The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

the-witch-of-painted-sorrows“Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.” – Goodreads

Taking a turn away from her Reincarnationist series of the last few years, M.J. Rose has turned out a haunting new standalone novel for 2015: The Witch of Painted Sorrows. Staking her claim – once again – as one of the masters of romantic suspense, Rose weaves together romance, the supernatural and occult, and a dash of eroticism to create a sinister and spicy tale of love and fear in 1890’s Paris.

After the death of her father – for which she blames her own cold and cruel husband – Sandrine Salome flees in secrecy to Paris, seeking refuge with her beloved grandmother. She arrives, however, to find that many changes have taken place in her grandmother’s world – and that not all will be as she had expected. As she investigates, Sandrine embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will mercilessly thrust her into the world of occult-ridden Belle Epoque Paris. Experiencing changes she never expected, Sandrine begins having thoughts and urges that aren’t her own. But where are these unsettling feelings coming from? Things become more and more clear as she delves deeper into her family history and moves forward into a future of independence and power.

I don’t want to share too many details of the novel here; it would be easy to tell you the whole stinking story in just a few sentences. You’ll need to experience that for yourself, if you choose. As a fan of Rose’s Jac L’Etoile novels, I was familiar with her writing style and The Witch of Painted Sorrows did hold my interest as I read it, however, it’s not really  my style. I’m not really a “romance” or “supernatural” fan and don’t see myself turning into one anytime soon. That said, it is rumored that this novel is the first in a series, and if this is true then there is a good chance I’d read the next one to be published (I’m nothing if not thorough, y’all).

Oh, yes, I mentioned that this novel is somewhat erotic… Um, yeah. There is sex. Graphic sex. This is not my thing. I’m a total prude (let’s not even talk about when my BFF made me read the Fifty Shades trilogy). Not that I don’t approve, or that I think it’s inappropriate in any way – there’s nothing wrong with it at all; sex scenes just gross me out. They didn’t used to; it started a little over ten years ago. No idea why. I just cringe and gag and skip over the pages to the next part. Maybe it’s a Mom thing…? So… FYI, y’all. Be prepared.

Would I buy this book? Not for myself – but I would purchase it for a friend who was into the genre. Totally worth your time if this is your thang. Go and get you some!

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose: On Sale Now!

3 stars

Source: Atria Books {via NetGalley}

What I’ve Been Reading: Mini-Reviews

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I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that with as many books as I read, I don’t take the time to review every. single. one. I have read some pretty great ones (and a not-so-great one or two) recently that I wanted to mention, however, so I thought I’d share them here (in what may or may not become a recurring post):

pluto

1. Pluto by R.J. Palacio – 4 stars

The Boy and I both loved R.J. Palacio’s hit novel, Wonder (2012), and were thrilled when we learned she had written a follow-up novella, The Julian Chapter. Pluto is yet another Wonder Story, told exclusively from the perspective of Christopher, Auggie’s best and oldest friend.

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2. God Don’t LIke Ugly by Mary Monroe – 5 stars

In God Don’t Like Ugly, Mary Monroe “brings to life the bond between two girls from opposite sides of the tracks–and the shattering event that changes their world forever–in this coming-of-age tale about a sexually abused young black woman and the beautiful and diabolical best friend who comes to her rescue.” Make no mistake: this is a very heavy and at times depressing novel, albeit a very good one. There are six novels in this series, of which I’ve read three. God Still Don’t Like Ugly (#2) is definitely worth reading, God Don’t Play (#3) is something you’ll want to read only if you can’t find anything else. I tried reading  God Ain’t Blind (#4), but put it down almost immediately – definitely not worth your time.

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3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – 5 stars

In this YA novel, we follow Melinda as she moves through her first year of high school. She has been shunned due to the fact that she called the police to break up a late summer party; we’re not told at first why she did this, although the reason soon becomes clear. Speak is very powerful, very heartbreaking, and I highly recommend it.

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4. Mobile Library by David Whitehouse – 3 stars

Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku befriends thirteen-year-old Rosa and her single mother, Val. Val is employed as the cleaning lady for the local Mobile Library, which is about to be closed down due to lack of funding. When Bobby is beaten badly by his abusive father, Val packs up Rosa, their dog and Bobby, and they hijack the Mobile Library for an across-the-country  escape. I had such high hopes for this novel, but it just didn’t do it for me the way I thought it would. Mobile Library is still, however, a good read and you should check it out if you have the time.

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5. The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis – 3 stars

The Orphans of Race Point is another novel I had high hopes for, that just didn’t give me the toe-tingling excitement I’d hoped for. Hallie and Gus were high-school sweethearts until an act of violence tore them apart. Gus then entered the seminary and served as a priest until he was falsely accused of murder and sent to prison. It’s up to Hallie to try to prove his innocence, but she doesn’t do such a hot job with that. Basically, the writing is all very long and drawn-out and full of unnecessary detail until about halfway through, when things start to get a bit more exciting. Don’t just take my word for it, though, because a whole lot of people reeeeally loved this book – so go and get you some, y’all.

A few more worth mentioning…

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So that’s what I’m up to, y’all, when I’m not homeschooling, homemaking, spending time with The Boy, or reviewing the other books I’ve read. It’s a small life, but it’s my life, and I love it. Happy Reading, y’all!

What have you been reading?

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

kindred“Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.” – Goodreads

After I finished reading Kindred by the late Octavia E. Butler, I was surprised to learn that not only was it not a recent release, but that it was actually published in 1979. Furthermore, I learned that its author classified its genre as Science Fiction. Feel free to call me biased; I would never have expected to connect with this book the way I did had I known it’s genre and publishing date. But connect I did, and in a profound way.

I don’t want to go into the content of the tale too much beyond the book summary posted above this review, in fear of including spoilers. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a stretch for me to crack open a “historical fiction” novel that included time travel – definitely not my usual sort of thing. Yet Butler does not attempt to explain the details or mechanics of the time travel in Kindred, in fact it is but a small detail of the larger story she is trying to tell; the time travel simply playing the role of allowing the tale to unfold. Instead,  Butler seems to be approaching a different question: How would a modern day person – Black or White – react if they were thrown back into the darkest days of slavery? How would he/she survive? What could they learn? And most importantly, how would their perception of these times change after personally living there?

A rich tale of love, gender, race, and responsibility, this harrowing and emotional read is also a fast-moving and action-packed novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When I wasn’t reading Kindred, I was thinking about it; counting the minutes until I could get back to it and read it until the very end. This was difficult to read at times because of the blatant look at the violence and tragedy of slavery, but I do believe that opening readers’ eyes to these things is a part of what Butler had intended. She is an expert at communicating knowledge through story, and I know that am better for what I read and learned in this novel. Highly recommended.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: Read it today!

4.5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

the-stranger#1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense Harlan Coben delivers his most shocking thriller yet, proving that a well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life– and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them.” – Publisher Summary/Amazon

I miss Harlan Coben. Well, let me rephrase that: I miss the Harlan Coben of old. The one who wrote novels like Tell No One, and The Woods. Such heart-racing, captivating thrillers as those that kept me on the edge of my seat and cemented my loyalty forever. He hasn’t been around for a few years now. However, after reading The Stranger, Coben’s newest novel, I think he may be making his way back to us.

Adam Price is at a coach’s meeting for his son’s sports team when he is approached by a man who introduces himself as “the Stranger.” The Stranger then reveals a small but devastating piece of information about Corrine, Adam’s wife – that if true, will rock the very foundations of their marriage and family. When Adam confronts Corrine, she asks for some time before she has to explain things to him, thereby setting off a chain of events involving a web much larger than Adam could ever have imagined – and much more deadly, as well.

There is definitely a strong emotional edge to this tale – after all, imagine being told that the one person you trust implicitly has betrayed you in some way? Imagine looking back on your life with a different set of eyes and seeing something completely different than what you had thought it was. Coben includes characters that are realistically drawn – many of them could be your friends or neighbors – who are suddenly shot out of their comfort zone and into a web of lies, deceit, and danger.

There are many twists and turns to keep readers wondering until the last minute, and Coben does well with keeping the suspense and action realistic yet exciting for us. I found the final twist to be somewhat incongruent with the story – it didn’t seem to fit quite cohesively enough for my taste – however, it was still a satisfying end in general. The Stranger is absolutely on a level above that of Coben’s last two or three novels, and my hope that he will continue to surprise me is definitely going to keep me coming back for more.

The Stranger by Harlan Coben: On sale March 24, 2015

3.5 stars

Source: Penguin Group/Dutton {via NetGalley}

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

the-rebellion-of-miss-lucy-ann-lobdell“The riveting true story of Lucy Lobdell, who, in 1855, left her home and family, cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time it was over, she was notorious.

At a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women, Lucy Lobdell boldly set forth to earn men’s wages. Lucy Lobdell did all of these things in a personal quest to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. In this riveting historical novel, William Klaber captures the life of a brave woman who saw well beyond her era.

This is the fictionalized account of Lucy’s foray into the world of men and her inward journey to a new sexual identity. It is her promised memoir as hear and recorded a century later by William Klaber, an upstream neighbor. Meticulously researched and told with compassion and respect, this is historical fiction at its best.” – Goodreads

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fictional novel. Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, however, was a very real woman. Allow me to explain. Author William Klaber, a part-time journalist, took artistic license to tell the true story of Miss Lobdell, who in 1855 left her family and child behind, cut her hair and donned men’s clothing, and struck out to live life as a man – as Joseph Israel Lobdell, to be exact. What followed was a journey of self-discovery, discrimination, pioneering, successes and failures, and the development of an entirely new sexual identity for Lucy/Joseph.

The tale Klaber weaves is gleaned from actual letters, newspapers, and other historical documents passed on to him from a local historian in upstate New York. He obviously performed meticulous research and worked hard to stay true to the Lucy/Joseph he met that way. Says Klaber,

“It has taken a long time for her voice to ring true in my head. Someone else might go into the forest and hear a different voice, but this is Lucy’s story as I have heard her tell it.”

Indeed, with this novel, Klaber has given us a rare gift. So little written history is found regarding women both great and small (this brings to mind a short story collection I am currently reading, Almost Famous Women – Joseph Lobdell could well have been included in its pages). Furthermore, the respect – and yes, even love – Klaber treats his subject with comes through as one reads each page leaving readers with a reverence for Lobdell all their own.

In an age where marriage and gender equity have made enormous progress, and the rights of transgender individuals have some protections (although not nearly enough), The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell gives us an enlightening view of what life was like in earlier days for those who first bravely broke the mold and blazed a trail for future generations. Highly recommended.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

if-i-fal-if-i-die“A heartfelt and wondrous debut, by a supremely gifted and exciting new voice in fiction.

Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will’s art projects.

Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother’s protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated.

When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers. If I Fall, if I Die is a remarkable debut full of dazzling prose, unforgettable characters, and a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age.” – Goodreads

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie is an exceptional novel.

When I learned this tale included an agoraphobic single mother and her tween son, I instantly felt a spark of connection and made haste to delve into its depths. Narrated alternately from Diane’s (the mother) and Will’s (the son) points of view, readers are given a full view of the family dynamics – or should I say family dysfunction – that take place in the Cardiel home. At times heartbreaking, and often humorous, Christie allows us to follow Will as he journeys from his den of overprotection (Inside) to learn and explore the vast and unknown Outside.

Added to Christie’s tale of mental illness, and a boy’s search for freedom and independence, is a mystery. I’m not sure what the purpose of its inclusion in this novel was; it did not add to the main story in any real way – in fact, in my opinion, it almost took away from it. Oh, it was a nice little mystery, I’ll give you that, but it would have done well in another novel, another day and time. Fortunately, its presence did not detract from the shining gem of Diane and Will’s main storyline.

Christie proved to be both knowledgeable and sympathetic when writing about Diane and her agoraphobia. He allowed us to truly see through Will’s eyes as he ventured into the Outside for the first few times, and he did so brilliantly. If this is the work he presents with a debut novel, then I am definitely anxious to see what Christie will bring us next. Go and get you some, y’all.

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

land-of-love-and-drowning“A major debut from an award-winning writer—an epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.” – Goodreads

The year is 1917 and the Virgin Islands have  just been transferred from Danish control to become a part of America. The Bradshaw family, along with the rest of the inhabitants of the Islands, are swept up in the excitement and change, but they have no idea of just how much change is coming their way. Captain Bradshaw, who has spent his life on the sea, is soon claimed by that same sea when his ship breaches a coral reef. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two young sisters and their estranged half-brother, each of whom possesses an unusual beauty, as well as a touch of magic that will factor importantly in their lives.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique possesses the kind of storytelling that slowly weaves a spell around you until you are fully entranced and committed to this tale. Combining fantasy and fiction with historical events, Yanique carries readers on a wave of magic and reality. Brought into play are such momentous events as WWII and the Civil Rights Movement (both in the U.S. and the U.S. V.I.).This powerful family saga also manages to explore the rich history of the Caribbean islands and the people who live and love there.

Land of Love and Drowning is a powerful and absorbing novel that brings to readers the question of whether we can escape the events destiny has planned for us, or if we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors before us. Yanique’s writing is imbued with a magic all its own as she masterfully pulls us inside the world of the Bradshaws and their home in the lush and magical Virgin Islands. For those who appreciate highly literary fiction, this is definitely the read for you.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique: Read it today!

3.5 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

 

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Aquarium by David Vann

aquariumLike Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy, Vann is already one of the great ones of American literature.”—ABC(Spain)

“Vann’s prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.”—Financial Times

David Vann’s dazzling debut Legend of a Suicide was reviewed in over a 150 major global publications, won 11 prizes worldwide, was on 40 “best books of the year” lists, and established its author as a literary master. Since then, Vann has delivered an exceptional body of work, receiving, among others, best foreign novel in France and Spain (France’s Prix Medicis Etranger, Spain’s Premi Llibreter), a California Book Award, and the mid-career St. Francis College Literary Prize. Aquarium, his implosive new book and first to be published by Grove, will take Vann to a wider audience than ever before.

Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiseled yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. Relentless and heartbreaking, primal and redemptive, Aquarium is a transporting story from one of the best American writers of our time.” – Goodreads

In the 1990’s, twelve-year-old Caitlin and her mother, Sheri, are living in a tiny Seattle apartment. Sheri works long hours as a manual laborer and because of this, the two thrive on routine. They wake early, Caitlin always arriving at school long before the other students. After school, because they can’t afford sports or after-school activities, Caitlin frequents the local aquarium for a few hours until Sheri is able to pick her up after work. This isn’t a problem for Caitlin, who loves the marine life and in fact yearns to become an ichthyologist as an adult. Eventually, Caitlin is befriended by an elderly man who also enjoys the fish and the two develop a friendship. When the man expresses his desire to meet Caitlin’s mother, she is more than happy to tell Sheri about her fish-loving friend – and unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will reveal long-held family secrets that will forever change Caitlin, Sheri, and the relationship between the two of them.

Aquarium by David Vann is a simple but beautifully crafted coming-of-age tale of family, forgiveness, and self-discovery. Vann’s powerful and emotionally-charged writing is sure to touch readers at a personal level. The raw emotion and anger of Sheri is palpable as we move further through the tale, as is Caitlin’s naivety and hope. There is such a sweetness to the innocence of Caitlin’s first experience with love. While I loved Caitlin, I adored the elderly gentleman; his quiet stoicism and determination. I don’t want to reveal any more about this novel than I have already, but suffice it to say that he stole my heart without even having to try.

I read Aquarium on my Kindle Paperwhite, however, I’m told that the print novel is absolutely beautiful. The blurry black-and-white photos that my eReader displayed are apparently gorgeous, full-color gems in print. For a sneak peek at what they look like, check out this review. I have read another book of David Vann’s, Goat Mountain, and the two novels are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s almost as though Aquarium is an apology for the stark familial destruction of Goat Mountain… It certainly touched me in a far different manner than the previous novel had. Aquarium has easily hit my Top 5 of 2015 so far. Don’t miss the chance to add it to yours.

Aquarium by David Vann: available at a bookseller near you on March 3, 2013!

4 stars

Source: Grove Atlantic {via NetGalley}

 

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Black River: A Novel by S.M. Hulse

black-river“A tense Western and an assured debut, Black River tells the story of a man marked by a prison riot as he returns to the town, and the convict, who shaped him. When Wes Carver returns to Black River, he carries two things in the cab of his truck: his wife’s ashes and a letter from the prison parole board. The convict who held him hostage during a riot, twenty years ago, is being considered for release.Wes has been away from Black River ever since the riot. He grew up in this small Montana town, encircled by mountains, and, like his father before him and most of the men there, he made his living as a Corrections Officer. A talented, natural fiddler, he found solace and joy in his music. But during that riot Bobby Williams changed everything for Wes — undermining his faith and taking away his ability to play.

How can a man who once embodied evil ever come to good? How can he pay for such crimes with anything but his life? As Wes considers his own choices and grieves for all he’s lost, he must decide what he believes and whether he can let Williams walk away.

With spare prose and stunning detail, S. M. Hulse drops us deep into the heart and darkness of an American town.” – Goodreads

After the death of his wife, Claire, Wesley Carver packs up her ashes and heads out from Spokane all the way back to Black River, Montana – a town from which he fled over eighteen years ago. Awaiting him are his estranged stepson, Dennis, and Bobby Williams – the convict who maimed Wesley’s hands during a prison riot back when he was a correctional officer. Williams is up for parole, and Wesley has the chance to speak at the parole hearing. Confused and grieving, he arrives in Black River to a lukewarm welcome from the stepson he rejected so long ago. As Wes struggles to make some sort – any sort – of connection with Dennis, he also struggles with the decision of whether or not to speak at Williams’s parole hearing. Haunted by all he has lost and full of regret for past mistakes, will Wesley be able to release all of the pain and anger he has carried inside for so many years?

Black River is S.M. Hulse’s debut novel of love, loss, and grief; a bittersweet tale filled with tragedy yet imbued throughout with a thread of hope. Hulse ultimately captures our hearts and minds with her examination of faith, forgiveness, and redemption within this noble and absorbing narrative. Her characters are each shaped by the painful circumstances of their roles in each others lives. Wes’s struggles are all too real as his past rises up to meet him: his volatile relationship with Dennis, his broken friendship with his brother-in-law, and of course the upcoming confrontation of his demons at the parole hearing for Bobby Williams.

Black River is ultimately a deeply poignant tale of pain and healing that will keep readers glued to its pages. While each of the characters is deeply flawed, Hulse draws them sympathetically and they worm their way into our hearts despite ourselves. The tale ends with a realistic conclusion; while all is not resolved there is still a sense of satisfaction and even hope. In all, this is a deeply emotional and remarkable novel that resonates even with the most cynical of us. Highly recommended.

Black River: A Novel by S.M. Hulse: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

 

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Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

ordinary-grace“From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger comes a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.” – Goodreads

In 1961, Frank Drum was living in a small town in Minnesota with his parents and two siblings. His older sister, Ariel, was a music prodigy who was headed to Julliard at the end of the season; his younger brother, Jake, suffered with a terrible stutter. Frank’s father was a Methodist minister; his mother a homemaker who did not share her husband’s love for the church. During this fateful summer, Frank was thirteen years old and at that age when he was still exploring exactly who he was, and anxious to prove his manhood to others. This tale is narrated by Frank – forty years later – as he looks back upon the summer that changed him irrevocably and, in fact, did cause him to grow up a bit faster than expected. During that summer of 1961, four deaths occurred – one of which shook Frank and his family to the core.

Despite all of the tragedy and the inherent mystery that follows, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is assuredly not a murder/crime thriller. This definitely leans more toward the literary fiction side of the scale, for it is about so much more than the tragedies of the novel. It’s about survival and moving on, and doing it with grace and strength. It is about the strength of the family unit in times of crisis. It’s about how those who are considered to be weak are beaten down, yet fight to remain standing. It’s about choosing to face life head-on, or hiding from it behind closed doors.

Krueger’s rich and evocative writing style paints a detailed picture in the reader’s mind. His loving and vivid descriptions of Minnesota bring you right there. He writes a heart and soul into each of his characters that brings them to life in our minds. Ordinary Grace won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2014 {,as well as the 2014 Dilys Award} and in my opinion it was definitely deserved, for this is a novel that is far from ordinary. Go and get you some, y’all!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

 

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