2017 Book Reviews

By Jennifer Nelson –
Music and books: each has the ability to transport you to another time, another place. And when the two are combined, as author G. Brown did in two recent volumes on Colorado’s rock and roll history, it brings together a unique, intriguing look into our recent musical past.

Brown’s Colorado’s Rock Chronicles and Red Rocks: The Concert Years, both published by and benefitting the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, offer a wealth of knowledge and a collection of photographs that include some of the most notable musicians in rock music playing at one of the most iconic amphitheaters.

And these are just two of the long list of books reviewed in this year’s 20th annual book review issue. Read on. We’re sure these books will rock your reading list.

Colorado’s Rock Chronicles
by G. Brown
The music from the 1950s to the present includes such an amazing array of styles, talent and culture that shaped our nation and the world in numerous ways. And Colorado and its residents have played an important role in many of the artists and bands that led each era. In Colorado’s Rock Chronicles, G. Brown gifted readers with a beautiful, revealing collection of how the Centennial State inspired and informed the rock ‘n roll genre in the past 50 years and how that genre, in turn, shaped the state.

Within the book’s 250-plus pages, Brown explores a behind-the-scenes look at nearly 150 musicians and bands using photos and text that bring each vignette alive. From Chuck Berry, who was inspired after a Denver concert to write Sweet Little Sixteen, to John Denver, whose stage name was derived from his favorite city, to others like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Fray and the Lumineers — these and more are captured in this unique coffee-table publication.

Detailed interviews and up-close, rare photos were gleaned and compiled through the decades to create the book, and it is clear the author did his research. His extensive career with The Denver Post, magazines such as Rolling Stone, and as a radio personality also add to his credentials. Purchase your copy through the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in Morrison and at cmhof.org.

Red Rocks: The Concert Years
by G. Brown
“It doesn’t matter who’s on stage. Red Rocks is the star,” says author G. Brown about the impressive red stones that soar into the sky just outside of Denver. Now known as Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it is truly a legendary outdoor venue. And while this stunning natural formation existed long before any of us can remember, the current facility has not always looked the same. In the majestic coffee-table book Red Rocks: The Concert Years, Brown gathered the history of the locale, behind-the-scenes stories from artists and concertgoers and gorgeous photos of Red Rocks.

The publication opens with a foreword by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana, then launches into the journey of how this one-of-a-kind setting became what it is today. Beginning in 1870 when a Jefferson County judge tried to get the name Garden of the Angels to stick, the story continues to 1906 — when the first recorded concert was played by a brass ensemble — and then beyond to reveal a fascinating history of the area. From there the comprehensive volume includes more than 200 performer interviews, hundreds of beautiful images, and a wonderful look at the glory and challenges of this unique open-air venue.

Brown, who is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame director, crafted a fabulous read about a place everyone, including the Beatles, Dave Matthews, Steve Martin, John Tesh and so many more, sought to perform. Visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to purchase the book or visit cmhof.org.

FICTION
Jane and the Waterloo Map
by Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen was thinking of nothing else except completing her latest work — Emma — when she was summoned to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent’s palace.

Assuming her visit would strictly consist of the required pleasantries and socially acceptable conversation, Jane was taken aback when she stumbled on a war hero who dies in her arms. To add even more complexity to the strange event, the notable Waterloo colonel chokes out mysterious last words to her before dying. Being the inquisitive and independent-thinking woman she is, Jane then determines to uncover the truth of why the man died and what he was trying to reveal to her.

Jane, who has been taking care of her ill brother Henry, convinces him and her close friend Raphael West to help pursue the truth, although nearly everyone advises her against it. What follows is a dangerous chase to track who Jane believes is a murderer before anyone else is injured or killed.

An intriguing, historically-based mystery, Jane and the Waterloo Map immediately warms the heart of any Jane Austen fan. But don’t worry — others who enjoy the Regency Period or prefer a good whodunit will not be disappointed. Author Stephanie Barron, a Denver resident and former CIA intelligence analyst, did her research. The historical references, language use similar to Austen’s, and overall tone of the book lend a credibility to her writing so that it’s easy to forget the narrative is fictional. This quality period mystery is one of 13 novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series and can be purchased from local bookstores or online retailers.

Anchor in the Wind
by Greta Hemstrom

Kate knew there was something different in the atmosphere that morning, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. By the time she realized what was happening, it was too late for her husband and almost too late for herself. Somehow she survived and was left to rear seven children by herself. As she struggled to control her own emotions, work the homestead and take care of her kids, Kate began to find out what she was really made of, and saw over and over what a strong community she lived in.

The hardships that Kate and her husband faced on their parcel of American prairie in the 1930s were nothing to laugh about. Everyone knew that dust storms, droughts, tornados, blizzards, pests and wild animals were just the beginning of the things that could go wrong in northwest Kansas. But Kate and her husband loved the land and found it beautiful, feeling blessed to be working the land together. But the spring of 1932 started off three long years for Kate, who had to endure more than any woman ever should in an entire lifetime.

Written as historical fiction, Anchor in the Wind is based on information that author Greta Hemstrom gleaned from her mother’s life in the ‘30s in Kansas, as well as from her own experiences on the prairie and research. It’s an inspiring story of perseverance and pressing on in the midst of unthinkable tragedy and hardship, a trait many women of that time period had to employ.

Hemstrom is a graduate of what is now Colorado Mesa University, wrote for the Olathe Messenger and resides in Montrose. Step back in time with Kate after obtaining the book from Amazon.com.

Shotgun Marriage
by Danica Favorite

When Emma Jane walked down the aisle in her wedding dress in Leadville, Colorado, in 1881, she was heartbroken and fighting back tears. This was not what she envisioned her life or marriage would look like. But she and her new husband — wealthy and most-eligible-bachelor Jasper Jackson — had no choice. Their virtue and reputations were at stake, after they were trapped in a mine overnight by themselves.

Jasper wasn’t thrilled with the situation, either. He dreamed of a happy marriage, one where he was joined with the love of his life, not someone who he believed tricked him into getting married. Perhaps their friends were right, though. Maybe they could develop a friendship and at least have an amicable relationship.

The obstacles that loom in front are great though: In-laws who are less than thrilled about the marriage, dangerous bandits who are terrorizing the town, and an orphaned baby that seems to drive another wedge between Emma Jane and Jasper. This is just the beginning of what the newlyweds must face. Amidst it all, they often wonder if the fight to stay and work on their marriage is even worth it.

Shotgun Marriage is a charming tale of what can happen if two people surrender their hurt, anger, resentment, and feelings of unworthiness and, in turn, trust God to fill and direct their lives. You’ll certainly want more of Denver author Danica Favorite’s writing, and thankfully the novel is one of four in the Leadville historical romance series. Favorite says she was inspired to write the series when she read in an 1880s Leadville newspaper about two pastors who were debating whether or not miners were beyond salvation. Follow this story, found at bookstores online, to see if true love can really blossom from the most unwanted circumstances.

Murder on the Horizon
by M. L. Rowland

Gracie Kinkaid is one of those people who loves and dedicates herself to her job as a camp manager and her volunteer position with the mountain search and rescue team in Timber Creek, California. In fact, she rarely has time for anything else, that is until one of her searches results in a friendship with an 11-year-old runaway whose family is not quite what one would call loving and endearing.

Gracie’s natural curiosity leads her to try to help the runaway, but she finds herself further and further down a path that seems to be more dangerous at each step. Struggling to connect all the dots and figure out what really happened, Gracie becomes entangled with the runaway’s gun-enthusiast, antigovernment, hate-filled family. Despite her own misgivings, Gracie just can’t seem to stay out of trouble and begins to discover new things about friendship, finding oneself and dealing with past hurts along the way.

Murder on the Horizon is one of those books that makes you continue reading well past midnight when you know that you should be asleep. The fast-paced, exciting storyline makes for a great weekend or vacation read. Author M. L. Rowland, who wrote two other novels in this Search and Rescue Mystery series, resides on the Arkansas River in Colorado. Available at local retailers and online, this novel was a finalist in the 2016 Colorado Book Awards’ mystery category.

What We Find
by Robyn Carr

It took a strong push from her best friend for Maggie Sullivan to realize she needed to get away. The stress that she was under really began to wear on her, especially in the moment when she looked around and remembered she was sitting in a hospital stairwell sobbing. Her neurosurgery practice was closed, her hours in the emergency room were terrible, she was being sued, she miscarried her baby, and to top it off, she and her boyfriend broke up.

Life was not shaping up the way she pictured it. So where should she go to relax and try to figure out her next steps? The only place she could imagine: Sullivan’s Crossing.

Her father’s family built and operated the campground and country store for generations, and the peaceful retreat welcomed camping families and hikers, many who were traversing part of the Continental Divide Trail. Not long after Maggie’s arrival, though, her quiet retreat quickly turned into a near-tragedy when her father had a heart attack. And as if she doesn’t have enough to handle, Maggie and mysterious hiker Cal Jones strike a connection.

Immediately wary, Maggie struggles to keep Cal at arms’ length. With opinions at every turn and her own emotions upside down, Maggie spends months in this beautiful Colorado setting, surprised at how her situation is unfolding, yet somehow both at peace and holding back from what she knows she needs.

New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s heartwarming tale, What We Find gives readers a beautiful glimpse into one woman’s journey to find what truly brings her joy. The fictional story is rich with details and wonderful character development, making Maggie and those surrounding her come to life. Find it at local bookstores and online.

Fat Chance
by Steven R. Berger

Freelance journalist Sebastian Wren’s day starts like any other workday. In order to prep for an interview for his magazine article, Sebastian reviews the questions he will ask and then heads out. But when he arrives at Judge Aaron Meckler’s home in Cherry Creek to discover the public official just committed suicide, Sebastian’s day takes a complete 180-degree turn. When he sees the judge’s daughter, Adrianne, arrive at the residence quite distraught, Sebastian keeps a close eye on her and ends up helping get her art gallery ready for its inaugural participation — only one week away — during First Friday, when galleries, shops and restaurants on Santa Fe Drive stay open late.

Despite the lack of evidence that foul play occurred at her father’s death, Adrianne is convinced he did not commit suicide. And the more time Sebastian spends with Adrianne, the more he begins to suspect something bigger is going on, too. As he and Adrianne prepare for the gallery event and try to uncover what really happened to the judge, additional “suicides,” vandalism and other unusual events lead them down a suspenseful and sometimes-dangerous trail.

Follow the leads in Fat Chance as each page of the book feels like an intriguing diary of an investigative journalist’s day. Woven throughout this modern-day fictional mystery are specific references to locales and characteristics of Denver, bringing a likable community aspect to the realistic premise of the novel. Author Steven R. Bergers is well-acquainted with the city. His time selling advertising, teaching copy writing, penning a Denver Post column and crafting articles for several magazines all inform his ability to write captivating novels. Fat Chance is his fourth book and is available online.

Breaking Wild
by Diane Les Becquets

The Colorado wilderness is an immensely beautiful place, which is one of the reasons Pru Hathaway and Amy Raye Latour love the mountains and spend a significant part of their free time in them. But many areas of the state are also extremely harsh and not places amateurs should venture into on their own — another fact both of the strong, independent women are well aware of. But this understanding of the dangers and their respect for nature is challenged when the last weekend of elk hunting season takes an unexpected turn.

Amy Raye is enjoying the solitude and thrill of the hunt with two of her buddies when she decides to venture out on her own. In the midst of her chase of a stunning animal, things take a turn and lead Amy Raye down a long journey that uncovers much she thought was hidden. When she doesn’t return to camp, Amy Raye’s friends realize she must need help and call the ranger for a search and rescue team.

As Pru, her dog Kona, and the search team quickly organize and look for Amy Raye’s trail, they begin to sense that the search will not be easy. Weather does not cooperate, and the longer Amy Raye is missing the more concerned Pru becomes. As everyone else’s hope fades, Pru cannot forget about Amy Raye and becomes driven to find what really happened to the young mother of two.

Written in an intriguing back and forth style between Pru and Amy Raye’s perspectives, the suspense in Breaking Wild continually builds as Pru remains focused on discovering the truth behind Amy Raye’s disappearance. The way author Diane Les Becquets makes you feel the snow sting, sense the surrounding darkness, and envision the sunshine glisten through the trees is clear evidence that Les Becquets draws heavily on her own experiences to write the heart-wrenching novel. Her time spent as an assistant archaeologist in Colorado, the 14 years she lived in Meeker (on which she based Rio Mesa, the central town in the novel), and the numerous adventures she encountered in the outdoors — like when she tracked an elk for hours in the rain and snow — all enhance the depth of the story. Become immersed in Pru and Amy Raye’s journeys by purchasing the book at local bookstores and online retailers.