Congratulations to Ed Protzel (The Lies That Bind) and S.L. Mauldin (Life Sliding)!
Synopsis: In 1859, Durksen Hurst, a visionary charlatan on the run, encounters a dozen hungry slaves stranded in the Mississippi wilds. Led by the deceptively simple-looking Big Josh, together, they agree to build their own egalitarian plantation, with Hurst acting as figurehead “master” to hoodwink the town. But wise Big Josh fears that Hurst’s grandiose schemes may doom them all to the hangman’s noose. In the town, the reclusive widow, Marie Brussard French, manipulates the region’s bankers and cotton brokers, that is, everyone except her frail, rebellious heir-apparent, Devereau. Driven by unbearable loneliness to mad acts, Devereau threatens to expose the family’s own tenuous facade, a revelation that if made would prove fatal to the Frenches. Meanwhile, Antoinette DuVallier, a beautiful, Cassandra-like fugitive from New Orleans with mysterious ties to the Frenches, arrives on her own desperate mission. Her overpowering presence detonates long-repressed conflicts, unleashing a devastating upheaval of fire and blood that tears asunder the once-sleepy hamlet. As the story’s tangled webs of deceit unravel, each startling plot twist and cathartic revelation shines a fresh light on what it means to be a man, a woman, free or enslaved — indeed, what it means to be human.
Critique: The debut novel of author Ed Protzel’s ‘Dark Horse Trilogy’ series, “The Lies That Bind” is a deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. While strongly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “The Lies That Bind” is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
Synopsis: As his junior year in high school comes to an end, Gavin Bailey realizes his privileged world as the most popular kid in school is a lie. To make matters worse his father, feeling his overly indulged son needs redirection, sends him off for the summer to assist at a camp for children with special needs. Suddenly forced to dabble in a world less familiar, Gavin’s past catches up with him at Camp Lift Me Up. An event from his sophomore year comes to the forefront; at the same time, he encounters a strange girl with multi-colored fingernails who refuses to issue a waiver for his arrogant behavior. Initially convinced he is the only one suffering, Gavin faces a summer of harsh lessons in reality and eventually determines to make a difference at school his senior year. With the help of old and new friends, he implements a plan to stir up the social order, but will they be able to survive the fallout of what they’ve put into motion?
Critique: “Life Sliding” is a compelling read from beginning to end and clearly demonstrates author S. L. Maulden’s original and exceptionally gifted storytelling talents. While very highly recommended for school and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “Life Sliding” is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
View the review on the Midwest Book Review website: