A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery

Publication Date: May 27, 2015


A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery, mystery book reviewThe Amtrak Sunset Limited crashes in the desert under mysterious circumstances. In the area of the crash is a pregnant teen, a soldier suffering from PTSD, a group of Pentecostal zealots waiting for the events foretold in Revelations surely soon to happen. A Light in the Desert is the story of the people surrounding the event.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review.


A Light in the Desert is a fictional story based on the true event of the derailing of the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a train that travels between New Orleans, Louisiana and Los Angles, California, on October 9, 1995 in Hyder, Arizona. Railway ties had been removed to cause the accident and though the actual culprits were never caught, A Light in the Desert is a fictionalized version of the events.

A Light in the Desert is a character driven novel imbued with social commentary. There are a number of focus characters including a pregnant teen, a traumatized Vietnam Vet, a battered teen repeating the cycle and a group of Pentecostal zealots calling themselves “The Children of Light” waiting for the world to end. Montgomery’s writing technique involves short chapters of slowly released experiences highlighting the characters. We meet the pregnant teen when she’s in a cemetery leaving flowers on the graves of babies and we meet the Vietnam Vet as he’s saving a dog that has been tortured. There are hints that draw us in before the characters really start to connect.

I was especially interested to read “The Children of Light” as I was raised Pentecostal. In the church in which I grew up, members referred to each other as “Brother” and “Sister.” In A Light in the Desert their title is “Elect” and that title crosses gender lines. There is a reverence for religion in the piece but one that connects with reality in a way that radical Christianity often does not. A Light in the Desert is a book about humanity and Montgomery clearly sees faith and those of extreme faith as a part of that humanity though she in no way backs away from the darker elements and that scars that darkness leaves.

Montgomery’s style of prose is economical but lyrical which, I believe, is perhaps what lets the piece down. Our looks into the lives are quick shots and people that need to put the book down and pick it up again may find A Light in the Desert somewhat difficult to follow. Motivations are unveiled as a pay off for continuing to read. Montgomery is a very good writer who seems very conscious and an observer of technical rules of writing. A Light in the Desert is above all else a work of literary fiction and an example of proper technique to writer aspiring to the genre. The story itself flows quite rapidly. The setting was natural to the true story on which A Light in the Desert is based but brilliant for the isolated feel for the characters.

A Light in the Desert is a great read. If you’re looking for a great story about human nature, pick A Light in the Desert up today.



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About Anne Montgomery
For more information about Anne Montgomery, visit her website. You can connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @amontgomery8.

They’re So Vein (The Grateful Undead Book 1) by Susan Stec

Publication Date: October 1, 2012


Book Review: They're So Vein by Susan StecSusan,  a 58-year-old woman, encounters an altercation between a woman and a child in a public restroom where she stops while out with her sister. In her enthusiasm to film the conflict to post on her YouTube page, she inadvertently finds herself the object of the strange child’s ire. Susan wakes up to find that she looks 30 years younger and, oh yes, she’s also a vampire. The women in her life are eager to jump on this fountain of youth but the vampire world is much more organized than they thought it would be and their behavior is attracting attention they could do without. Is a youthful body worth the danger they’ve found?

They’re so Vein is the first book in the Grateful Undead series.


They’re so Vein lost me when Susan was standing on a toilet in a stall trying to see over the wall divider so that she could record the argument in the next stall and that was pretty close to the first paragraph in the novel. Her glee at hearing the vicious clash and the possibility of the video going viral is just tasteless. Here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure that readers aren’t supposed to like any of these women. They’re awful and far too eager to their prime-of-life glow (hence the They’re so Vein title). Susan and her family are indeed insufferably vain. Oh, yes, and she killed her sister’s dog in the thrust of blood lust but she’s hot, just in case you forgot.

They’re so Vein is excessively wordy. The descriptions of clothing to staring into coffee cups are overwrought and rob the story of any sense of urgency it might otherwise possess. Even when turning her family members, the bleeding and the lack of pulse location was offset but unnecessary verbosity. Despite the multiple steps to every action, none of the characters were fleshed out. There were hostility and dysfunction between the women that was everything that is popular about the Real Housewives but without the heart or any sympathetic characters. We meet Susan’s sister, JoAnn, (owner of the dog soon to die) at the start of the novel as her aging bladder is the reason they’ve stopped at the public restroom. Susan makes her disdain of her sister clear and JoAnn is whiny but with the feeling of it being the way she communicates.

They’re so Vein isn’t just about vampires; Stec brings in a whole pantheon of supernatural creatures and does build an underworld for them that is connected and interesting but let down by its characters. I cannot better describe the feeling toward the newly minted vampires than one Amazon reviewer who said that they were so annoying, she was just waiting for them to be staked. The best thought-out character seems to be Christopher, the confrontational child vampire who turns Susan. When Susan and three generation of women come up against the Council, there seems to be a definite attempt at humor, but perhaps Stec and this reader don’t share a sense of humor because I found it to be cliched and indicative of badly scripted reality television without a laugh track to tell me exactly what I’m supposed to find funny.

There were few errors in They’re so Vein but, as mentioned, it could have used a red editing pen full of ink. The author could easily have cut 100 pages of the 339-page work of fiction and maintained the story laid out. Were there any redeeming qualities? The world was interesting but not interesting enough to recommend wading through the flood of language. Readers hoping to get some clarity on the characters will find them puddle shallow. They’re so Vein was an all around disappointing read though well rated on Amazon. If They’re so Vein sounds like a story for you, give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Read an excerpt and buy They’re So Vein (The Grateful Undead Book 1) by Susan Stec on

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About Susan Stec
For more information about Susan Stec visit her website. You can connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter @suesan0814.

Ukulele Deadly (Aloha Lagoon Mysteries Book 7) by Leslie Langtry

Publication Date: April 11, 2017


Nani Johnson is settling into her life in Hawaii playing the ukulele for events. When she goes to pick up food for a last-minute dinner, a man dies behind her car. Turns out, the man is from the same super-small Kansas town that Nani and her ultra-nutty mom left a few years before. As the body count climbs and Nani and her mom hit the suspect list, can she solve the mystery of the murders before she finds herself playing ukulele behind bars for the rest of her life?

Ukulele Deadly is the 7th book in the Aloha Lagoon Mystery Series.

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Never Never by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Publication Date: January 16, 2017


Never Never by James Patterson and Candice FoxHarry Blue is at the top of her game as a sex crimes investigator when her brother is arrested for the murders of three young women. She’s reassigned to the back of beyond and everything feels wrong. Desperate to clear her brother of charges, Harry’s investigation takes her on a sure path to destruction.

Never Never is the first book in the Harry Blue series.


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The Mutt and the Matchmaker: A Matchmaker Mystery Novella by J.B. Lynn

Publication Date: May 15, 2014


The Mutt and the Matchmaker: A Matchmaker Mystery Novella by J.B. Lynn, book reviewTom Hanlon is a private investigator. As a favor to his elderly neighbor, he takes her dog out for some exercise and meets Armani Vazquez, an eccentric matchmaker who wants to set him up with his prime suspect in a serious crime, Jane Bly and her aptly named foster dog, Calamity. While Tom is looking for his thief will Jane steal his heart?

The Mutt and the Matchmaker is the first book in the Matchmaker Mystery series.



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Murder on the Page (Harley Hill Mysteries Book 2) by Kennedy Chase

Publication Date: October 2, 2016


Book Review: Murder on the Page, A Harley Hill Mystery by Kennedy ChaseHarley Hill and her finder agency partner, Cordelia, are hired to find a diary written by John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. When their search leads them to a dead body, they find themselves thrust into the English underworld and into a plot that could end the monarchy.

Murder on the Page is the second book in the Harley Hill series.




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Jukebox by Saira Viola

Publication Date: February 12, 2015


Nick is a lawyer with a deep love for the music industry. His dream has always been to own his own record label and when Mel and his money comes into the picture, suddenly those dreams are within reach. Avery is a rookie reporter looking for her break and seeing potential for an interesting story in Mel, a man with clear ties to the unsavory. In a society of excess and where everything comes with a price, will they all come out alive?




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Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London by Elizabeth L. Banks

Publication Date: November 7, 2016


Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian London by Elizabeth L. Banks, historical nonfiction book

In 1892, an American journalist named Elizabeth Banks launched the ultimate social experiment. She lived side by side with the people of Victorian England working in all manners of jobs from street sweeper to maid for some of the most demanding matrons in London. She also posed as an heiress to get the perspective of the elite. Adventures of an American Girl in London was originally published in 1894. 




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The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Publication Date: September 6, 2016


The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild, book reviewAnnie McDee is a chef that has had a hard time with love. Still heartbroken by the end of her long term relationship, she takes a lover for whom she plans an elaborate birthday dinner and buys a painting. When he stands her up, she’s left with the gift which turns out to be worth a lot and sought after by some unsavory and dangerous folks. The painting takes Annie on a path leading through European history and possibly to love.




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The Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis by David Blake

Publication Date: January 13, 2016


The Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis features a throwback humor that smacks of the zany comedy of British films in the 1960s. Detective Capstan is a straight man in a world that no longer makes sense. Recently transferred to Bath, he meets young Becky Phillips when she helps some addled criminals in a bank robbery gone nonsensical.



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