Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina Authors’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 29, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my favorites books discovered this year, but published prior to 2014:

LookawLookaway, Lookawayay, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Meet the Johnstons: Jerene and Duke are the heads of a socially prominent, highly dysfunctional Charlotte family. Duke is an ardent Civil War reenactor; Jerene is the manager of the Jarvis trust, her family’s collection of landscapes by minor American artists. They are the parents of Annie, an outspoken, brash real estate person on her third marriage, minister Bo, gay son Joshua who is not officially out of the closet, naïve daughter Jerrilyn. There is also Jerene’s outrageous, dissolute brother, Gaston Jarvis, who has squandered his literary talent on a series of Southern potboilers. This is a blisteringly funny satire of just about any contemporary Southern thing you can think of.  Read another review.

The PostmistressThe Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Three women’s lives intersect after Frankie Bard, a reporter from wartime London during the blitz, meets a doctor in an air raid shelter who asks her to deliver a letter to his wife in Massachusetts. The postmistress of the town in Massachusetts also has a mission from the same doctor to deliver a letter to his wife in the event of his death. This is a gripping story of the war in London, its effect on the three women and other people in the small town in Massachusetts.

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
After a childhood spent in foster care, Victoria has nowhere to go and has no people in her life. Through luck she finds work in a florist’s shop and is able to expand her knowledge of the language of flowers that she has been interested in since childhood. Victoria is able to help others with her skill with flowers while she struggles with her own past.


TransatlanticTransatlantic by Colum McCann
The novel uses three events that actually happened as the basis for his novel; Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland in 1845, the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown, and the attempts by U.S. senator George Mitchell to broker peace in Northern Ireland. One of the fictional characters, Lilly Duggan, who is first seen in the Frederick Douglass chapter boldly leaves all behind and immigrates to America, becoming the mother of a long line of descendants in America, some of whom return to Ireland in later times. Fascinating and brilliantly written.

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is a brilliant, but socially awkward professor of genetics at an Australian university. Nearing his 40th birthday, he decides to find a wife and devises a questionnaire to rule out all unsuitable candidates. Soon Rosie Jarman enters the picture and Don mistakenly believes she has submitted a questionnaire and been vetted by his coworker. Rosie and Don hit it off in spite of the fact that she fails to meet some of his requirements. Rosie does not know who her biological father is, so together they embark on the Rosie Project to attempt to learn his identity. Hilarious and heartwarming events ensue.  Read another review.

Best New Books of 2014: Sharon S’s Picks

December 12, 2014

It is said that “Truth is stranger than fiction,” and to me it is just as interesting. I read fiction and nonfiction for the same reasons: to be entertained, instructed, and inspired. Here are my favorite new books for this year:

Pastor Needs a BooPastor Needs a Boo by Michele Andrea Bowen
A former FBI agent as well as a dedicated pastor, Denzelle Flowers of New Jerusalem Church in Durham got burned on the romance scene when his wife left him for a richer man. When the perfect Proverbs 31 woman shows up in his life he’s not ready to admit it, even though everyone else sees that she’s the one for him. Meanwhile, Pastor Denzelle decides to run for bishop, and has to pack both his gun and his Bible as major corruption sweeps through their denomination.

What Makes Olga Run?What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson
What makes a 93-year-old woman participate in track events worldwide, and set records that compare (in her age category) with those of the best athletes in the world? Well, she loves doing it, and her ability to do it stretches our stereotypes about aging. She is not alone—there are other “super seniors” like her around the world. Bruce Grierson leads us through a fascinating investigation of what keeps them going strong. See my full review.

William Shakespeare's Star WarsWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher
Hang on to your lightsabers! Doescher cleverly conflates famous lines from Shakespeare with famous scenes from Star Wars, making for a blend of comedy and drama worthy of the Bard himself. What I like best is getting to see into the minds of the characters through the asides and soliloquys. The series is continued in The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. My family and I have been reading it aloud to each other (my husband plays the role of Chewbacca, and my 12-year-old son plays R2D2). See my full review.

Life is a WheelLife is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America by Bruce Weber
The death of his parents and other major changes shook Weber up and gave him a lot to think about concerning life, love, and death. It didn’t help matters that he had spent the last three years of his middle-aged life writing obituaries for The New York Times. He decided to do something to prove to himself that he was still alive and kicking — bike across America! I love books like this, where someone decides to do something semi-crazy, and I can go along for the ride without the expense or the sore leg muscles! Based on the daily blogs he sent back to the newspaper, this book is a very entertaining and interesting read.

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on CaesarThe Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow
One reason I like to read is to experience vicariously things I may never experience myself, or at least not in the same way. I love owls, and Martin Windrow gives me a window into what they are really like, close-up and personal. Mumbles is a charming little tawny owl who is nevertheless no pushover! I loved reading about her daily life, and her and Martin’s close relationship of many years. See my full review.

Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle

November 12, 2014

Going Away Shoes is a collection of eleven short stories written by North Carolina’s own Jill McCorkle.  McCorkle has written several acclaimed novels and short story collections featuring Southern women of different ages and stages, and exploring the deeper meanings in their everyday activities and relationships.

The stories in Going Away Shoes are multi-layered and thought provoking, some of them heartwarming, and some heartbreaking. The first story in the collection is “Going Away Shoes.” It portrays a single, middle-aged, daughter who is the caregiver for her elderly mother. She ruminates about her family’s history, which she recalls by remembering her mother’s different shoes and purses, while watching soap operas and tending to her mother’s gradual decline.

Another of the stories in this collection, “Magic Words,” takes place one evening while a mother ferries her children to the movies and a party – a typical suburban weekend. She is also on her way to embark on a long-anticipated illicit affair, until she notices a young girl desperately in need of help. Meanwhile her husband is at home worrying about coyotes recently seen in the neighborhood, while another type of predator, a vengeful teen, is on the prowl in this complex story.

My favorite story of the collection is “Midnight Clear,” featuring a lonely and unsure newly divorced mother who is overwhelmed with household issues, most notably the strong smell of her septic tank which appears to be overflowing on Christmas Eve. Help and encouragement arrives with humor and grace from an unexpected source.

I especially enjoy McCorkle’s use of language and shrewd observations of character. Her writing is literary without being long and cumbersome, packing a subtle punch.

Jill McCorkle is one of several North Carolina authors visiting our regional libraries in November. You can meet her and learn about her work at the Eva Perry Regional Library on Thursday, November 13, at 2:00 p.m.  Click here to register.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

November 6, 2014

Jill McCorkle’s latest book, Life After Life, is set in and around a retirement center in a small North Carolina town. Its chapters alternate between several different characters’ points of view. Some of them are residents of the center, some are staff, and others are visitors or just live nearby. One of the residents is a kindhearted retired teacher who has lived in the town all her life. She is a soothing presence, always looking at the sunnier side of life, but also seeing the hurts and needs of other people, just as she did when she was teaching third graders.
Another resident is a sharp-witted and feisty lawyer from Boston, who only retired in the south to be near the grave of a man that she had an illicit affair with years before. She needs to find a place for herself in an unfamiliar community without giving away the reason she is there.

Yet another character is a staff member trying to overcome a past strewn with broken relationships by working as a Hospice caregiver. Her high school best friend lives next to the retirement center with his wife and daughter, reminding her of the years she spent assisting him with his magic act as the ‘disappearing woman,’ while one of her dear friends is in danger of becoming a disappearing woman of another kind.

The chapters present separate portraits that gradually come together to reveal a larger picture. It was interesting to find out about each character’s background and what they think of themselves in one chapter, and then learn what other people think of them and how they fit into the larger context of the story in following chapters. By the time I finished Life After Life, I felt like I knew all of the characters personally, and shared their moments of humor, poignancy and pathos along the way.

Jill McCorkle is one of several North Carolina authors visiting our regional libraries in November. You can meet her and learn about her work at the Eva Perry Regional Library on Thursday, November 13, at 2:00 p.m.  Click here to register.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

November 4, 2014

Jerilyn’s mother barely manages a bloodless kiss on her cheek as she goes off to Chapel Hill to start college and she hopes, an adventure or two that her family wouldn’t approve of.   Jerilyn grudgingly performs the traditional rites of passage for a privileged southern teen, coming out as a debutante and pledging sororities with a determined resignation that her sister, Annie rails against. Annie moves confidently against the tide of southern convention asserting her sexuality at school and later becoming a subversive force for equal housing as a real estate agent in Charlotte. “I fully expect you to be married upon a mule in a national park, presided over by a hippie shaman in a cloud of incense smoke,” her mother, Jerene, says.

In Barnhardt’s thoroughly entertaining fashion, you will learn that the Johnstons trace their lineage all the way back to confederate glory and defeat.  The Johnston men including Jerene’s husband, Duke and brother Gaston, a writer, more than hold their own when the whole family is together for Christmas wrangling over the direction of the New South and reproductive rights at the celebration table. You will not be bored. You will learn how  racism is a convenient vehicle for classism or you may just decide to watch the fur fly.  Wilton Barnhardt who undoubtably delights his students at N.C. State, will be speaking at the East Regional Library, Wednesday, November 5 at 7 p.m.

Find and reserve this book in our card catalog.


Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

October 31, 2014

Garden of BeastsMob button man Paul Schumann is sure he’s doomed when he’s caught by the feds, but he’s given a choice – the electric chair, or one last job. The catch – his target is Col. Reinhardt Ernst, a bigwig in Hitler’s organization, which means going undercover in Nazi Germany to achieve his goal. Paul has been wanting to get out of the mob anyway, and the feds promise he’ll be free of charges and given a cash bonus when he’s finished. Dreaming of a normal life with the girl of his dreams, he heads for Germany.

This is a fascinating time in history, when a culture of fear led neighbors to betray each other and paranoia reigned. It was a time when citizens were trapped between duty to country and their own consciences, and Deaver portrays them with sympathy and humanity. Watching Paul navigate this complicated time and place, you really feel like you’re in 1936 Germany with him. He’s undercover as a journalist covering the Berlin Olympics, but spies are everywhere. After uncovering one spy while still en route, he dispatches a second almost immediately after arrival and finds himself pursued by the police. This is cat and mouse at its best, with Paul playing both roles in his quest for Col. Ernst. Deaver is a master of the plot twist, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The beauty of his stories is, even knowing there will be a twist, it’s nearly impossible to guess. I challenge you to try!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Meet popular fiction writer Jeffery Deaver at Cameron Village Regional Library on Sunday, November 9th at 2:30 pm. He will discuss his novels, characters, writing style, and more. Q & A to follow discussion. Registration requested.

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

July 15, 2014

Charms for the Easy LifeI have been purposely avoiding reading any of Kaye Gibbons‘ novels because I had met her during my college years in Raleigh and was not sure I could read them without preconceived notions. I have finally arrived at a maturity level where I can do so with a totally open mind. I jumped in with both feet, and never looked back. This book fit my criteria for a good read as I could not put it down after the first chapter.

Let me begin my review by recommending that readers first become acquainted with the layout of our beautiful state, North Carolina. It also helps to be knowledgeable about Raleigh and the distinctions of the older, surrounding neighborhoods near downtown. The author seamlessly weaves these locations into the novel. She was born in Rocky Mount and went to college in the Triangle. It was so easy to hear the southern drawl flowing right out of the dialogue. The story cannot be fully enjoyed without at least a familiarity of the key landmarks and major cities of North Carolina. The imagery just cannot be maximized otherwise.

Published in 1993, Charms for the Easy Life is Gibbons’ fourth novel. Her commercial literary success began with the award winning Ellen Foster. There is no doubt that this novel was also meant to inspire her own three daughters. It continues her tradition of creating strong female main characters: Charlie Kate is the no-nonsense grandmother and matriarch; Sophia is her rebellious daughter; and Margaret is the perfectionist granddaughter. All three show extraordinary independent spirit as well as quick wit and intellect. The time period of the novel covers 1910-1945. It was a time where these characteristics were neither attractive nor acceptable for a female. Charlie Kate and Sophia are both mistreated, deserted, and eventually widowed by their husbands. They show the world that they can succeed without having a man to hold their hand. Understandably, Margaret becomes overly cautious around males. Will she be an old maid? Read Charms for the Easy Life and find out.

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More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley

March 26, 2014

More Than a StrangerWhen Lady Evelyn Moore (aka Evie) is 11, her adored older brother, Richard, goes off to Eton and starts talking about his new pal Hastings. Evie does not want any competition for her brother’s affections, so she writes the upstart to tell him as much:

Dear Mr. Hastings,
I am sorry to tell you that my brother already has a best friend. I don’t care that you can shoot and ride well. Besides, I promise that you cannot ride better than me. Kindly leave Richard alone.

Hastings, far from being annoyed by her missive, finds it an entertaining and diverting way to pass some of his time at Eton, and writes her back. Funny and clever, his response demands a reply from Evie, and she obliges with her own sarcasm and wit. It’s no surprise that the letters continue and a deep friendship develops, despite the fact that neither has seen the other in person. That event is set for Evie’s 16th birthday, but before they meet Hastings cuts off the correspondence abruptly and breaks Evie’s heart. He has a good reason, but she doesn’t know that.

Fast forward a few years, and Hastings is in trouble. He turns to his old Eton friend, Richard, for shelter, and runs right into Evie. Since she’s never met him in person, he makes up a name for himself to avoid the confrontation he most definitely deserves. Naturally, the attraction between them is instantaneous and his one lie becomes another until the pile of falsehood he’s built is waiting to fall down around his ears. Evie cannot figure out why someone she’s only just met is so very familiar to her… and there’s something suspicious about him, in any case.

Well written, with believable characters and entertaining dialogue, this is the first in a series, and written by our own North Carolina author, Erin Knightley, who is participating in our series of Meet the Romance Author events. She will be at the Cameron Village Library on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. and the Southeast Regional Library on Saturday, March 29, at 2:30 p.m. Please see our website for more details.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Love List by Deb Marlowe

March 12, 2014

Deb Marlowe’s newest book is a regency romance with more than a hint of suspense. It is set in London in 1814, where beautiful young Brynne Wilmott is engaged to the wealthy and powerful Lord Marstoke. Brynne realizes that her new fiancé is a scheming brute when he attempts to assault her in a quiet room at a ball shortly after their engagement. The assault is interrupted when the handsome Duke of Aldmere enters the room, searching for Lord Marstoke to speak to him about a serious family matter. Thankful for the reprieve, Brynne runs home to her father, only to realize that he still expects her to marry Marstoke in order to further his own political ambitions. Feeling totally abandoned, she flees to the well-known Hestia Wright for shelter.

Wright is a former courtesan and royal mistress, and her home, Half Moon House, is a shelter for any woman in trouble. What Brynne does not know is that Wright is also one of Lord Marstoke’s oldest enemies. Enraged, Marstoke plans to exact his revenge by publishing a Love List, similar to the actual Harris List of Covent Garden Ladies that was published 1757-1795, which was a directory of London’s ‘ladies of the night.’ Marstoke’s Love List will include Brynne and Wright, and involve the Duke of Aldmere’s family as well. Brynne and Aldmere must work together to stop Marstoke before it’s too late, while managing the growing attraction they feel for each other.

The Love List is the first in the new Half Moon House series by Deb Marlowe. You can meet Marlowe and hear more about this new series and her other historical romances in our Meet the Local Romance Authors program at North Regional Library on Saturday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m., or Eva Perry Regional Library on Sunday, March 23, at 2:30 p.m. Marlowe will be joining other local romance authors to discuss different types of romance novels and their creative processes. Please visit our website for more details.

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The Returned by Jason Mott

February 17, 2014

Imagine if that person you loved so dearly who died years ago suddenly showed up on your doorstep, looking just exactly as they did when they were alive and well. Imagine if that started happening all over the world, day after day.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave were an elderly couple living in the small town of Arcadia, North Carolina. Since their only child, Jacob, had drowned on his eighth birthday decades ago, Harold and Lucille’s relationship had become a sharp pebble in a shoe: it was painful, but they just kept walking. Harold constantly battled his desire for cigarettes while he complained about everything, especially anything important to Lucille. She kept her world together by improving her vocabulary—much to Harold’s derision—and maintaining a prim exterior. She clung to a type of small-town religion, fiercely championing her own opinions by prefacing them with “the Bible says….” When Agent Martin Bellamy knocks on the door with little Jacob beside him, this fossilized couple is thrust back into the role of being the parents of a young boy.

It’s happening everywhere. A Japanese man runs into a convenience store, screaming “I surrender!” No one knows what he’s surrendering for. A famous French artist comes back to life, but has no interest in enjoying his posthumous fame, only in worshipping the woman he loved, who is now well past caring. Others wait for their beloved dead, but they never appear. There are so many of the Returned. Are they really human? Where can we house them all? Should they be allowed to mix with the True Living?

In the Author’s Note, debut North Carolina author Jason Mott reveals that part of his reason for writing The Returned was to allow himself another chance to live through his own mother’s death, to try to love her more worthily this time. He walks through his own novel as one of the characters, and the reader can watch his heartfelt desire for closure. Both a fascinating study of human nature and a deeply personal journey, The Returned uses fantastical catastrophes to reveal the sometimes surprising depths of the human soul. This review appeared previously at

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