Book Review: Island Sting + Author Guest Post

Island Sting
by Bonnie J. Doerr

Summary: (from
Kenzie didn’t expect her first summer in the Florida Keys to be murder. Cute guys, awesome boats, endangered species, gun-toting thugs…

When city girl Kenzie Ryan moves to a Florida wildlife refuge, she plunges straight into an eco-mystery. Kenzie trades New York streets for Keys pollution cleanup, and now, instead of hailing cabs, she’s tracking down a poacher of endangered Key deer.

Her new home does have some benefits—mainly Angelo, an island native, who teams up with her to nab the culprit.

But will they both survive when the killer turns from stalking deer to hunting humans?

When I read this book it reminded me a bit of Hoot by Carl Hiaasan in the way that Kenzie and her new friends are trying to stop something harmful going on in a natural environment. What's different is that it is centered around trying to find the one person that is set on poaching these endangered deer.

I admit I was a bit skeptical after reading the first two chapters – thinking I really wouldn't like this one. As the story progresses, however, I really started to enjoy what was going on. There's a bit of crushing on Kenzie's part when she meets the good-looking boy Angelo, but it's not the main focus. I was worried that it would become more of a center to the story line then the more interesting plot of poachers and a plan to help clean up the island – of both a poacher and trash.

Island Sting was a fast and engaging read that involved a bit of mystery, some adventure and a teensy bit of a possible budding romance. It will be interesting to see what Bonnie's next book holds for Kenzie and her new life in the Florida Keys.

And here's a treat, Bonnie has written up a bit about the research she did while writing Island Sting.

In many ways, I enjoy the research for my books more than the writing. I think it’s because I’m happier doing most anything outdoors than sitting inside at a desk. Since most of my work concerns environmental issues, in particular struggling animal species, research takes me to their specific habitats. I interact with and learn from specialists in exotic locales who share my concerns. How cool is that?

When I was planning Island Sting, I spent days in the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, Florida. I visited neighborhoods where people interacted with the tiny deer on a daily basis, and I collected their deer tales. In Island Sting when you read a story like deer stealing eggs from the breakfast table, that’s a local resident’s actual experience.

I observed the deer’s behavior in their endearing moments and their destructive ones. They stand on their hind legs and paw at shrubs, trees, and vines to pull the more tender tips down to their three-foot reach. It’s amazing! They’re a gardener’s nightmare. But they’re so darn cute. It was unbelievable to watch such dainty creatures devour spiny cactus and bougainvillea vines that bear two-inch long thorns. After you observe that habit, it no longer amazes you that the toy-size creatures can actually swallow the dangerous garbage they gulp. I watched them wade and swim in the shallows, beg from tourists, gallop and play in open fields, and bound fearlessly in front of moving vehicles. While observing, I made notes describing their behavior and habits for use in the text.

I visited the triage center where injured where deer are brought. There I noted the stock of medical supplies and equipment while I interviewed wildlife officers who cared for the deer. I read research reports on the Key deer study and articles about the history of the refuge, even spoke with researchers and long-time residents who had fascinating stories to tell. My favorite tales celebrate the fierce and formidable Jack Watson, first official protector of the species.

Of all my research, what was the most fun? Easy—the hours and hours I spent on the water with local fishermen. While I enjoyed the sport, I also photographed the open-water environment and wildlife. These captured memories were later useful to the illustrator of Island Sting and the creator of my book trailer.

The most fascinating fisherman I observed was one of the few spongers left in the Keys. He used no fancy gear, but deliberately and gracefully pursued his livelihood with the humblest of equipment—a simple outboard engine, an old wooden skiff, a line, and a long-handled pole with a hook on its tip. This unknown man was my inspiration for the gentle character, Fisher.

When I wasn’t live on location, I voraciously read feature articles about island events and issues, hung around listening to locals discuss the latest threats to their way of life, and never turned off my ears in a waterside restaurant or local watering hole. Let me tell you, fishermen love to talk! And cell phone conversations, well, they really fed my imagination. What fun to consider the other end of the conversation.

Yes, how I enjoy research! I leave you with this warning: monitor your conversations wherever you go. You never know when you might be immortalized in someone’s novel.

Thank you Bonnie for that great information! I think research is one of my favorite topics when it comes to talking about books. 🙂

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4 responses to “Book Review: Island Sting + Author Guest Post

  1. Sounds fabulous! And your research trip to Key West sounds like it was wonderful. Disappearing in a Key West adventure sounds pretty good right now!

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