Posts Tagged ‘Abuse’

Bad Blood by John Sandford

July 14, 2014

Bad BloodWhen three deaths occur in a sequence… that’s not a coincidence! First Jacob Flood is murdered at a grain elevator by Bob Tripp, and since no one else was around at the time of the death, Tripp seems the likely killer.  When Tripp is taken into custody by Sheriff Lee Coakley,  she has no reason to suspect further foul play. But then Tripp is found hanging in his cell and it is quickly discovered that it was not a suicide.  Coakley becomes suspicious of a deputy, Jim Crocker,  and a trip to Crocker’s residence now finds Crocker dead, and now we do have three deaths, and are they somehow connected? Police do not believe in coincidence.

Coakley realizes that she needs outside help since one murder in ten years is more the usual for a small town like Homestead.  She asks the State for assistance and our hero, Virgil Flowers, is assigned to the case.  And to add one final twist, there was a murder a year ago just over the border from Minnesota in Iowa.  A teenage girl was brutally murdered and there may be a tie-in to the three deaths here in Homestead.

John Sandford is pretty good at putting a lot on one’s plate pretty fast, so you better pay attention.  Paying attention pays off quickly as Flowers and Coakley start to connect the dots.  But this is a fair warning–this book is not for the faint of heart! The first in the Virgil Flowers series is Dark of the Moon.

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Best New Books of 2013: Pam W’s Picks

December 11, 2013

My reading tastes are kind of all over the map, but I especially enjoy mysteries and historical fiction.  This year my list is full of lots of new authors.  I’ve read and really liked many of the books that are at the top of the best seller’s lists, but here are five of my favorites that might be less well known.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Conkin’s novel alternates between the story of Josephine, a slave in Virginia during the 1850’s at a failing plantation; and Lina, a first year associate of a large corporate law firm in present day New York who is working on what her boss calls a history making case. Lina’s case requires her to find a descendant of a slave who would like to be a plaintiff in a case over who painted a series of famous paintings that have long been attributed to Lu Ann Bell, but now are believed to have been painted by her slave.  As Lina investigates the case, the novel switches back to tell Josephine’s story.  Josephine’s was the more riveting tale, but the modern story was interesting as well. I look forward to more by this author.

Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee
Bay of Fires, a wonderful debut novel by Poppy Gee, is set in a remote holiday town on the east coast of Tasmania. Sarah Avery has lost her job and is spending some time with her parents in the cabin they visit every summer.  Sarah is fishing when she finds the body of a young woman on her favorite beach.   Suddenly, Sarah’s family and friends become murder suspects.  I loved the unusual setting and the spooky atmosphere of this book.  The author does a wonderful job of describing the wild nature of Tasmania’s east coast, and the insular nature of a small, isolated community. Check out my full-length post here.

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
Pochoda’s novel starts off with two bored young girls on a slow, hot evening in Brooklyn.  The girls want to do exciting, something that will make their lives more interesting and prove they are more grown up.  Later that evening, one girl is found on the shore unconscious and the other is missing.  What happened, and who is responsible?  Is it the teacher who found the unconscious Val?  The young man who was known to be the last to speak to the girls? Pochoda’s focus is less on the police investigation than on the description of the neighborhood and its residents.  But this is the beauty of her book.  By the time I finished, I felt like had visited Red Hook, Brooklyn, and that her characters had become my neighbors.  I hated to leave them when the book ended.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Amity and Sorrow is a moving tale of a woman trying to undo a terrible mistake she made when she was young.  After losing her family, she took up with a charismatic man who took her to live in a remote area.  Years later, she is fleeing from him and the cult he has created. Amaranth is terrified that her husband will follow her to force her and her two daughters to return.  The girls are unable to imagine what their lives will be like outside of the family.  The older daughter, Sorrow, has no intention of leaving the only life she has ever known and is fighting her mother every step of the way.  The younger daughter, Amity, is caught between her mother and her sister.  Riley’s writing is spare but she is able to paint a vivid picture.  You will find yourself hoping for redemption for Amaranth and her family, no matter what she has done in the past. See my full-length post here.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
Honor Bright is from a Quaker community in England.  Jilted by her fiance, she decides to go with her sister to Ohio for her sister’s wedding.  Tragedy strikes, though, and when her sister dies, Honor doesn’t know what to do except finish the journey and bring the news to the man who was to be her brother-in-law.  Along the way, she is introduced to the issue of slavery and the return of escaped slaves in a frightening incident.  As a Quaker, Honor is firmly against slavery.  But the small community she has come to is in a difficult situation.  If they are seen to help the runaways, they risk losing their own lively hoods or more.  This dilemma is what Honor has to navigate in her new unexpected situation. She is dependent on the kindness of people she is not related to, and cannot upset them.  But she also wants to live according to her morals. Chevalier’s take on the issue of slavery is unique, and Honor was an engaging character.  Fans of historical fiction will really enjoy this one.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

April 30, 2013

You never know what goes on behind closed doors, what family dynamics exist that push people to do what they do. In this small town where everyone knows everyone, two families awake to find their little girls missing, seven-year-old Calli Clark who has not uttered a word since she was a toddler and her best friend Petra. Gone since early morning, the only clues are their small foot prints and what appears to be drag marks. Calli’s mother struggles with the knowledge that it appears she might have been taken into the woods by her father, Griff, a pipeline worker who is gone most of the time and who can be abusive especially when he drinks. Griff is supposedly out fishing with a buddy but when nobody can find him, he becomes the prime suspect.  Neighbors are set against neighbors, bringing divisive issues that were thought to be put to rest, to the forefront. Calli’s mother is forced to deal with her relationship with Griff once again as they search for their daughter.

Put aside some time to read this book because you will want to read it from cover to cover to find out what happens to the girls, who took them and why Calli refuses to speak.  The action cuts back and forth between their odyssey through the woods and the town’s search for them.  Gudenkauf does a good job of keeping secrets right up to the last chapter.    You’ll never guess the ending!

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The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo

April 25, 2012

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and that means I read between 52-156 books a year depending on my level of busy-ness. First, I inhaled all the childhood favorites like the Little House, Black Stallion, and Trixie Belden series. Then I consumed the classics- my world view was forever shaped by Jane Eyre and 1984. In my early 20s my new obsession was the Catherine Cookson’s Mallen series and all the English royalty historical fiction. In my 30s and early 40s I loved the comfort, familiarity, and predictably of serial mysteries; I loved series with female protagonists as I felt like I was meeting an old friend with each book, I loved books set in places I had lived or traveled as I could walk familiar paths, I could relate to the homey mysteries as they made housekeeping and child care interesting- nothing like finding a dead body to bring spice into your life! But throughout all the periods I have liked general fiction and fantasies that gave me a window into new and different worlds- I loved being challenged with mind-opening ideas, being an armchair traveler, and having the opportunity to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

As I approach 50, I have hit a reading rut-  it feels like “What has been is what will be,and has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ). I still read as much as ever, but I find myself frustrated with the “same ol’ same ol.” Everything feels derivative, like there is nothing new or fresh:

“If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.” (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 59)

But then I started Talk-Funny Girl by Ronald Merullo; it could be described as a coming-of-age story with slight hints of Ellen Foster, but the setting, rural New England, was fresh for me. Talk-Funny Girl brought  shades of Stephen King’s worlds of darkness and oddity but with incredible resilience bred from isolation and independence. Merullo uses a dialect that is completely brand new to me- one that is intriguing and unusual- and brings his story to life with imagery that puts me in a new and different place. Merullo’s protagonist, Marjorie, tells her story from her future so I had confidence that she survived her horrific home life, but the pacing and suspense of the story kept me on the edge of my seat and made me worry that she was an unreliable narrator. The story was also intriguing in its examination of Marjorie’s parents’  twisted backwoods’ religion with the hint of a murder mystery thrown in; Talk-Funny Girl felt like a realistic window into how poisoned a soul can become by extreme poverty and lack of education.

I was so happy to stumble upon this book and am thrilled to recommend it to my peers who are becoming as jaded as I!

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