Root Cause by Steven Laine

Root Cause by Steven Laine is a suspenseful wine thriller. It was released in February 2019, published by Turner Publishing.
Synopsis:
Can you imagine a world without wine?
Corvina Guerra is a flying winemaker who dreams of one day settling down in her native Italy on her family’s vineyard. On a visit to a vineyard in Italy, Corvina makes a startling discovery: Phylloxera, a menacing plant louse that devastated vineyards in Europe more than a hundred years ago, has infested the vines.
After reporting her findings to her company, Universal Wines, Corvina is charged with investigating the spread of the bug. Nicknamed Philomena by the media, the aphid is soon discovered in vineyards around the world. To aid in her investigation, Corvina recruits a wine expert in London, Bryan Lawless. In pursuit of its origins, Corvina and Bryan embark on a thrilling globetrot on which they uncover that Philomena is being intentionally spread.
The deeper Corvina and Bryan search, the more they become convinced that Universal Wines holds the answer to everything, and the harder they pursue their investigation the more surprises pile up.
In spite of devastating consequences, Corvina and Bryan vow to continue their investigation and do what they can to contain the spread of the infestation – but time is running short and they always seem to be a step behind. Unless they can find a way to stop the Philomena  – vineyards around the world will be ruined for decades; potentially causing the collapse of the wine industry. Can Corvina and Bryan get to the root cause and save the international wine industry from ruin?
Steven Laine has paired his experience in the wine industry with his passion for writing and world travel to create a mysterious international thriller that will have wine lovers on the edge of their seat.

Praise for Root Cause:
“An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.” – Kirkus
“Root Cause is a pithy, pitch-perfect story about the sort of madness that can ensue when one of humankind’s favorite vices comes under fire. What’s remarkable about this novel is that it illustrates just how far the wine industry stretches, reaching to all corners of the globe in a self-sustaining system—much like a vineyard’s very roots. It’s always great to see an author taking the age-old adage “write what you know” to heart, and never has a saying been more fitting than with Root Cause. Having traveled to over one hundred vineyards and wineries, and after many years of working in the wine industry, it’s safe to say that Laine knows his grapes. Root Cause is the perfect application of Laine’s extensive knowledge of vineyards, and is, to boot, a thoroughly researched story that will both educate and entertain readers.” ★★★★★Red City Review
“This cleverly titled novel is a very compelling mystery through and through with a twist that you’ll never see coming. The plot is one complex enough to keep you on your toes yet easy enough not to oversaturate the reader, creating an exciting and page-turning story… Laine’s own expertise in the field of winemaking is apparent as he carefully interlaces details within the story. He gives the readers a small glimpse into the world of wine, showing the complexity and intricacies that it takes in the field but without indulging in too much explanation. Everything is explained in just the right manner and helps to wrap up the narrative neatly.” – The US Review
“This book will appeal to wine lovers and mystery enthusiasts alike. There is a wealth of information about the growing of grapes and winemaking. However that is not a distraction from the search for the culprit or culprits.”Reviewed by Jo Dervan for Goodreads

Excerpt from Chapter 1:
…Corvina followed Marco between the vines. He stopped halfway down a row and held out some off-colored leaves. “I think some of the vines have been infected with something,” Marco said.
Corvina pulled her silk scarf tight and donned a pair of latex gloves—which she carried with her on all her winery visits—before reaching out to examine the leaves. She noted the cluster of vines around her all had the same dry, copper-colored leaves. Their undersides were covered in pale-yellow pustules. The pustules burst silently in her hand, coating her fingers with a fine, musty dust.
She crouched to inspect the leaves closer to the ground. They looked and felt the same. She dug her fingers into the dirt surrounding the base of one of the vines until a long, bare section of rootstock was exposed. She brushed off as much dirt as she could and studied the rootstock and surrounding dirt with great care to confirm her suspicions.
The insect matter on the leaves made her suspect Marco’s vines had aphids, but seeing their tiny yellow bodies writhing in the soil and crawling along the roots left no room for doubt.
“When did you first notice the infestation?” she asked Marco, wiping the dust and dirt from her gloves.
“You think it’s an infestation? Not an infection?” Marco asked.
“Definitely an infestation,” she replied.
“What do you think it is?”
“It’s not what I think it is—it’s what I know it is.” Corvina stood. “Marco, you have aphids.”
“But I use pesticides, and my vines are grafted. How can I have aphids?” he asked. His voice had risen two full octaves. He looked around the vineyard as if seeking an explanation.
“Not just any aphids, but it looks like some variety of phylloxera.” But how was that possible? The vineyard was in the heart of Italy, and Marco’s vines were grafted, the best means of resisting phylloxera. She had to get back to Barcelona as soon as possible to tell her boss. If she was right, Marco had bigger concerns than a bad winemaker—and wineries all over the country might be in jeopardy.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no.” Marco was shaking his head from side to side. He appeared to be in shock.
“Marco, how old are your oldest and youngest vines?” she asked.
“The oldest are twenty-five years—those are the cabernet sauvignons. The youngest are the pinot grigios. I just planted them last year.” Her father’s friend looked crestfallen. He covered his forehead with one hand, and his eyes went wide. “What’s going to happen to them now?”
“They’re going to die. All of them,” Corvina said. She removed her gloves by turning them inside out, keeping her hands clean in the process. She wished she could just as easily unsee what she had seen among the roots. Phylloxera was a winemaker’s worst nightmare. She stared out over the vineyard and shuddered to think how far the aphid might have already spread…

About the Author:
Steven Laine was raised in Ontario, Canada and has dual Canadian and British citizenship. He has travelled the world working in luxury hotels for international brands including The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Jumeirah and Pan Pacific. When he was Beverage Manager of a five star hotel in London, he learned all about wine and has since visited over one hundred vineyards and wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, Australia and South Africa. As the only North American ever invited to be a Member of the Champagne Academy, he had the privilege to visit and learn from the major Champagne Houses in France. His circle of friends is made up of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, restaurant managers, and wine distributors from all over the globe.
Steven’s debut novel, Root Cause, is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, published by Turner Publishing.
Steven lives in Singapore and is now working on his next novel.
Readers can connect with Steven on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to http://www.stevenlaine.com/

‘Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows’ by J.M. Bergen

Published by Elandrian Press, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a new Middle Grade Fantasy by J.M. Bergen released in February 2019.

Synopsis:
Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real. 
Seven years have passed, and Thomas hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forgotten the blue of his dad’s eyes either, or the tickle of beard on his cheek as they hugged goodbye. Last moments with a parent are memorable, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re having at the time.
Now, with his 13th birthday rapidly approaching, Thomas’s search for magic is about to take a radical and unexpected turn. At an out-of-the-way shop filled with dusty leather books, a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes offers him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows. The price is high and the rules are strict, but there’s no way Thomas can resist the chance to look inside.
With the mysterious book guiding the way, a strange new world is revealed – a world in which Thomas has a name and destiny far more extraordinary than he ever imagined. But time is short. Even as Thomas uncovers his secret family history, enemies emerge, threatening to end his rise to power and destroy everything he holds dear.
Through a fresh voice, genuine characters, and a unique storyline, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows is destined to appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and readers who enjoy books about magic and adventure.

Praise for Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows: 
“I am always so excited when I come across a book series that I KNOW my middle schoolers will LOVE!  I hit the jackpot when I had the opportunity to review the book, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen.  It is exactly the type of book my students are always interested in! … I already have a waiting list in my classroom of kids that want to check it out! … If your students love the likes of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, they are sure to be equally obsessed with The Book of Sorrows Series!”Lit with Lyns
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a charming, chummy tale that will instantly draw in any reader who has secretly (or not so secretly) wished for a little more wonder in their world. Parallels will of course be drawn to the Harry Potter series—and rightfully so—but this book also shares much in common with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.” – 5 Stars, Red City Review
“Middle graders will find Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows a compelling story… and an adventure tale that proves hard to put down.” – Midwest Book Review
“Reading this truly well-written novel was a lot of fun… It had plenty of exciting moments, funny parts, intriguing developments, and characters you just have to love… Harry Potter fans would love Thomas Wildus too. And while the story is aimed at younger readers, adults can also enjoy it.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers’ Favorite
“An exciting story about family, friendship, magic, and good versus evil.”KidsBookshelf
“For fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, I would definitely recommend this book as a must-read…”Alliee Reads
“This is a wonderful fantasy tale well-told by the author. The character development is good, the friendships Thomas has are heart-warming and the magic is unpredictable.”Long and Short Reviews
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is an enchanting foray into a fantasy world where stories can become realities, science and magic intersect, and crystals hold the power to destroy. If you’re looking for an enthralling and thought-provoking read, this is the book for you!”Middle Grade Minded
“This was a wickedly fun and richly imaginative middle-grade urban fantasy with a compelling plot and endearing characters… From the moment Thomas enters the bookstore I was hooked and couldn’t wait to find out the mysterious book’s secrets. This little gem of a story has magic, action, mystery, intrigue and rollicking adventure, and held my interest until the wild ending… there are more adventures yet to come so I can’t wait to delve into the next book.”Roger’s Reads
“This is a very fast-paced fantasy adventure tale that has great friendship representation, lots of magic and a thrilling adventure for young readers.”Noveltea Corner
“I highly recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders! My son Caleb, who is a 4th grader this year, finished the book in just 3 days! He could not put it down. We both enjoyed the deep plot twists and unexpected surprises throughout the story.” – The Butterfly Teacher
“In Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, J.M. Bergen has created a marvelous fantasy/sci-fi story for children and teens. With all the qualities a great book should have, the story holds your interest and offers a pleasing blend of legend and modern-day problems. Thomas must choose between good and evil… and accept the consequences of his actions. J.M. Bergen provides a wonderful tale that anyone can enjoy.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite
“Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M Bergen is a stunning fantasy novel… The book was very descriptive and incredibly well written. The plot was intriguing and well thought through … This book will entertain readers of all ages. I would definitely recommend this book.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer) for Readers’ Favorite

Excerpt:
…Thomas froze, this time blinking furiously. When he could see again, he found himself staring at a shop on the other side of the street. A sign hung above a wooden door with slightly faded red paint. The lettering was too small to read, but there were splotches of purple around the edges. It was the only purple Thomas could see anywhere. He looked both ways and jogged across the street.
The sign came into focus. H&A Booksellers, Purveyors of Fine Books and Rare Manuscripts. The words were painted in chipped gold leaf, with tiny purple flowers nestled in the arcs and whorls of the lettering. Thomas stared at the sign, his eyes following the path of the thin green vine that wound through the gold letters.
Was it possible that a bookstore in this area had escaped his attention? Not a chance. Not one that was listed on the Internet anyway. But the shop was here, every bit as real as the humming man a moment earlier. Thomas felt an uneasy excitement in his chest. Cars zipped past on Main, but this street was practically deserted. He looked at the red door, at the plastic placard dangling from the nail in the center. Open.
He contemplated his next move. The options were simple. Forget what had just happened and turn around in time to catch his bus home or go inside and risk being laughed at for the hundredth time.
He reached out and pressed on the old-fashioned handle, forcing himself not to think about the disappearing man or the prospect of pending humiliation. The door swung open. The wide wooden counter and oversized green cash register looked as ancient as the faded lighting and worn carpet. The place was bigger than he would have expected, though, with shelves running far beyond the point where they logically should have ended.
The size was just the first curious thing about the shop. Everything else was different, too. There were no racks of shiny best-sellers, no big display cases promoting glossy fiction. Instead, cloth and leather-bound volumes were stacked and piled and crammed together in an endless sprawl of dusty texts. Every shelf was chock full of unrecognizable old books. The place was a goldmine. Jackpot!
Thomas looked at the placard at the end of the nearest row. The inscription stamped in tarnished bronze was faded but legible. Alch. Hist. 1127 1490. He reached for the nearest book, a tall, narrow volume wrapped in faded red leather, wondering what the inscription meant.
“Ahem.”
The forced cough originated behind Thomas’s left shoulder. He turned, startled, and found himself eye to eye with a man who had thin graying hair, a sharp nose, and hazel eyes flecked with specks of gold. The man stood with his hands behind his back and wore a yellowed apron with the words In Liber Veritas stenciled on the front.
“May I help you, young man?” The shopkeeper was only a few inches taller than Thomas himself.
“I, uh, I hope so.” Thomas looked around the shop, his eyes wide with wonder. “This place is amazing.”
“Thank you,” said the little man, inclining his head in a slight bow. “Is there something in particular you are hoping to find?”
The wonder receded, replaced by a wrenching anxiety that knotted his gut and made his palms turn clammy. He could hear the scornful responses of the others he’d asked. Are you messing with me, kid? What, are you some kind of idiot? There’s no such thing as magic, dummy. Go on, get out of here.
He pushed the voices out of his head. “I’m looking for books about magic. Magic books, really.”
“Back of the shop and to the left.” The man pointed a finger past Thomas to an even more dimly lit part of the building. “We have a wonderful selection of collectibles in the fantasy genre and more than a few New Age texts as well. I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.”
Fantasy and New Age? Really? Thomas’s shoulders slumped. He took a half-hearted step toward the back of the shop and paused, the knot in his gut tightening. As much as he hated getting laughed at, the idea of digging through piles of worthless books was as unexciting as the prospect of scrolling through another online ‘magic’ forum. If ever there was a place that might have what he really wanted, this was it. He sucked in a deep breath and turned around.
The man looked at Thomas with one eyebrow raised. “Yes?”
“I, uh, I’m not really looking for those kinds of books,” he managed. “I was hoping for something different. Something more unusual.”
“What do you mean by unusual?” the man asked. “Be specific, please.”
This was it. The part where he got laughed out of the building. Thomas looked at his feet, wondering if he should even bother. He considered turning around, but the words on the man’s yellowing apron caught his eye. In Liber Veritas. Veritas meant truth, right? He looked up, his eyes locking onto those of the little man. “Unusual as in magical. Not fiction or fantasy or New Age. Magic. Real magic.”
“Real magic? What makes you think there’s any such thing?”
Thomas’s body tensed, preparing for a swift retreat from the store. His dad’s last words flashed into his mind, the final fragment before everything changed. “Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.”
He sucked in a deep breath and forced himself to stand still. The air rushed out in a whoosh. “I-I just do.”
“But why?” The man’s expression was curious, focused, his eyes boring into Thomas like a drill. “And even if there were such a thing, what would it have to do with you?”
“Never mind. Just forget about it.” Thomas spun toward the exit, his cheeks flushed and heart racing. Halfway to the door, he paused. The man wasn’t laughing. He was asking questions. That, at least, was different. Thomas turned around. The man’s unwavering eyes reflected the overhead lights, glinting with fragments of gold.
“It’s, uh, it’s something someone told me a long time ago,” said Thomas. “Someone I trusted.”
The man tilted his head, his expression almost curious. “Somebody told you magic is real, and you believed them?”
Blue eyes stared at Thomas out of a distant memory, sincere and earnest. He felt the roughness of his dad’s calloused hand on his cheek, the tickle of soft beard as he pulled Thomas close and kissed his forehead for the last time. “Magic is real, Thomas.” Magic is real.
Thomas drew himself up to full size and met the man’s stare directly. “Yes. I did. I do.”
“And now you want a magic book, but not the make-believe kind?”
Thomas nodded. The shopkeeper’s eyes were ageless, his stare unsettling. Thomas stood tall, refusing to break the connection even though his insides had turned to jelly.
“What is your name, young seeker of magic?” The hint of a smile crinkled the subtle features of the man’s face.
“Thomas,” he answered. “Thomas Wildus.”
The smile lines smoothed, and the man’s face took on a serious expression. “You’re late.”

About the Author:
J.M.’s debut fantasy/magic series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five. The first book in the series, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, is scheduled for release in February 2019. The second, Thomas Wildus and The Wizard of Sumeria, will be published in early 2020.
When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, napping, or dreaming up new adventures. If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).
To learn more, visit www.jmbergen.com.

“The Girls Are Gone” by Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann

The Girls Are Gone, by Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann, tells the true story of two sisters who went missing, the father who kept searching, and the adults who conspired to keep the truth hidden.
On the evening of April 19, 2013, Samantha and Gianna Rucki disappeared. Two of five children born to David Rucki and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, the teenage sisters vanished in the midst of their parents divorce.
The girls father, David Rucki, worked tirelessly with law enforcement to search day and night for his two missing daughters, following every lead while raising three remaining children at home. Their mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, used her newfound freedom to vacation around the world, abandoning her children. And as the investigation intensified, catching the attention of the media, Sandra also disappeared.
On November 18, 2015 – 944 days after they disappeared – the girls were found living on a ranch in northern Minnesota by law enforcement.
Criminal charges were filed against four people, including the girls’ mother, for their role in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters. “The Girls Are Gone” chronicles key events during the criminal trials of the people who were later convicted or pleaded guilty for their involvement in this heinous crime.  The book examines the other adults who aided in the conspiracy to hide the truth and the Rucki sisters.

Praise for The Girls Are Gone:
“The Girls Are Gone is an excellent true crime book… This is a very involved book with lots of detail, including court transcripts, telling the whole story from start to finish, filling in some of the lesser known details about the case. This book reads like a crime novel but is far more horrifying, given that we know it is the truth. It is riveting and compelling reading… I like true crime stories and this one is way above any other just because of the amount of detail and the way it was written; matter of fact yet drawing you into the web a step at a time. Fantastic book, I wish there were more like it.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite
“True crime stories relate facts and events; but superior accounts grab the reader’s heart. The Girls Are Gone achieves this as it portrays the bigger issues of parental responsibility, kidnapping, child endangerment, and legal investigations… As true crime and kidnapping stories go, The Girls Are Gone is head and shoulders above most others, probing a network of crime and the impact of hidden truths that will leave readers thinking long past the conclusion… The Girls Are Gone should be on the reading lists of anyone interested in not just true crime stories of kidnapped children, but accounts of desperation and the bravery of survivors who come forth to tell their stories to change the world.” – Reviewed by Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Review

About the Authors:
Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann met during the 2016 Grazzini-Rucki criminal trial. Allison worked at a law firm representing David Rucki, the father, who was trying to find his girls. Michael was working for the Star Tribune, covering the story as the case developed.
Michael and Allison have spent the last two years working together investigating and researching to find the answers to many questions that had been left unanswered for years. They have analyzed court documents, reviewed investigative files, and conducted numerous interviews to provide a completed story about how and why two children vanished from their family and friends for 944 days.  Their passion for following the case and connecting the dots to figure out the truth of what really happened led them to write “The Girls Are Gone.”
“The Girls Are Gone” provides new details about the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki and includes interviews with members of the Rucki family, including exclusive interviews with Samantha and Gianna Rucki. The book also discusses the connection between Michelle MacDonald, who is currently a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. MacDonald was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, but did not cooperate in the investigation.

“The Girls Are Gone” was released on October 23, 2018, published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing. It is available for sale on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.
Readers can connect with the authors on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter (@AllisonMannMN and @MBrodkorb).
To learn more, go to: http://missinginminnesota.com/