Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?

 

Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Clare B’s Picks

December 22, 2014

I read both fiction and non-fiction.  I prefer books that have rich characters, who feel like people I know by the time I finish the book.  Here are the best books I read in 2014.

Ten Things I've Learnt About LoveTen Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler
Alice is a wanderer, unable to decide on a career.  She has a strained relationship with her family, but has returned to England to be with her father during his final days.  Daniel is a middle aged homeless man on the streets of London, who uses found items to make small, transient art pieces.  He is also searching for the daughter he has never met.  The chapters in this amazing debut novel, alternate between Alice’s and Daniel’s voice, as events lead them inexorably towards each other.

The Death of SantiniThe Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy returns to his troubled relationship with his father in this excellent biography, where he also explores the dynamics between he and his siblings, particularly his sister Carol.  In the prologue, Conroy says that he has been “writing the story of my own life for over forty years…but I must examine the wreckage one last time”.  He does, using soaring language, and descriptions that are both tragic and hilarious.  The picture Conroy paints is not always pretty, and at times he is especially brutal in describing his own actions.  However, Pat Conroy is the ultimate storyteller, and that amazing talent shines in this retelling of his life.

March, Book OneMarch, Book One by John Lewis
I am not generally a fan of graphic novels.  However, this is perhaps the most powerful book I have read this year, and I think the format is an excellent way to describe the Civil Rights struggles.  Congressman Lewis recounts his early meeting with Martin Luther King, which led to his commitment to the non-violence movement.  Illustrator Nate Powell’s images help bring to life the incredible bravery and determination of the young men and women who risked their lives to right the horrible wrong of segregation.

The Other TypistThe Other Typist  by Suzanne Rindell
New York City in the 1920s:  women’s roles are changing, Prohibition is in full swing, and crime is hidden right in front of you.  Odalie Lazare is the new member of the typing pool at a police precinct.  Beautiful, mysterious, sometimes charming, sometimes cold, she fascinates the staid, reliable typist, Rose Baker.  Odalie pulls Rose into her world of intrigue with the promise of friendship and excitement.  Told in Rose’s voice, this satisfying tale will leave you asking, “what just happened?”

Guests on EarthGuests on Earth by Lee Smith
Evalina Toussaint, an orphan, arrives at Asheville, NC’s famed Highland Hospital, in 1936. Her mother has died, her father is unknown. she is alone, abandoned and has virtually shut down.  Dr. Carroll, the hospital administrator, and his wife, a concert pianist, take Evalina under their wings.  Part patient, part ward of the Carrolls, Evalina lives at Highland on and off over the next several decades, as she struggles to find a life for herself.  Smith has not only written a well-crafted novel, but she has also explored the changing attitudes about mental illness, and its treatment, using the factual story of Highland Hospital and the tragic fire that killed its most famous patient, Zelda Fitzgerald.  Zelda has a cameo role in the novel, providing a fleeting, but enduring influence on Evalina.

Best New Books of 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 11, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my picks for best books of 2014:

Chestnut StreetChestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
The final work by the late Maeve Binchy, Chestnut Street is not strictly a novel, but short  stories about a variety of characters who all have a connection to Chestnut Street in Dublin. Binchy’s trademark gentle storytelling and likeable characters combine for an enjoyable read.

 

My Accidental JihadMy Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
Soon after Krista Bremer moved from California to Chapel Hill, she met Ismail, an older man from Syria. Though from very different cultures, they became a couple, eventually marrying. This is the story of their marriage. She is spiritual, he is a devout Muslim. The differences between them are mainly cultural and she describes them with humor and sometimes frustration. The growth of their relationship and the compromises they make, and the growth of Krista as a person make for very good reading.

ByrdByrd by Kim Church
This is the tenderest of books with an unforgettable main character. Addie’s botched abortion means that the baby survived and he is placed for adoption. She names him Byrd and from the time of his birth until she is in her forties, Addie writes letters to Byrd that tell him how much she loves him. Meanwhile, Addie forms a life of meaning, despite her longing for Byrd. Familiar locations in Raleigh added to my enjoyment of the book.

Getting LifeGetting Life : An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton
Michael Morton was convicted in Texas on flimsy evidence for the murder of his wife. Twenty-five years later he was exonerated by DNA evidence and the efforts of the Innocence Project. Two things stood out for me in this book; he was seen as innocent by all his fellow prisoners and he wrote the book himself. Morton occupied his time wisely in prison, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature. A spellbinding account of how the justice system can fail.

All I Have in this WorldAll I Have in This World by Michael Parker
Marcus and Maria who both have messy histories and who have now ended up in a town in Texas, meet over the hood of a much-used Buick Electra, which has its own history. They buy the car together and it succeeds in helping each of them toward their individual destinies.

 

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo.

May 30, 2014

pickingbookcover.phpA 22 years old college woman was raped at a knife point in the middle of a summer night on her own bed. She managed to study her attacker’s facial features and everything about him during the rape. She thought that would help her to correctly identify this assailant.

Jennifer picked Ronald Cotton among other men in a line-up because of Ronald’s seemingly close resemblance to her assailant.  Ronald Cotton was arrested, but he was sure he would beat this accusation, because he hadn’t raped Jennifer, and he was sure he could prove it, unfortunately, his alibi was not enough to free him. Ronald Cotton was convicted of Jennifer’s rape and another woman who was raped the same night.

Ronald Cotton was given eleven years in prison despite the lack of a convincing evident. He was transferred to various prisons, but coincidentally ended up in the same prison with another inmate serving life for a similar crime. This inmate confessed the crime to another inmate who happened to like Ronald but the confession was thrown out.
Ronald Cotton was exonerated after eleven years behind bars based on a DNA test. The result of the DNA pointed to the inmate who had earlier confessed to the crime.

Jennifer did not get in touch with Ronald right after his release because of guilt and fear.  Ronald’s faith, family and his personality helped him to get over his hurt and forgave the woman who accidentally robbed him of 11 years of life. What happened when Jennifer and Ronald finally reunited was the result of forgiveness and redemption..

Find and reserve this book in the library.

Greatest Hits: Flora by Gail Godwin

January 3, 2014

Flora by Gail Godwin

We’re kicking off the new year with The Book-A-Day Blog’s most popular posts of 2013!

It’s 1945 and ten year old Helen Anstruther lives in a dilapidated old house at the top of a rutted driveway in Mountain City, North Carolina. Her mother died when she was three and she’s just lost her beloved grandmother, Nonie, to a heart attack. Her father needs to find someone to stay with Helen while he goes to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to contribute to an important, but mysterious project related to the war. Twenty two year old cousin Flora is recruited to spend the summer looking after Helen.

Helen is a precocious child trying very hard to appear more grown up than her actual years and her behavior elicits mixed emotions. I spent part of the book feeling true sympathy for her and the rest wanting to shake her until her teeth rattled. Her loneliness and confusion engender empathy, while her treatment of Flora is infuriating.

In Flora, Gail Godwin creates what I sometimes think is the trickiest character of all—a genuinely good person. Flora is what another character calls “simple-hearted”. This is not similar to being simple-minded. Flora is likeable without being unbelievable and moral without being preachy. She isn’t perfect. She has her insecurities, like everyone else, but she manages to deal with them without resorting to cynicism, or meanness, or liquor. She was chosen by Helen’s father more out of convenience than anything else, but he couldn’t have found a better companion for Helen if he had tried.

The developing relationship between Helen and Flora is the heart of the story. Where will that relationship lead? The first line of the novel, which is narrated by Helen, contains hints, “There are things we can’t undo, but perhaps there is a kind of constructive remorse that could transform regrettable acts into something of service to life.”

This is a story of innocence and its loss, actions and their consequences, memory and forgetting. The themes of this short novel are played out not only in the relationship between Helen and Flora, but in the backdrop of an America doing what is deemed necessary to win a war. The writing is gorgeous and reminded me of one of my favorite short story writers, Alice Munro. Add this to the list of fabulous books published this year by North Carolina writers.

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

 

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Sharon S’s Picks

December 23, 2013

One of the reasons why I like to read is for inspiration and instruction on how to live a better life. Here are the “new to me” books that inspired me most this year.

Healing Through Exercise by Jorg Blech
We all know that exercise can help prevent illness, but Jorg Blech provides well-documented evidence that exercise also promotes healing from existing illness. That means it is never too late to start. Even moderate exercise can have profound effects. The body atrophies more and more the longer we sit or lie in bed, so Blech urges us to get moving in whatever way we can to improve our health and extend our range of motion. Read my full review.

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
First-time novelist Mayhew has crafted a wonderful tale of growing up in the South in the 1950s. The story is told by 14-year-old Jubie, whose unjaded point of view enables her to understand many things the grown-ups around her fail to notice. In the face of tragedy, Jubie finds the courage to act on what she knows to be true, even though it goes against the grain of her society. Read my full review.

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard
Is America still a place where you can make a life for yourself with very little besides hard work and gumption? Shepard decided to find out by starting a new life as a homeless man in an unfamiliar city. What he was able to achieve and how is a fascinating and thought-provoking tale. Read my full review.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho’s characters are afraid of happiness; after all, it might be better to keep on dreaming than to realize your dreams and be disappointed in them. This story of a young shepherd who dared to pursue his dream in the face of many obstacles has inspired countless readers. It is a good place to start if you want to read the works of this internationally acclaimed author.

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett
Jake Barnett is a 14-year-old genius who is working on a new theory of relativity which is expected to put him in line for the Nobel Prize. However, this biography is his mother’s story of how she brought out the best in a child who was diagnosed as profoundly autistic and unable to learn. It is a story of courage and creativity which is my favorite true story of the year. Read my full review.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

Best New Books of 2013: Janet L’s Picks

December 9, 2013

I like books that feature characters, whether fictional or real-life, to whom I can relate.  This year I was drawn into the world of a motherless girl in the NC mountains, an alien sent to Earth from another planet, a fellow librarian, service personnel redeployed home, and the commander of the British sector of post WWII Berlin.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel
In The Good Soldiers, David Finkel wrote about the lives of the soldiers of the US-216 Infantry Battalion during their deployment in Iraq.  Thank You for Your Service is the eye opening account of what life is like for these same soldiers as they return home.   This is a searing, heartbreaking and sometimes infuriating book, written with compassion and a great eye for the telling detail.

Flora by Gail Godwin
Ten year old Helen Anstruther lives in a dilapidated old house at the top of a rutted driveway in Mountain City, North Carolina. It’s 1945 and her father needs someone to stay with his motherless daughter while he goes to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to contribute to a mysterious project related to World War II.  Twenty two year old cousin Flora is recruited.  The developing relationship between Helen and Flora is the heart of the story and has unexpected and devastating consequences.  Read my full-length post here.

The Humans by Matt Haig
The family of mathematician Andrew Martin is surprised but pleased by the sudden, favorable change in his behavior.  Little do they suspect it’s because he’s been replaced by an alien sent to prevent him from discovering a mathematical truth that could give humans unprecedented power. Instead the alien finds himself warming to and falling in love with the very beings he’s been sent to destroy.  This novel deftly combines math, poetry, and family dysfunction into an often hilarious and touching exploration of what it means to be human.

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook
Colonel Lewis Morgan is in charge of the British operations in the divided city of Berlin, immediately following the end of World War II.  His wife resents the assignment; they lost a child in the bombing of England by German planes.  Morgan struggles to treat the defeated Germans in a manner he considers decent while fulfilling his mission of rebuilding the war torn city and identifying former Nazis.

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Josh Hanagarne has a well developed sense of humor, forged in the crucible of a loving family fond of practical jokes — and he needs it. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at a young age, he faces extra challenges in life. His condition affects his school life, his love life, and his stint as a missionary for his church.  He must persevere to find love, finish his education, and establish a career.  Along the way he develops coping mechanisms, including controlling his tics through physical exercise.  This is a very funny, beautifully written book with a lot to say about perseverance, family, marriage, faith and yes, weight training. Read my full-length post here.

Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White

September 25, 2013

Tilly is an English widow gardener living in Chapel Hill.

Her gardens are masterpieces but not the overly planned, symmetrical, stuffy English gardens. Oh, and she hates bugs—so maybe she is a bit stuffy.

James is the son of a farmer who hates dirt, and questionable ice cream cones, and is adept at hopping from dandelion to dandelion avoiding the cancerous earth.

Wait, what?!

No, this is not the book of a madwoman.

This is a beautifully written novel by local author Barbara Claypole White.

You see, both James and Tilly are relying on their intuition. Tilly uses hers to create beautiful gardens, solace from the pain and guilt of losing her husband Robert (and father to her young son Issac) way too soon. James, on the other hand, uses his intuition to imprison himself in a world of superstition and compulsion.

James needs Tilly to create a garden for him but Tilly insists that she is a nursery wholesaler, not a landscape designer. Plus, this guy is going to be a lot of trouble and a lot of work. She refuses and refuses, only to escape to England for a family emergency.

James and Tilly are damaged people who need each other to make sense of reality.

Unfinished Garden is a poetic page turner. Not only is the language lush, but the cast of supporting characters are colorful, giving the reader a break from the intensity of Tilly and James as well as giving Tilly and James a break from themselves.

Barbara Claypole White along with several other local authors will be at South East Regional Library on September 27th, please visit our website for more details.

 Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

 

The Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron

September 24, 2013

“Deborah Knott, attorney and daughter of a local legend, is a cog in the justice system that’s made up of “The good ol’ boys.” Frustrated at the injustices that she sees, she decides to do something about it and runs for District Court Judge. Hopefully the fact that she’s a hometown girl and an original “North Carolinian” will help the voters overlook the fact that her daddy was once one of the biggest bootleggers in the state, and sad to say, the fact that yes, she is a woman trying to break into a boys club.

Margaret Maron has crafted a tale of life in the South with its “white lightning” and pig pickings and sweet tea. She has created a cast of characters that are so believable and likable and with every word, you feel like you really know these people and this town. If you’re a local, you see these very same people in your neighborhoods, or when she writes about the local places to hang out, it’s like a secret that you share with the author. You can’t help but think “I know that place” and feel a little closer to the book.

Bootlegger’s Daughter isn’t just a beautifully written story of the South and her rich traditions, it’s also a mystery. Deborah has been asked to investigate an 18 year old murder by the daughter of the victim. Being one of their own, people are more willing to open up, but soon Deborah finds that the town she knew so well and the people that she grew up with may have some very deep secrets of their own.

Unintentionally a detective, Deborah will do all she can to solve this mystery, even though it seems that her line of inquiry has caused the murderer to reemerge. Deborah will have to face danger and the murder of a close friend) in the hopes of finding out who the killer is, but the South is great at keeping her secrets.

This is an entertaining read, well written, and it’ll keep the reader guessing. It’s not your typical whodunit, with its rich story and flavor North Carolina, it’s even better.”

Margaret Maron along with several other local authors will be at Cameron Village Regional Library and South East Regional Library this week, visit our website for more details.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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