Book Buzz: Priceless

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Book Buzz: Priceless

by Lucie Smoker

Whether you want to solve a puzzle or connect to a great family, this month’s stories offer up true magnificence in the art of words. Perfect for National Poetry Month, they give us meaning, a few heart palpitations and those priceless laughing tears.

The Game Master by Oklahoma word master, William Bernhardt

“Playing poker was a mindreading act. A player could slip into endless contemplation of what the opponent knows, what he knows you know, what he knows that you know that he knows…”

On the brink of winning the Grand Slam of Poker, game master “BB” Thomas is interrupted by a man in black suit, white shirt … dark shades. The FBI informs BB that his daughter has been kidnapped and his name spelled out in Scrabble tiles over a murdered scientist. To save his daughter, BB follows a trail of clues through ancient strategy games, cutting edge computer simulations—even trash talking to psyche the opponent. As the stakes keep growing, he journeys to Paris, Dubai, and Pyongyang unraveling an intricate web of secret societies slowly revealing the man who would “delete” his daughter, Kadey, and possibly annihilate the rest of us.

Chosen for publication by thousands of readers in the Kindle Scout novel contest, The Game Master’s intelligent, complex puzzle plays out like pure candy to strategists and gamers. Flawed, over-the-top BB Thomas adds a sort of dark decadence.

Go ahead. Just try to start this story and set it down. Bernhardt has written a royal-straight-flush of suspense. Highest recommendation.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“The thing about caller ID is,” Red said, more or less to himself, “it seems a little like cheating. A person should be willing to take his chances, answering the phone. That’s kind of the general idea with phones, is my opinion.”

If you have read Anne Tyler then you likely already know her captivating way with words. She also loves families—really. When Anne tells you a family story, it isn’t just drama and dirt. Anne brings out the love and magic that keep us connected even through hard times.

Abby and Red Whitshank adore their kids and each other. They get frustrated with worry and can’t figure out how to work “that caller id.” When their son Denny calls to confess he’s gay and Red says “Oh what the hell,” in shock, Denny hangs up. They can’t call back. But this is Anne’s story. Family will triumph. You get to enjoy their enchanting journey.

The Oklahoma Poets Laureate collected and edited by Shawn Holliday

“sometimes poems will reveal
a self as if standing door-framed
to be measured how much
—or, perhaps, if—one has grown
at all since last season’s
prose benighted lines…”
~ from “Sometimes, Even I” by Carl Braun Sennhenn

Brief yet deeply connected to the universal wisdom of everyday moments, poetry is an antidote to our sterile media—perhaps why so many of us are turning back to reading verse. Oklahoma has one of the oldest, most respected poet laureate programs in the U.S. and I was lucky enough to run into one of the laureates who said, “It mainly gives you more opportunities to go places where you couldn’t go just because you’re Nathan Brown, a poet nobody has heard of. Being the Oklahoma poet laureate allowed me to go to the far corners of the state, the smaller towns, and bring the state together through poetry.”

Shawn Holliday of Northern Oklahoma College has carefully collected these works with so much reverence it seeps through the pages. I enjoyed his sharing a little bit of background on each poet before his or her poems. It gave me perspective … a base. If you’ve been away from poetry for a while or regularly savor a moment with words, try this anthology of the very best.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

“The smoke from the ships and the exhalations from the river left a haze that blurred the world and made the big liner seem even bigger, less the product of human endeavor than an escarpment rising from a plain. The hull was black; seagulls flew past in slashes of white, pretty now, not yet the objects of horror they would become, later…”

The RMS Lusitania launched in 1906, the world’s largest transatlantic passenger ship, but was torpedoed by the Germans in 1915 killing 1,198 passengers and crew. Those are the facts. Erik Larson gives us the story. In his gifted hands, humbling, terrifying, demonizing events all wrap up with humanity in all its beautiful, gripping details. They say this true account reads like a thriller and I would agree—later in the story. Like a great steamer, it takes a while to pick up speed. If you enjoy magnificent details and slowly building intrigue, I recommend it. It really puts you on board laughing, crying and desperately grasping for life.

Lucie Smoker is an Oklahoma mom, Kindle Top Ten Murder Mystery author and freelance writer. More at

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