Out of the Darkness is part two in Jaime Rush’s “Offspring” series, an ambitious sequence of linked paranormal romances. The characters, many introduced in A Perfect Darkness, have various supernatural abilities. One converses with the dead; another can image the future and release the vision in eerie paintings. One can set fires through psychic energy. They are particularly sensitive to one another because they are all part of an extended family: in part biological, in part the result of experiments that have produced or altered them.
Their common goal is to trace their origins, master their special gifts, and discover – perhaps to thwart – the ends for which they were engineered. A rogue government project has brought them into being. Like so many projects of super-patriots, the Offspring were designed to serve the national interest – but something has gone wrong. They pose a threat to their would-be controllers, and The Offspring themselves have divided into adversarial groups. The controllers strive to exploit the supernatural abilities of The Offspring, conduct further experiments, and destroy those whom they cannot manage.
In Out of the Darkness, Ms. Rush introduces several new characters, while elaborating upon those already established. Rand Brandenburg and Zoe Stoker are forefront, their red-hot romance simmering. Zoe, who owns a tattoo parlor, is a Goth type who has yet to control her special power of telekinesis. Biker Rand is a loner who uses his future-view talent to gamble. The terms of their relationship and the ways in which they fit into the larger Offspring family hold our interest even while we follow their quest to understand their mysterious talents and origins and foil their enemies.
Out of the Darkness is high on action and thrills, featuring otherwise ordinary twenty-something individuals whose struggles to deal with their unusual psychic powers are presented in a convincing manner within a larger conspiracy plot that does not seem so far-fetched at all.
Kroopenpopper: An Everglades Adventure, by Virginia Saalman. Moson Publishing. $15.
Written to entertain children ages 4-8, Virginia Saalman’s book brings a Maryland family to a small Everglades town for summer vacation. The children, Mary and Tommy, are frightened by a large black bear. However, as can only happen in children’s stories, the bear befriends them and leads them on a journey through the swamp to satisfy Mary’s curiosity and find the home of the squirrels. Along the way, they meet several other Everglades denizens, and each decides to join in the quest. In this way, the children (and the readers) learn about the Everglades inhabitants: the deer, the beaver, the panther, the howler monkey (a zoo escapee), the snake, the barred owl, and others. Towards the end, they arrive at the squirrels’ home at the base of a tree, only to encounter a taste of danger.
The author, who also wrote the well-received Frog Poop and Other Stories, does a fine job of blending entertainment and instruction, these ends supported marvelously by the stunning illustrations supplied by Patti Tedesco Jones. Mrs. Jones, who is legally blind, runs the New Sight Greeting Card Company.
Naples Oldest Tradition: Swamp Buggy Days, by Lila Zuck. Collier County Historical Research Center. $24.95.
This dazzling presentation of Naples’ history is at once a must-have, lavishly illustrated coffee table book and a treasure trove of research. Lila Zuck has turned over every relevant document in local archives, public and private, to fashion a fact-packed narrative of community life.
Ms. Zuck traces, in meticulous detail, the origins and development of the yearly tradition, now sixty years old, by which the Naples community successfully branded itself for the purpose of attracting tourism, having fun, and fostering community solidarity and pride. In so doing, the author weaves together brief anecdotes involving colorful individuals who made important contributions to the town’s prosperity and culture. Through the lens of the Swamp Buggy competitions and parades, readers become more familiar with the doings of those families whose names are recorded on the community’s street signs and public spaces. They become familiar, as well, with the contributions of lesser-known individuals whose talents and efforts have helped fashion the unique blend of ingredients that is Naples.
Swamp Buggy Days is the lively story of how a dynamic, cohesive community invented and re-invented itself, winning a place on the national map of attractive destinations. It’s a book of record and a celebration. And it’s a bargain. See www.collierhistorical.org.