thousand dollars in the bank and has no mention of the money in the boxes.

Ray is at a loss as to what to do when Forrest finally does arrive. Forrest is a very addicted drug user who has wasted his money, his wife, and his life on drugs. Ray doesn’t mention to him about the boxes as the two sit and discuss how to handle their father’s funeral arrangement. After meeting with Harry Rex Vonner, an attorney and one of the Judge’s closest friends all arrangements are made and both Ray and Forrest go their separate ways just waiting for the funeral itself.

But from that moment on in the story Ray is saddled with not only the secret of the money but questions as to where it came from, who knows about it

if anyone, and what is going to happen to it. Basically Ray is the “unknown” guardian of the stash and he begins moving it around with him wherever he goes and wherever he stays. However, not too long after the funeral strange things begin to happen to Ray. Someone appears to be following him no matter where he is. And then when he does take the money in bags home with him, his home gets broken into. Shortly after he puts it into several storage units someone begins sending him pictures of the storage units!

How this is all grows into a really great story is one of Grisham’s best! The whole tale will keep any and all readers into the book right up to the end. Oh, yeah and even that may leave most of you stunned! It did me!

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“Well, at least I wasn’t murdered.”

So opens Murder in Red, Jon Land’s third effort writing as Jessica Fletcher for the eternal Murder, She Wrote series and one he pulls off with literary alacrity so smooth and suave that I almost forgot he cut his teeth on the more hardcore thrillers he continues to dazzle us with. In fact, I’d venture to say that under his steady hand Jessica Fletcher has come to resemble his Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong without the gun, given that she, too, is relentless in her pursuit of justice.

And there’s plenty of it for her to pursue in Murder in Red, starting with the suspicious death of a close friend Jessica thought she knew far better than she actually did. Secrets, of course, have long been a staple of the mystery genre. In this series, though, more than anything Land has managed to deftly blend the more modern material of Michael Connelly or Robert Crais’s hardboiled mystery writing within the fabric of a classic cozy. Think Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade if Chandler and Hammet respectively had written them as women.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A somewhat different book for Mr. Grisham. Although it is very involved with the legal world it is a non-fiction book. Grisham had seen some news articles about this unusual case and decided to follow it. And then he turned it into The Innocent Man. From all indications it is definitely a case of an innocent man who gets completely and unfairly tried and convicted by the authorities.

Ron Williamson had been a fairly decent ballplayer in his youth and actually was signed by Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. Sadly he never had enough talent to hang on in the minors nor make it to the big leagues. He pretty much hung around Ada, Oklahoma and got by. He had many friends and he was always out in public somewhere. Most of his time when he wasn’t working he was hanging out in bars and saloons.