What We’re Reading Now: THE WHICH WAY TREE

The Which Way Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Elizabeth Crook

Published in February 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

Reviewed by Amanda Moore

In the middle of the night on a small farm in rural Texas, a young girl is attacked by a panther outside of her home. Her mother runs to her aid and is tragically killed by the panther in a brutal and vicious manner. Traumatized by the events of that night, Samantha Shreve develops a deep-seated obsession for revenge and uses every opportunity to hunt and kill the wild animal.

The Which Way Tree is a fascinating and captivating tale told primarily from the perspective of Samantha’s half-brother, Benjamin Shreve. As a young boy living in the late 1800’s, he witnesses the panther attack and other questionable incidents that occur close to his home. Years later and now seventeen years old, Benjamin is asked by a local county judge to give a written account of these incidents.

Benjamin’s descriptions of his experiences and the actions of other characters are surprisingly mature and insightful. He demonstrates honesty and integrity in his caretaker role as a brother, but he also experiences the normal fears and concerns of an adolescent.  Throughout the novel, he recalls his constant state of distress as he tries to prevent his sister from engaging or provoking the animal that freely roams the countryside. Samantha’s obsession overshadows her concerns for her personal safety and that of her family. Readers will undoubtedly recall other literary tales of revenge and obsession including that of an infamous white whale and the captain who pursued it in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Through the eyes of the narrator, readers will observe the challenges and hardships of living on the Texas frontier and the unique relationship between a brother and a sister. Benjamin not only tries to protect his sister from a violent individual who crosses their path, but he also tries to care for her well-being even when he disagrees with her choices. It is a well-told story that explores the different emotions of the human experience – fear, compassion, courage and hope.

Amanda Moore is an attorney and writer living in Austin, Texas.  She won first place in the Texas Bar Journal 2015 Short Story Contest and was asked to return as a judge in the annual competition for two consecutive years. She has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2014.  Amanda is an avid reader and book aficionado.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

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What We’re Reading Now: THE MIDNIGHT MAN

The Midnight Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by David Eric Tomlinson

Published in January 2017 by Gallery Books

Reviewed by K.L. Romo

In his debut novel, The Midnight Man, David Eric Tomlinson weaves basketball, law enforcement, self-realization, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building into a tapestry of Oklahoma culture and attitudes. The unexpected intersection of such diverse lives gives us a glimpse of what we can learn from each other if we keep ourselves open to possibilities.

Brothers Cecil and Ben Porter survived a long-ago tragedy that left one paralyzed from the waist down, and the other infected with guilt. Now little brother Ben is a successful real estate developer who can schmooze a meal from a starving man. He’s never admitted to anyone that his fortune is the result of some not-so-legal business deals – and Ben’s hidden an even bigger secret for most of his life: the truth about his older brother Cecil, who’s been his hero ever since he can remember and is never far from his mind.

Becca Porter is in a rut now that her children are grown and gone, and her husband, Ben, is never home. She decides to fill her days as a volunteer at a local social services center, forming a bond with a young Native American boy who’s been placed in foster care. As her love for the boy grows stronger, so does her understanding of what she must do. But will Ben be able to accept her decision?

Dean Goodnight is an investigator with the Oklahoma City Public Defender’s office, assisting with the defense of an addict who’s been accused of the torturous murder of a drug dealer when things went south. Because Dean is Choctaw, like the defendant, he hopes he’ll be able to get enough background information from the Choctaw community to save his client’s life.

Aura Jefferson is a former collegiate basketball player whose basketball-superstar brother has just been killed. Although she’s a nurse and physical therapist, she still plays in the midnight basketball league she founded years earlier to keep kids off the street. Playing basketball helps release her fury.

“It’s come undone,” is a sentiment often felt by these seemingly unconnected Oklahoma residents, their lives unraveling in ways they aren’t sure how to stop until their paths ironically become tangled in a strange synthesis of strength, forgiveness, and devotion.

With a voice and perspective befitting the Southwest, Tomlinson tells the story of very different people growing up in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. But their stories soon intersect and merge into a tale of accountability, alternate perspectives, forgiveness, and the need to care for one another. In the end, these diverse individuals learn that their differences of White, Black and Native American only play second fiddle to all they have in common, the individual pieces finally fitting together like a complicated jigsaw puzzle.

K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Her historical novel, Life Before, is about two women separated by a century who discover they’ve shared a soul. Web: KLRomo.com or @klromo.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

What We’re Reading Now: BLOODLINES

Bloodlines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Melissa del Bosque

Published in September 2017 by Ecco

Reviewed by Mary Pritchard

In this suspenseful nonfiction book, Melissa del Bosque details the true story of a Mexican drug cartel and the FBI’s pursuit.

In December 2009, a young Special FBI Agent, Scott Lawson, arrived at his assigned post in Laredo, Texas, far from his home in Tennessee. He was already trained at the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia, for his new job on the Texas/Mexico border. In Laredo, Lawson soon discovered that the FBI competed with other arms of federal law: the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) at the top of the ladder, and Homeland Security Investigations. The FBI fell in the middle of the pecking order.

Lawson’s Laredo FBI supervisor, David Villarreal, briefed him on the focus of their team: the Mexican drug smuggling cartel known as the Zetas, especially the Treviño brothers, Miguel and Omar. Miguel had a “reputation as a sadistic, cold-blooded killer whose appetite for violence verged on the psychotic.” Another brother, Jose Treviño, was also involved.

As an up and coming member of the Zetas, Miguel Trevino had already been investing in quarter horse racing, a sign of his status in the drug cartel world. His horse, Tempting Dash, had been winning races in Mexico and was now about to be entered in the Dash for Cash Futurity at the Lone Star Park racetrack in Grand Prairie, Texas, which had a $450,000 purse. Horse racing in the United States seemed an excellent way to launder the huge amounts of cash the drug trade brought in.  Miguel’s horse agent, Ramiro Villareal, would take Tempting Dash to the Grand Prairie race, and if he won, pose as the horse’s owner.

Even though political changes in Mexico tried to end government corruption and bribery, cartels were already firmly entrenched. “The Zetas were a multibillion dollar, transnational business;” the Treviños needed investments other than casinos, bars and coal mines. Their love of horse racing was the ideal way to put money in U.S. banks “where it would be safe from …enemies.”

In order to infiltrate the Treviños’ horse racing enterprise in the U.S., Lawson was put in touch with a legitimate quarter horse breeder outside Austin, Texas who boarded, bred and trained some of the Treviños’ horses, including Tempting Dash. His name was Tyler Graham, and because he had inadvertently taken on the Treviños’ horses, he was drawn into helping the FBI in exchange for their protection.

Del Bosque chronicles the rapid expansion of the Treviño brothers horse racing from Texas to New Mexico and even into California where through bribery, horse doping, intimidation and murder, their racing wins ballooned until it all started falling apart in 2013 and 2015 with the arrests of Jose Treviño, who was operating a horse ranch in Oklahoma, and other principals in the case. Miguel and Omar Treviño are currently being held in a maximum security prison outside Mexico City.

This thoroughly documented book is important reading because it shows how the Mexican cartels started and how they multiply and grow more savage in their thirst for money and power.


Mary Pritchard is currently an adjunct instructor at Tarrant County College SE.  She has written poetry all her life, and is now working on a memoir that is based on her mother’s letters to her from the last half of the 1950s.  She also enjoys watercolor painting and photography.  She was raised in the Panhandle of Texas, and that landscape is part of her soul.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

What We’re Reading Now: THE BLINDS

The Blinds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Adam Sternbergh

Published in August 2017 by Kensington Books

Reviewed by Amanda Moore

In The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh tells an intriguing story about the residents of a town called Caesura, Texas. Caesura is an extremely small community of individuals who try to live normal and relatively peaceful lives. However, Caesura is not like other towns — it is isolated and located in a remote part of Texas, where communications with the outside world are virtually non-existent.

As the story progresses, the reader is introduced to residents in the town whose personalities range from friendly and sociable, to odd and reclusive. With the exception of the mysterious presence of a sheriff and two deputies, the residents of Caesura have some memories of their past lives, but they do not remember the circumstances that led them there. They do not know their real names, and they are told to choose new names and identities. All of their food and supplies are shipped to them in a delivery truck. In a community of strangers where everyone has a questionable past, the town is a refuge from the outside world. They are free to leave Caesura, but they can never return.

In this novel, the knowledge of their past actions is something that the residents both seek and fear. As one character states, “It’s hard enough to live with what you’ve done. It’s immeasurably harder to live with knowing you’ve done something, but not knowing what exactly it is you did.” The reader learns about the backgrounds of characters whose pasts are as varied and diverse as their new names. Sternbergh explores the emotional struggles of these characters, but he also allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.

As the tale unfolds, horrible incidents occur in the town. A man is found murdered in a bar. A shop is vandalized for no apparent reason. Residents of the town begin to fear the worst as the town becomes as unsafe as the world beyond it. When the reader least expects it, secrets are revealed and more crimes are committed. The story morphs into the ultimate page-turner that forces the reader to reach a shocking but familiar conclusion: people can leave the world they know, but they may never truly escape their past.


Amanda Moore is an attorney and writer living in Austin, Texas.  She won first place in the Texas Bar Journal 2015 Short Story Contest and was asked to return as a judge in the annual competition for two consecutive years. She has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2014.  Amanda is an avid reader and book aficionado.

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.