Sandy Amazeen

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Strength of character and overcoming hardship to discover better times ahead are the central themes of three delightful new fiction releases that will warm the heart.

Gabriel Clarke was born to be on “The River”—his father and grandfather were whitewater guides who appreciated all the subtle nuances and moods of the Whitefire River, deep in the Colorado Rockies. But when he was five, Gabriel’s world was ripped asunder when his father’s attempt to save a kayaker went horribly wrong. After moving to live with his mother in Cairo, Kansas, fun-loving Gabriel becomes insecure and withdrawn. Years later, a job with a rafting company offers Gabriel the opportunity to reconnect in full—not only with The River, but also with his past—but only if he has the strength of character to move beyond his anger and childhood pain.

Michael Neale’s The River gently sweeps readers along like a leaf in a current as Gabriel struggles with beginning a new life after a terrible loss. Throughout this artfully crafted story is a genuine sense of The River as a force of nature to be reckoned with, respected and learned from.

LOVE, ITALIAN-STYLE
Charming and smoothly paced, The Girl in the Glass recreates the feeling of walking the streets of Florence, Italy, and is populated with warm, generous-hearted characters. Thirty-year-old Meg Pomeroy has a good job as an editor for a travel guide publisher, yet travels very little. She clings to the hope that her financially irresponsible father will make good on his promise to take her to Florence. When he finally appears to be following through, and then fails spectacularly, Meg swallows her disappointment and decides to go to Florence alone. She meets up with two of her publishing connections: author and tour guide Sofia Borelli, and photographer Lorenzo. Meg has been trying to publish Sofia’s short stories, based on the life of Sofia’s ancestor, Nora, and she has worked on projects with Lorenzo and his sister for several years. Now that she and Lorenzo have met, Meg can’t help but respond to his infectious charm. But is what she feels for Lorenzo the real deal or a travel romance?

Susan Meissner, author of The Shape of Mercy and A Sound Among the Trees, maintains a smooth pace and believable dialogue throughout—even if Meg seems a little old-fashioned. Sofia’s story is even more interesting as the painful truths of her life reveal a vulnerable, broken woman struggling to come to terms with a traumatic past.

SOUTHERN STRENGTH
Michael Morris spins an excellent yarn about a Deep South community circa World War I in Man in the Blue Moon. As a young woman, Ella Wallace was a promising art student looking forward to furthering her studies in France—but that was before she became infatuated with the charismatic, free-spending Harlan. Eighteen weary years later, Ella is disillusioned and raising three boys alone after Harlan ran away to escape his debts. Local banker Clive Gillespie can’t wait to get his hands on her piece of Florida property, which contains a natural spring with reputed healing powers, and Ella is on the verge of foreclosure when she receives notice that a clock has been delivered for her. When Ella and her boys unpack the crate, it isn’t a clock they discover but a man: Lanier Stillis, a distant cousin of Harlan, hiding from his ex-in-laws. And this is only the first of the surprises Lanier brings.

Morris encapsulates the hypocrisy, pettiness, greed and outright meanness that are often a part of small-town life, yet his story manages to avoid being too dark or depressing despite the bad things that happen to some of its characters. Don’t miss this thoughtful, poignant tale of love, loss and redemption steeped in the heat and natural beauty of the Deep South.

Strength of character and overcoming hardship to discover better times ahead are the central themes of three delightful new fiction releases that will warm the heart. Gabriel Clarke was born to be on “The River”—his father and grandfather were whitewater guides who appreciated all the subtle nuances and moods of the Whitefire River, deep in […]
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Christian novelist Frank Peretti, author of This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness and many others, writes about the fascinating blend of physics, enduring love, time travel and faith in Illusion, his first book in seven years.

For 40 years, Dane and Mandy Collins shared a deep love as well as a magic act—until Mandy was killed in a car crash. Dane is left floundering as he seeks to come to terms with his wife’s death and rebuild a life in Hayden, Idaho. Meanwhile, Mandy awakens as a 19-year-old in 2010, even though she was born in 1951. New technologies like cell phones and computers are a mystery to her, and really, all she wants to do is find the (long gone) family farm and her father. Instead, Mandy is held at the Behavioral Health ward of the Spokane County Medical Center on suspicion of mental incompetence.

While held at the facility, Mandy discovers some very unusual powers, including one that enables her to walk out of the building undetected. Maintaining a low profile, Mandy makes her way to Hayden, where she also begins the slow process of building a new life. Fascinated by magic and struggling to make a living as a street performer, Mandy—who now calls herself Eloise—receives some helpful advice from Dane, thus beginning their frequently rocky acquaintance. Dane was warned about the possibility of his mind playing tricks on him, but Eloise bears an uncanny resemblance to his beloved wife. Grudgingly, Dane begins mentoring Eloise, who is just learning about her magical capabilities, like the ability to mentally control objects. While powerful forces rally against Eloise, the mentor and protégé plan a spectacular magic act, the likes of which has never been seen before. But will Eloise be strong enough to survive it?

Illusion is both a mystery/sci-fi story and a sweet tale of timeless love between 60-year-old Dane and the now-teenaged Mandy, although nonbelievers may have difficulty with the obvious Christian message at the novel’s heart. The science behind the plot is sketchy at best, yet that does not take away from the reader’s enjoyment of the story. Excellent character development, a smooth pace and an unusual twist to the time travel theme make for a strong cross-genre story with a satisfying conclusion.

Christian novelist Frank Peretti, author of This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness and many others, writes about the fascinating blend of physics, enduring love, time travel and faith in Illusion, his first book in seven years. For 40 years, Dane and Mandy Collins shared a deep love as well as a magic act—until Mandy was […]
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Originally published in Norway in 2009, The Leopard finds detective Harry Hole attempting to forget gruesome memories connected to the depraved psychotic whom readers met in The Snowman (published in the United States in May 2011). After the killer held Harry’s fiancé and her son captive, she decided marrying the detective was too dangerous, and she backed out of the wedding. Weary and emotionally battered, Harry sets about losing himself on the streets of Hong Kong, where he falls prey to an opium addiction while building up an impressive gambling debt to local gangsters.

When Harry’s boss is faced with another bizarre murderer (who selects victims seemingly at random), he sends beautiful detective Kaja Solness to locate and bring Harry back to Oslo. Harry reluctantly agrees, but only after Kaja plays the trump card of his seriously ill father who hasn’t got long to live. Eventually, Harry discovers that each of the murderer’s victims spent the night in a secluded mountain cabin. Now, a seriously sadistic and inventive killer is disposing of everyone who stayed there—and just killing the victims is not enough; a nightmarish torture device from the Congo is employed with diabolical precision. As Harry follows the convoluted trail toward the killer, there are plenty of red herrings to keep him, and readers, off balance.

This taut thriller by worldwide bestseller Jo Nesbø features finely drawn characters and enough twists to continually surprise; it is likely that readers will think they have identified the murderer, only to discover otherwise. Considering all the horrors he has been forced to witness, Harry’s tired, cynical personality makes sense—yet it is his humor that makes him real. There are additional layers of realism and emotional depth to this dark mystery: political infighting as agencies compete for dwindling resources; Harry’s struggle with addiction; and the process of coping with a dying parent. Though it can be a struggle to keep track of the numerous characters, the effort is well worth it. The subplots are eventually brought together in such a way as to satisfy the reader, but leave room for more action from our intelligent (if jaded) hero.

Sandy has worked for small town newspapers and reviewing books for more then twelve years.

Originally published in Norway in 2009, The Leopard finds detective Harry Hole attempting to forget gruesome memories connected to the depraved psychotic whom readers met in The Snowman (published in the United States in May 2011). After the killer held Harry’s fiancé and her son captive, she decided marrying the detective was too dangerous, and […]

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