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431 Superior by D.M. Pratt, Paperback, 180 pages. Published September 25th, 2013 by Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 1457523213
From start to finish. this book cracked me up! The dynamic between 431 Superior's main characters, forty-ish newlyweds, Lucy and Nate Fair, is endearingly believable; I fell in love with their intimate, sexy relationship, filled with quickies, thwarted attempts at sex, bad puns, and high-fives celebrating their own awesomeness. I could practically hear the skeezy porn music spontaneously filling the background of each (foiled) attempt at coupling, followed by the inevitable screeching to an immediate halt as something goes terribly, terribly wrong. 

 
 

A Troubling Tale of One Woman Behind Iraqi Lines and Her Journey Home 

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Enemy Combatant by Ron Albury Published November 25th 2013 by Createspace ISBN 1494201887
I tend to be attracted to beauty and all things feminine, and the titles I read reflect that. I read poetry, vegan cookbooks, and women's fiction; never in a million years would I ever imagine myself gravitating towards political fiction, and certainly not books pertaining to military life and combat in Iraq.  The violence, strategic missions and men's comradery existing between soldiers that have experienced combat together are lost on me. I see them as irrelevant in my own life, and frankly, boring. 

I received a review copy of Enemy Combatant, and was attracted to it immediately because of its stunning cover art. I briefly skimmed the back face of the oversized paperback I held in my hand, looking for clues as to its content, but none were forthcoming. I was intrigued by more artful photography and the question, "Is she saving our country or destroying it?" I began to read.

Ron Albury's newly self-published novel, Enemy Combatant, begins in the unwinding of anti-terrorist agent, Samantha's, past self. As one of two siblings of a single mother, Samantha and her sister, Chris, live in shadows and silence, young girls whittled down into one, invisible presence trying to stay out of striking range of their drunken mother. One month to the day after 9/11, Chris is removed from the home and placed in state care following a brutal beating, and Samantha is left on her own, spending her days aimlessly wandering and contemplating suicide.

Samantha joins the military not to begin a new life, but to bring meaning to her death. What she discovers in basic training, however, is a level playing field with the other recruits, in which she was no longer identified as "the daughter of a drunken whore" or assigned temporary value based on her skills under the bleachers and on her knees..  Her former identity is stripped of her, and along with it, the inhibitions that kept her a prisoner of her low birth. She gives herself, willingly and in entirety, to the army, and is formed into a human weapon of worth and authentic, earned value.


 
 

by Sonja Condit 
Published December 31st 2013 by William Morrow & Co.  

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Starter House, by Sonja Condit. Paperback, 400 pages Published December 31st 2013 by William Morrow & Company
Intelligently written throughout, Sonja Condit's Starter House is everything a psychological thriller should be; both tense and suspenseful while maintaining a natural believability that sucks you in despite yourself; makes you believe all is safe and well, while somewhere, deep in the dark recesses of your mind, your prefrontal cortex is frantically trying to puzzle through and dissect the horror that you know is lurking behind a corner. Starter House's storyline somehow manages to be forthright while at the same time, its edges blur into something shifty and unconscionable; duplicitous. An urban legend that knows you by name.

At times I found this title terrifying to the point that I had to consciously relax my body and unfurl my tightly clenched fists. Her characters, from the protagonist, to antagonist and everyone in between each showed unique tenderness and depth of character with a complexity that evolved as the story progressed; they were strangely captivating and singularly deceptive in their seeming straightforwardness. 

Full of subtleties that twist the plot, events maintain a level of truthfulness that is disarming, making it easy to doubt the existence of the monsters that most certainly are hiding under the bed, until, too late, you realize they've swallowed you whole.

A lovely story; a touching, terrifying read.