Women’s History Month

Blind Date with a Book

North of Nowhere by Allison Brennan

Kristen McIntyre Reed plays soccer for her high school team, loves to help out at the ranch where her dad works, and Jason, whom she secretly likes, just kissed her for the first time. She appears to be a typical sixteen year old. But in Allison Brennan’s North of Nowhere appearances can be deceptive.

When her dad, Tony, wakes her at 5:30am her first response is to reach for her weapon. When Tony tells her simply “Plan B, baby” she immediately reaches for her sturdiest boots, dresses warmly and grabs her go bag. No questions. They trained for this; grab your bag and get your brother, Ryan. Ryan is ten years old, smart, adept, and deaf.

Plan B means Boyd has found them and they have to run. A blizzard is forecast but they have to go now, even the wait for dawn to arrive could be costly. But they need light to ‘borrow’ his boss’ plane and fly to Ennis where they will get a car and head 300 miles north to a well-stocked cabin near the Canadian border.

Boyd McIntyre runs one of the largest crime syndicates in Los Angeles and he is Kristen and Ryan’s father. Tony was part of the syndicate until five years ago when he and Maggie, Boyd’s wife and the kid’s mother, devised a plan to get out. As Maggie and Kristen are leaving to meet Tony and Ryan, Maggie is shot and killed but Kristen escapes. Since then, Tony has been hiding and protecting them in Montana.

When his search lead Boyd to Montana he hired local help to locate Tony. They soon figure out what Tony may be planning and arrive at the airfield before Tony is ready. As the plane gains speed Boyd is chasing them and fires a warning shot at the plane. It doesn’t deter Tony but soon more bullets are hitting the plane. They manage to take off but the plane is damaged and Tony was hit twice, in the arm and chest.
Only halfway to Ennis, they are forced to crash land in a lake. Kristen manages to get them off the plane and to the shore but Tony is too badly injured to go further. When they hear a helicopter overhead they know Boyd has found them. Kristen will do anything to protect Ryan, even follow Tony’s order to leave him and hike through the mountains in a desperate attempt to reach Ennis before Boyd can catch them.

Tony’s boss, Nick Lorenzo, knows something must have gone wrong for Tony to take the plane. A neighbor tells him that there was gunfire at the airfield and then the plane’s transponder notifies Nick that the plane has gone down. Nick knows the storm is coming but he needs to help Kristen and Ryan if they survived the crash. First he calls Tony’s emergency contact to notify her of the situation, Ruby McIntyre, Boyd’s sister.

Local search and rescue is tied up looking for a family that didn’t make it home so Nick and his son, Jason, set out alone. When they find the crash site, Tony is dead. They search the area for Kristen and Ryan but only find footprints. The smaller prints of the kids and three sets of adult footprints. Nick sends Jason back to get help and he follows the prints.

Ruby meanwhile is making her own arrangements to help Kristen and Ryan. At 18 she enlisted in the military to free herself from the family. She tried to help Tony and the kids five years ago but Tony cut her off. Now she’ll do whatever it takes, even parachuting onto the mountain, to find her niece and nephew.

Kristen is strong and resourceful but can she keep safe a young boy who can’t hear danger approach or a warning shout? The weather is deteriorating, the terrain is treacherous, Boyd and his men can’t be far behind and they are a long way from the first stop in Plan B.

Boyd isn’t dressed or prepared for the mountain and the weather but nothing is going to stop him from finding his kids and taking them back. Ruby is prepared and equally determined to keep the kids from Boyd. Nick’s concern is for the kids but he doesn’t know what will happen if someone gets in Boyd’s way.

This thriller has a lot of moving parts, and the characters all have backstories that are relayed over the course of the chase through the mountains. Once it gets going it is almost non-stop action and just when you think you can take a breath something more deadly than the mountains and the storm waits.

Review by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian

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Before She Finds Me by Heather Chavez

The day has finally arrived that Julia Bennet has been both dreading and anticipating. It’s move in day at Anderson Hughes. Her only child, Cora, is starting college. Their light-hearted banner over the things in Cora’s cartful of possessions is interrupted by the arrival of her ex and Cora’s dad, Eric, along with his new wife Brie.

Things become a little tense as Brie is not Julia’s biggest fan. About to go in search of Cora’s lost phone, Julia is halted by an uneasy feeling. Is it Brie’s presence or has she sensed something else? When she hears the first pop, she listens. At the second pop she reacts and pulls Cora to the ground. The rest of the crowd is slower to respond. There are three more pops. The man that had been next to them falls and Brie collapses on top of him. Then the screaming begins.

Julia’s story begins Heather Chavez’s newest novel, Before She Finds Me, then we meet Ren. Ren Petrovic is debating with her unborn child the merits of a belly band or a shoulder holster for her gun. Of course she’d much rather be home shopping for poisons. You see Ren has an unusual profession, she is a contract killer. Nolan, her husband, deals with the clients and Ren does the research. The circumstances decide which one of them carries out the contact.

A call from Nolan interrupts her shopping. It’s a call she’s received before – a check-in call after a job to say things went ok and I’ll be home soon. The only problem, they didn’t have a job scheduled.

Back at Anderson Hughes, the shooting has stopped. Cora has a bullet wound in her arm, Brie is dead and the man that fell next to them is unconscious. As the first responders try to restore some order to the chaos and find answers, the assumption is it is another senseless mass shooting. But Julia has studied guns and violence, her own mother was murdered, and this scene doesn’t feel random.

Ren knows it’s not. Why would Nolan do a job without planning? His explanation doesn’t quite satisfy Ren. She’s a killer but one with her own code of ethics. She only kills those who deserve to die. Her research is not only to find the best way to do the job but also into the target. What did they do to warrant being killed? Nolan had two targets, one who supposedly killed someone and a person related to the first target. What was the related person’s crime?

In the days following the shooting, Julia tries to keep Cora close and help Eric. At least two are dead, Brie and the man who fell next to them. The rumor is a student is also dead. Then Julia sees footage of the shooting on the news and comes to the realization that the bullet that struck the man was intended for Cora. Without his stumble and Julia’s quick reaction, Cora might be dead. Cora was one of the targets. Then a news report reveals that a student didn’t die as rumored, she was just shot in the arm.

Ren has reservations about Nolan’s explanations but he, their unborn child, and her father are her family. Besides her code of ethics, family is all she cares about. Ren starts the research that should have been done before the shooting and discovers Julia. She is drawn to her. Her obvious love for her daughter and her love of plants are things Ren admires. If Ren could have friends, Julia could be one.

But Ren’s world is starting to unravel. Oliver Baird is rich, powerful and a client. The client Nolan thought hired them. But he is Brie’s father. He has Ren brought to him and gives her an assignment – find Brie’s killer.

Ren will do whatever it takes to protect her family including finishing the contract. Julia is equally determined to keep Cora safe and find the killer. Because the police have realized this was not random violence and Eric is a prime suspect.

Julia and Ren tell their story in alternating chapters that reveal each woman’s life while also building suspense. For me, Ren was the more interesting character even though she lacks empathy and compassion. Julia is easily likeable, Ren is not. Even though I couldn’t admire her, I found myself pulling for her and hoping she could redeem herself.

This is a suspenseful story that builds steadily then races toward the end. If you like Ruth Ware or Gillian Flynn, you might enjoy this one.

Review by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian

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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

Thanks to being born with red eyes, a condition known as ocular albinism, life for Sam Hill has never been easy. Fortunately he grew up in a loving home, where his mother continually assured him that he was going to have an extraordinary life. However, his life at school and in public were much different. From his first day of school, when the Catholic school’s head nun refused to admit him, through his high school graduation where he was overlooked as valedictorian, despite having the best grades, he has had to put up with bullying and discrimination. Classmates called him “Devil Boy” and “Sam Hell” and not only refused to play or interact with him, but actively bullied him.

His devout mother called his condition “God’s Will,” but Sam has never been sure. What he does believe is that God or the Blessed Mother or some form of divine intervention must have been responsible for Ernie Caldwell and Mickie Kennedy attending his elementary school and becoming his two best friends. The three outcasts band together throughout childhood and continue to be a support system for each other into the present day. Without his two friends, Sam is not sure where he would be today.

After some foreshadowing in the book’s foreword, the book alternates between Sam’s past and present life. Sam’s childhood nemesis David Bateman appears in both time periods and while not the entire focus of the novel, past and present revolve around many of the actions taken by David and Sam. And create a visual of how their relationship has been formed. Ultimately, a surprising turn of events causes Sam to question his life’s choices and eventually step away from the life he has created, seeking purpose and meaning elsewhere.

All the elements of the book come together to create a page turner that readers will find difficult to put down. I was immensely impressed with how the story came together. Good pacing, foreshadowing and alternating between past and present provide the hook to make most readers eager to finish.

While a completely separate book, without many plot similarities, Robert Dugoni’s novel reminded me a bit of LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus. Especially because of the character. Sam, his mother, Ernie and Mickie are well developed, quirky, strong and mostly likable. I felt the same way about the characters in Garmus’ popular novel. Dugoni does a great job building his characters and sharing their motivations and desires. Most readers can only hope for family and friends as great as Sam’s. Dugoni shares at the end of the novel that his mother and brother provided the inspiration for the novel. That makes sense when considering how much the characters are the doorway into the book.

You will not want to miss The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. It is truly EXTRAORDINARY.

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Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director.

Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty

Mallory Viridian spends her life keeping people at arms distance, trying to keep them alive. Death has  followed her for as long as she can remember.

When she was very young, her mother died. Then one of her teachers was murdered, followed by her guidance counselor. Just before she dropped out of college, an annoying classmate and a room service attendant were both killed during a class trip – in two unrelated murders. The final straw came when the guest of honor was murdered at a birthday party Mallory had been forced to attend.

After that, she was done with humans. Thankfully, alien life had just made first contact. Mallory made her case and was granted sanctuary aboard a sentient space station called Eternity.

Life aboard Eternity isn’t always easy. The station is outfitted to care for a variety of alien lifeforms, from the giant rock people called the Gneiss to the ever-present blue and silver wasps of the Sundry hive mind.

With only three humans on board, the station has more pressing matters to deal with than catering specifically to their needs. Mallory has been left to find out which of the alien foods her body is capable of digesting – including a semi-molten liquid rock that could conceivably be called “coffee.”

Her only remaining human contacts are Adrian, the self-important Ambassador of Earth, and Xan, a fellow sanctuary-seeker/stowaway.

Life aboard Eternity has been pleasantly murder-free, but Mallory has just gotten word that everything is about to change. An Earth shuttle is headed to Eternity, and with those human passengers will come a murder. Mallory is certain.

Mallory has a sixth sense for impending death; first she begins to notice unusual coincidences. At the birthday-party-turned-crime-scene, she was almost guaranteed to only know the person who brought her. Instead she finds Xan.

The two had been friends in college, before she dropped out to avoid more murder and he dropped out to join the military. Seeing him out of the blue is not a good sign. Sure enough, after reconnecting with her old friend for a few minutes, the party-goers’ game of Werewolf turns into an actual murder.

With the certainty of this experience, Mallory knows that more humans on Eternity will mean another death. And when her premonition turns out to be correct, the murder ripples out through the station – and no one on Eternity will be safe.

STATION ETERNITY by Mur Lafferty is a well-plotted murder mystery encased in a science fiction shell.

It takes place in the near-future, which helps make the world feel familiar. Human technology and motivations have not changed much in Mallory’s time and it is easy to understand the distrust some humans have for their new galactic neighbors.

The book can occasionally seem choppy, cutting back and forth between Mallory’s present and quick vignettes to the other murders she has solved. These vignettes do not always tell the whole story. Mallory reserves the right to skip details and bring the murders up again before the reader gets the whole picture.

The book’s perspective shifts around between characters, deeply exploring the world that Lafferty has built while still keeping the urgency of the unsolved murder front and center. STATION ETERNITY’s aliens are unusual but relatable, and I would say the same for its humans.

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Review by Alyssa Berry, Technical Services Librarian

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Young Artists Gallery Exhibit

We’re glad to partner with Post Art Library for the inaugural exhibit of our Young Artists Club!

Open to children through age 12, the Young Artists Club meets monthly to learn new art techniques and make artwork. Exhibited here are their self-portraits, which they learned how to create in April.

Join us on Friday, May 13th from 4pm-5pm for the Young Artists Gallery closing reception.

For more information about the Young Artists Club, visit the Children’s Library or call 417-623-7953 x 1035.

Art in the library is curated by Post Art Library.