Winter Warmer: Nobody’s Child

“Jeri combines V.I.’s social conscience with Kinsey’s bad-ass attitude and a snappy narrative voice… Dawson manages to blend her social criticism into a rich plum pudding sprinkled throughout with memorable characters.”

Those were the words of Maureen Corrigan in the Washington Post Book World, and they sum up the novel Nobody’s Child by Janet Dawson excellently.

Nobody’s Child is one of thirteen titles in the Winter Warmer bundle. I read it several weeks ago and enjoyed the book very much.

Its private investigator protagonist, Jeri Howard, felt utterly human and real. I especially liked that she was a well-grounded, middle-aged woman struggling with the normal issues that confront women in their thirties and forties, trying to discern the way she wants her life to be and how to make it so. I sympathized with her, liked her, and wanted her to succeed.

Amidst her own struggles, she pursues a missing person case that lands in her lap.

Unlike so many detective novels, this one features neither the highly dramatic neuroses of a dysfunctional detective (such as an alcoholic), who can’t relate healthily to those around him, nor the entirely carefree quilter or cook who solves mysteries on the side and seems to have no substantive problems at all.

Jeri Howard has problems, but they are honest ones, and she tackles them with honesty and good sense, just as she brings those qualities to bear on her missing person investigation.

In the course of Jeri Howard’s search for Maureen Smith and her toddler daughter, Nobody’s Child thoroughly explores all the issues surrounding the plight of the homeless. It avoids falling into either extreme pathos and melancholy or melodrama, steering flawlessly and informatively through the reality in way that educates the reader without browbeating him or reducing a complex situation to simple solutions and a political agenda.

Because the topic is dark, Nobody’s Child is a dark book. It could easily have proved too dark for me, but the protagonist, and her normal and healthy relationships with family and friends, balanced the sadness of the homeless so well that the story did not plunge me into gloom.

Additionally, the plot of the story was well constructed, and the pace of events and revelations moved along at a good clip, keeping me intrigued and interested throughout.

Here’s the official blurb:

It’s a cold rainy winter. Oakland PI Jeri Howard is having a tough time getting into the Christmas spirit—and dealing with a prickly client. Naomi Smith’s daughter Maureen ran away three years ago. At various times Maureen was homeless. Now she’s probably dead and her two-year-old daughter is missing. It’s dangerous out on the mean streets of Berkeley, for an adult let alone a child.

Can Jeri find the little lost toddler before time runs out?

The Winter Warmer bundle (with 13 titles, including Nobody’s Child) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Winter Warmer bundle, see:
Winter Warmer: Phoenix
Winter Warmer: Nutball Season



Winter Warmer: Nutball Season

I love Christmas stories, from the original about the babe in a manger through Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Connie Willis’ Miracle and Other Christmas Stories and more by other contemporary authors.

As I was reading through the Winter Warmer bundle (in which my novella Winter Glory appears), I encountered a new Christmas story to love: “Nutball Season” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I’ll share the official blurb and then talk about a few of the elements that charmed me. Here’s the blurb:

According to Officer Nick Mantino, Nutball Season runs from Halloween to Christmas. This Christmas season, he sees more than his usual number of nutballs.

First, there’s the geezer who thinks he’s been cast in Miracle on 34th Street. Then there’s Mrs. Billings, who has told everyone she’ll shoot Santa if he lands on her roof.

Mrs. Billings has scared the local children, and Nick Mantino must investigate. What he finds in Prudence Billings’ house scares him too—and makes him wonder if he hasn’t just joined the lists of candidates for Nutball of the Year.

So why do I love this story?

The biggest reason is Officer Nick Mantino, who’s lonely and longing for family, but making the best of it, doing his job and dealing with the crazies brought out by the holiday season. He’s an experienced cop, a realist, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Yet he finds his pragmatism conflicting with his basic decency and niceness, causing him to treat a Santa impersonator with kindness.

I loved Nick and found myself believing in him, rooting for him, and liking him. He’s very human and very much the heart of the story. But the plot of “Nutball Season” is clever and fun, and the happy ending is completely in the spirit of the season, encompassing healing and new beginnings.

I won’t say more, because I don’t want to give away all the good stuff. Get it, read it, and enjoy it!

“Nutball Season” is available solo, but I urge you to pick up your copy via the Winter Warmer bundle, because then you’ll obtain several other stories with it that are equally good.

The Winter Warmer bundle (with 13 titles, including “Nutball Season”) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Winter Warmer bundle, see:
Winter Warmer: Phoenix
Winter Warmer: Nobody’s Child



Winter Warmer: Phoenix

“My blood seethed with power.
       “The ones who didn’t fear me wanted something from me.
       “I was the Serpent. The original tempter. The one who convinced humanity that the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge belonged to them, too. People assumed I was evil because their books told them so. They blamed me for everything wrong in their lives, including their own crappy decisions. They ought to have thanked me instead. Wasn’t for me, they’d still be walking around naked in a paradise that was more like a prison. Wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t have two brain cells to rub together.
       “Evil? No. Bringer of knowledge? Yes.”

“Blood to Blood,” Leslie Claire Walker

I first encountered Leslie Claire Walker and her short story “Blood to Blood” in a book bundle containing The Uncollected Anthology: Magical Motorcycles. I knew within the first few pages of the tale that I would want to read more by her.

Walker presents a world in which the serpent of Eden has become Malek, a tattoo artist who speaks only in sign language and who inks magical and deadly tattoos with his own poisonous blood. Old gods with new names stalk the night—The Mayor, Gator, and other monstrous powers—while the Fae cross the deadly In-Between to emerge from Faery and meddle in the affairs of men.

“Phoenix,” another short story by Walker, tells the tale of Stacy, a human witch who steals one of three most precious possessions from a princess of Faery. Something more precious than blood, safety, or home.

I loved both “Blood to Blood” and “Phoenix.” When I encountered “Silver Dust,” which continues where “Phoenix” left off, I loved it as well.

Malek appears in all three stories; he is the protagonist in the first, while the young witch Stacy takes that role in the second, and the Faery princess Silver in the third. Each them engaged my partiality and pulled at my heartstrings.

I found it fascinating how each installment felt fully complete and satisfying in itself and yet also filled in different segments of a larger saga, approaching the whole from different angles and using different themes.

I’m eager to read more of Walker’s works.

So, why am I telling you about Leslie Claire Walker and her stories? Well, first off, she’s good and her stories are excellent. Check them out!

But, secondly…I have another of my own titles in a book bundle along with Walker’s “Phoenix” and a number of other stories by authors that are well worth reading. Let me tell you a little about the Winter Warmer bundle. 😀

Winter, a time of festivity, of hardship, and cold. Perhaps it remains the most superstitious of seasons and for many the most beloved. Snow, feasting, gifts, religious significance, family and getting together. A time for storytelling!

Thirteen tales about, or set in, the harshest of seasons. From witches to icy realms and faery kings, to holiday nutballs who might be less nutty than they seem. From detectives up against wintery crimes and mysteries to Christmas romance and second chances, there’s something for everyone in this winter warmer.

Available for 3 months only — December, January, and February.

“Sanctuary” by Leslie Claire Walker
“Snowman’s Chance in Hell” by Robert Jeschonek
Tollard’s Peak by Michael Kingswood
“Phoenix” by Leslie Claire Walker
The Tuxedoed Man by Marcelle Dube
“Nutball Season” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Dreamweaver’s Journey by Diana L. Wicker
Dark Dancer by Jaleta Clegg
“Coconutty Christmas” by Ann Omasta
Nobody’s Child by Janet Dawson
Freak Sanctuary by Ann Stratton
“Desperate Housewitches” by Dayle A. Dermatis
Winter Glory by J.M. Ney-Grimm

And here’s the official blurb for “Phoenix” by Leslie Claire Walker:

A mystery girl appears in the midst of a winter thunderstorm, seeking a witch to break a terrible curse: the girl has accidentally destroyed the Realm of Faery.

Seventeen-year-old Stacy, young to the Craft but growing in power and reputation thanks to her hand in thwarting the last apocalypse, might be able to save both Faery and the girl.

If Stacy refuses to help, both the realm and the girl will die. But helping the girl can only lead to heartbreak—and a choice that will change them both forever.

An impossible problem. A heroine with the courage and heart to take on the challenge against all odds. To enter the magic, read “Phoenix.”

The Winter Warmer bundle (with 13 titles, including “Phoenix”) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about the stories and novels in the Winter Warmer bundle, see:
Winter Warmer: Nutball Season
Winter Warmer: Nobody’s Child

For more about other bundles, see:
Mythic Tales bundle
More than Human bundle