Local authors produce enough new works to fill a bookshelf
No doubt, southern Kenai Peninsula writers have been hard at work. The list of recently published books includes everything from children’s books to biographies, inspiring to mysterious, new installations for familiar series to the launch of brand new series. Now all readers have to do is sit back and enjoy. Following are some of the newest offerings from the creative pens of local authors. The books are available at or can be ordered by the Homer Bookstore.
Alaska’s Dog Heroes
By Shelley Gill
Illustrated by Robin James
Little Bigfoot, 28 pages $10.99
Homer author Shelley Gill adds to her long list of published works with “Alaska’s Dog Heroes, True Stories of Remarkable Canines.” Paired with the illustrations by Robin James of Snohomish, Wash., Gill focuses on 17 of Alaska’s most well-known and hardest working canines.
She opens with Balto.
When diphtheria broke out in Nome in the winter of 1925, the serum needed to stop it was more than 1,000 miles away in Anchorage. A train carried it to Nenana, but it was a series of dog teams and mushers that braved fierce winter temperatures to get it the remaining 674 miles. Balto is an Alaskan husky mix that, along with a team of other dogs and musher Gunnar Kaasen, covered the last 55 miles, getting the serum safely to Nome.
The remaining stars of Gill’s book are equally brilliant, making for an entertaining read, one that youngsters and adults will enjoy and find educational.
A Lot to be Thankful For
By Mary Haakenson Perry
Wizard Works, 376 pages $18.95
In her first book, “Onward, Crispy Shoulders,” Anchor Point author Mary Haakenson Perry introduced readers to her brother, Jim, an individual diagnosed with Down syndrome whose enthusiasm for life and ability to overcome challenges was inspiring to everyone who knew him. In “A Lot to be Thankful For,” Perry focuses on her mother, Esther, who died in 2013, while Perry was still working on the book.
Not expected to live when she was born near the United States-Canadian border in Minnesota in 1920, the diminutive Esther not only survives but thrives as we follow her through the Depression and her family’s participation in the colonization of the Matanuska Valley, her marriage to Lionel, their growing family and, finally, to a homestead in Anchor Point.
Family photos scattered across the book’s pages bring Perry’s descriptions to life, but it is her lovingly-crafted text that makes Esther’s “perseverance through adversity” as inspiring to the reader as it was to her daughter.
Everything Under the Heavens
By Dana Stabenow
Gere Donovan Press, 200 pages $13.95
With 20 installations of the popular Kate Shugak mysteries to her credit, the four-part Liam Campbell mysteries and a handful of other books, New York Times best-selling author Dana Stabenow of Homer steps back in time with “Everything Under the Heavens.” It is the first step in what Stabenow promises will be followed by “By the Shores of the Middle Sea” this fall and “The Land Beyond” in the spring of 2015.
Armchair travelers cover distance and time on this journey far away from Shugak and Campbell’s present-day Alaska. On the Silk Road of the 14th century, Wu Johanna, the granddaughter of Marco Polo, takes center stage. A list of characters before the journey’s first page, as well as a glossary, is thoughtfully provided to make navigation of this distant era smooth.
Just as descriptions of life caravan style and the itch to discover new lands take hold, an unexpected chain of events occurs, leaving the reader wanting more. Stabenow, practiced storyteller that she is, has us in the palm of her hand, waiting for what happens next.
Feather for Hoonah Joe
By Marianne Schlegelmilch
265 pages $15.95
Speaking of surprise endings, expect more than one surprise in Homer author Marianne Schlegelmilch’s newest addition to the “feather” series.
Since introducing Mara Edwards in “Feather for a Stranger,” Shlegelmilch has continued to build the characters, action and mystery that spreads across Southeast and Central Alaska. Readers sailed north with Edwards when she first came to Alaska aboard the Alaska Marine Highway System, have witnessed the tragedies and joys that have touched life, and with each new installation, have become immersed in the lives of those that enter Edwards’ life.
In “Feather for Hoonah Joe,” it is the feisty Sal Kindle and her kind-hearted husband Joe Michael with whom we become better acquainted. Then again, how much do we really know about Sal? Therein lie the unexpected twists and turns of this Schlegelmilch-crafted adventure, as we travel from the natural beauty of Hoonah, Alaska, to the faster-paced Rhinebeck, N.Y., and safely back again. Or do we return?
Ah, the unexpected ending and the hope for more to come.
“Freeze,” Chicken Soup for the Soul, Miracles Happen
By Peggy A. Cloninger
Chicken Soup for the Soup Publishing, 377 pages $14.95
Tucked among this Chicken Soup for the Soul’s collection of more than 100 tales of hope, prayers answered and a divine hand calming troubled waters is “Freeze,” an inspiring story from Peggy A. Cloninger of Seldovia.
This volume of the Chicken Soup series is divided into seven sections: miraculous connections, power of prayer, the doctor is in, dreams and premonitions, divine appointment, guardian angels and divine intervention. Cloninger’s contribution is among those addressing answered prayers.
In the midst of a familiar Seldovia setting and a family whose business is based on introducing others to the joys of sportfishing, Cloninger introduces a walk-in freezer with a malfunctioning door latch. Stepping in it with her, we hear the door seal behind us, feel the freezing temperature begin to rob heat from our bodies and the sense the panic clawing at our sanity.
With no one to hear her pounding and the possibility of rescue hours way, Cloninger turns to her one steadfast lifeline.
Let Us Be Brave
By Linda Kay Thompson
Publication Consultants, 256 pages, $17.95
With two nonfiction books to her credit — “Erik’s Story” and “It’s Okay Mom” — Linda Kay Thompson of Homer switches to fiction in “Let Us Be Brave.”
Shortly after takeoff, the plane carrying Special Olympic athletes bound for competition in Anchorage is forced down after encountering a plume of volcanic ash unexpectedly belched by Augustine Volcano. With the pilot injured, the athletes have only themselves upon which to rely as they face their need for shelter, food, protection from wildlife and the building pressure inside Augustine.
Thompson draws from her experience as a mother, teacher, Special Olympics coach and years of living in Bush Alaska, and threads it all together with the Special Olympics motto “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.”
Thompson said she hoped the book would deliver a “message of respect and compassion.” The athletes we meet in her book give that message a special delivery.
By Shelley Gill
Illustrated by Judy Love
Charlesbridge, 30 pages $7.95
Turning her focus from the canines in “Alaska’s Dog Heroes”, Homer author Shelley Gill spins a tall tale with her introduction of Prickly Rose, a pint-sized version of the long-limbed Sitka Rose readers met in 2005.
The combination of Gill’s rhythmical text and Judy Love’s colorful illustrations bring the moods of this youngest Rose to life. Feeling left out by the magnitude of Sitka’s towering shadow, Prickly appears aptly named. It is this very attitude that fuels Prickly’s decision to head north in search of her sister.
Along the way she encounters adventures of Alaska-sized proportion. Whales, tsunamis, mountaintops and earthquakes are mere bumps in the road for the less than sweet-tempered Prickly. But she pushes on, driven by a goal more important than any impediment she might encounter.
True to the theme, Gill weaves an ending as sweetly powerful the world the Roses inhabit.
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