Friday, November 22, 2013

The Merciful Scar

By Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue.

Cutting, or self-injury, a not so uncommon means today used to cope with one's gnawing inner emotional pain, is the topic of this precious fictional novel.  In St. James', The Merciful Scar, you will learn about the pain and the method of cutters through one young woman who seeks relief from an incident that happened to her family in her early teens.

Kirsten Peterson is that woman. She is a young grad student who hopes to marry a long time boyfriend. That dream comes to a halt and Kirsten's world tumbles down. She responds in the manner she is used to - she cuts. She self-injures. However, this time it is different because this time Kirsten's cutting ends her up in a psych ward. From there she follows through on a suggestion to go to a Montana working ranch to get the much needed help she knows she needs.  Frankie, an ex-nun, runs the ranch and cares for the hurting while providing a place for women such as Kirsten to face their hurtful memories and hopefully find an eventual healing.  Also at this ranch are Emma and Andy, both with their own repressed memories and frozen lives. You will be cheering for each wounded character in this book.

A perfect book for those also driven to cut or those wanting to understand those who cut. For sure this book is a page turner and one of the best reads on my book list for some time!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore

 Emmalee Bullard has lead a very impoverished existence throughout her young life and attempting to raise a baby at the age of 16 isn't making her situation any easier. Residing in the Appalachians during the 70s was simply difficult, so when she manages to get hired on at the Tennewa Shirt Factory and is befriended by a factory worker named  Leona, she feels hopeful that her life might be moving in a more positive direction.

After the birth of Emmalee's baby, Leona encourages both young mother and child to move in with her and her husband, Curtis. Unfortunately, the day before Emmalee and her infant are to make the move, the kind couple are involved and killed in a tragic car accident. In the days that follow, a grieving Emmalee sews a lovely burying dress for Leona but unfortunately,  more tragedy occurs.

Is Emmalee capable of raising a child on her own without the support of her community?


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Police

In the last Harry Hole novel, he was shot in the head and left for dead by his girlfriend's son.  So is he alive in this new mystery?  For much of the book, we don't know and if I tell you it will spoil the entire book.  The serial murders in the book seem unsolvable.   Policemen are being lured to the scene of a previously unsolved murder and then murdered themselves in the same manner.  No clues or fibers are left behind. No one knows who will be next.   Hole's fellow detectives Beate Lonn, Stale Aune and Katrine Bratt are in charge of solving the crime.  Can they set a trap for the killer?  Is the killer one of their own?  Could it be the new Chief of Police, Mikael Bellman? 
Nesbo leads us on wild goose chases and down dead end streets.  There are several red herrings.  But this is a book for those of us who love Harry Hole!  Unfortunately I cannot tell you more, you must read the book.  Nesbo's other characters are interesting and well developed.  The villains are sexually perverted and or insane.  And the ending leaves us with a taste of what is to come in the next book.

Sabrina, the college girl who was an Olympic-bound runner in high school, lives with shattered dreams due to an on going illness.  She keeps her hurts to herself not wanting pity from anyone but at the same time hadn't really dealt with the changes this has brought in her life.  She speaks of her faith in God, yet she can't seem to establish trust in Him or in people in general.

Brandy, the delinquent comes from a fractured home and doesn't know the meaning of love.  She's bounced around without feeling the security and care of family until recently when her grandmother takes her into her home. Her wild nature gives no respect, even to her grandmother, as she makes poor choices in friends and attitude. 

Running is the common thread that forces the two girls together, however, there is tension and dislike between them.  Sabrina, who can no longer compete as a runner, is asked to coach Brandy, who is flippant regarding her ability to achieve what Sabrina wanted so badly.  If Sabrina refuses this request of the judge, Brandy will find herself in Juvenile detention for a while.  

I think this is a great book for anyone who is dealing with past hurts.   I love the way Kathryn Cushman put the girls together to help both of them deal with their past and future.

THE SILVER STAR by Jeannette Walls

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

The Holladays used to own the town's cotton mill, but all that's left is the decaying mansion where Charlotte's widowed brother still lives. Less cutesy eccentric than he first seems, Tinsley gives the girls the security they have missed. Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

Jeannette Walls, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other.

After Her: a novel

After their parents divorce, Rachel and Patty Toricelli live with their reclusive mother who spends her days reading and chain-smoking in her bedroom. Dad is a devoted but often absent father whose demanding job as detective for the San Francisco Police Department leaves little time for ‘his girls’ but the sisters continue to hang onto the hope that their handsome father will pay them an intermittent visit. As most women, they adore him.

Devoid of parental guidance, the girls become skilled at creating diversions and fending for themselves. The story begins when residents of Marin County, especially those in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais State Park, find themselves living in a shadow of fear cast by the recent murders of young girls whose bodies have been found on the mountain trails. The search and the mounting pressure to find the serial killer falls heavily on Detective Anthony Toricelli. In a single summer, the girls lose access to their two most treasured possessions: their mountain playground and the sporadic visits of their father.
To fill the void of the long and lonely summer Patty, a gangly eleven-year-old, becomes obsessed with basketball and befriends a mysterious neighbor who conveniently owns a dog, something Patty’s mother would never allow her to have. Rachel, entering eighth grade and consumed with fears of her stunted sexual development, experiences a huge leap in her social status when the handsome and compelling Detective Toricelli makes regular appearances on the local news. When the ‘popular’ girls at school make the connection between Rachel and her father, Rachel is sucked into their tight circle and finds herself in compromising situations.
The story is not a typical murder mystery thriller; Maynard spares readers the graphic details of the murders. Instead she creates a story that is part coming of age, part romance and part mystery. This is the third Joyce Maynard book I have read and I find her never to cheat on her characters – they are always richly detailed and her storytelling the same.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Sobering Visit to North Korea

The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson. Whew. This book is incredible. Well deserving of the Pulitzer it earned. It is not an easy book to read, for several reasons. The subject matter of life in North Korea is sobering and shocking. The length of the book may scare away some readers. And the narrative jumps back and forth in time, so it takes some effort to keep it all straight. I listened to it on audio, which was very satisfying, because the narration was excellent and used different voices for the various narratives. But I still had a little trouble following the story at times. I can't say enough, however, about the depth and beauty of the author's writing, even when writing about horrific things. The main character grows over the course of the book to become someone honorable, loving, and courageous. This is one of the best books I've ever read, but I'll be honest. I didn't feel that way in the beginning. Give it a chance, keep reading, and you'll be glad you did. It is available at the Delphi Public Library in print, audio, and ebook format.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Visitation Street

Ivy Pochoda has assembled a unique and diverse cast of characters in the unique setting of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood for her outstanding Visitation Street, which was hand-picked by author Dennis Lehane to be the first book under his new imprint. Many of us think of Brooklyn as that idyllic neighborhood across the river from Manhattan filled with expensive brownstones and trendy shops and restaurants. But there's more to Brooklyn than meets the eye. Red Hook is filled with Italian Americans, African Americans, homeless folks, poverty, restless teenagers, and hard-working people. One of Red Hook's teenage girls goes missing and another nearly drowns after taking a raft out on the water after dark one hot summer night. Visitation Street is a mystery of what happened to June, but, more importantly, a study of how the community reacts to this tragedy. The story is told from many points of view, so gives you a rich, panoramic picture of a gritty and tough community. Highly recommended.