Inspired by Louis L’Amour and targeting fans of the western genre, Paul K. Brown writes The Llano Kid series in which he traces the journey of his title character. In the third book of the series: Cactus Valley Lawman, readers learn the origin of the protagonist’s name, as well as additional pieces to the story of this young man who was orphaned as a boy. Now, Llano has taken on a job as security and scout for a wagon train heading west to California. When the wagon train is ambushed, Billy Nevil’s Ma is killed, leaving her son Billy an orphan at age twelve. Seeing himself inRead More →

Writing a western set in the 1870s, Paul K. Brown invites readers on a ride with The Llano Kid, the first of the Llano Kid Adventures. Half Cherokee and half Irish, Llano was orphaned when he was twelve.  On Llano’s path to young adulthood, Brown recounts various encounters with drunks, bullies, thieves, and gunmen who seem to prefer bravado or mob mentality without any notion for getting the facts.  Now nineteen and seasoned by these experiences, Llano is looking for a place to find honest work and to hang his hat. However, he will have to navigate the harsh code of the West and theRead More →

Dark, gruesome, and captivating, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker is Book One in a planned duology. In this first installment, Baker writes the story of an angry biracial girl—Ren Scarborough—who is trying to find out where she belongs. This feeling of being half and not whole, as well as the label foreigner haunts Ren, following her from London, England, where she serves as a Reaper, to Japan where Ren was born a Shinigami. In both roles, Ren, who is a descendent of darkness—made not of flesh and blood but of Death and Time—works for Death. This servitude is supposed to be sacred,Read More →

By their own definition, Naomi and Malcolm Smith used to “live in sin” and had their first baby, Jemima Genesis (aka Genny), out of wedlock while in their teens. However, being God-fearing individuals and believers in the notion of God’s mercy in granting second chances, they marry and eventually answer the call to enter the seminary. Now, they serve as co-pastors at Resurrection Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Naomi and Malcolm completed their family with two more daughters, naming each one after Job’s girls from the Bible. Of the Smith trinity, Genny went on to become the youngest Black woman to earn her PhDRead More →

The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron joins the ranks of a long line of stories like Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1998), My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith (2015), Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016), and Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (2017).  Such novels capture the youth experience during the era of World War II.  Cameron’s, though, is based on the true story of the remarkable heroism of the Podgórska sisters, Stefani and Helena, two Polish Catholics who defied the law and safe-guarded several Jews.  Of her brave but risky behavior, Stefani asks, “Who else isRead More →

At eighteen years old, Selah is the seneschal-elect of Potomac, which implies that she will soon be the steward of her province’s resources, as well as the person to oversee its courts, its militia, and its administration.  However, as a woman in the historical time in which the Anna Bright’s novel The Beholder is set, Selah will need a man by her side to help her rule, despite her keen mind and kind heart. As her fiancé, Selah has chosen Peter Janesley, who is brilliant at math and at sports.  However, this smart, earnest, and kind young man rejects the extended marriage proposal.  Given Selah’sRead More →

Fourteen-year-old Alyce Greenliefe is witch born and pursued by witch finders.  When her mother Ellen is executed in Fordham, Essex, in 1577 for practicing witchcraft, her dying desire is that Alyce should deliver a letter to John Dee at Bankside. On her journey to that destination, Alyce is caught and confined at Bedlam Royal Hospital, as a prisoner, not a patient.  When an unknown man and woman come to liberate her, Alyce escapes, but in running for her life, she nearly collapses from malnutrition and fatigue.  Eventually, she finds herself at Cripplegate on the northern edge of London’s shopping district.  Knowing it is wrong toRead More →

Although a work of fiction, A Promising Life by Emily Arnold McCully reads like nonfiction with its rich history of the early 1800s and its biographic-like details.  The novel tells the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, born among explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to Toussaint Charbonneau and Sakakawea.  Half French Canadian and half Shoshone, Baptiste is métis American, but he finds himself caught by social circumstances that don’t wholly accept him.  Called Pompey, or Pomp, which means “the promising one,” Baptiste is favored by William Clark, so when his parents leave him in Clark’s care and travel upriver from St. Louis to aRead More →

Resembling a collection of short stories with the clever and mischievous sixteen-year-old witch, Kendra Hilferty as a unifying character, Beheld by Alex Flinn does some serious genre-blending and blurring.  Part fairy tale, part historical fiction, part romance, and part mystery, Beheld—with its heroes, struggles, and allegories—reveals insight into what it means to be human while conveying its layered theme and multiple morals. The main plot thread features Kendra’s search for James Brandon, her beloved soulmate.  Four other stories run parallel to Kendra’s in that the characters also seek transformation through human relationships.  Ann Putnam’s story, which brought back memories of reading The Crucible by ArthurRead More →