Posts Tagged ‘Southern Gothic’

Best New Books of 2014: Amy W’s Picks

December 1, 2014

I enjoy a well-balanced diet…of books. Here we have something for EVERYONE from light and fun page-turners to thought-provoking non-fiction. Don’t let 2014 end without checking out any (or all) of these awesome books!

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden death of their junkie mother. The girls are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska, total strangers, living in a strange land. Their estranged father, a washed up amateur league baseball player, appears suddenly and confuses the already precarious situation. In the backdrop of the novel and adding to the tension, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone. This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.  See my full review.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Roz Chast, a longtime New Yorker cartoonist, documents the slow decline of her aging parents. Not only does this impact her life at the time, but spending time with them at their most vulnerable brings up old anxieties. No surprise, Chast tackles this subject with great humor and candor. I found this book to be comforting and thought provoking. The graphic memoir format really lends itself to exploring a topic I would ordinarily shy away from reading.

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Remember back in the 80’s when you would talk on the phone for an eternity until your ear actually hurt? I do. I loved talking on the phone, not so much cell phones— and texting has its moments if you can get past all the auto-correct errors. Nothing will ever surpass the old school telephone when it comes to connecting with another person. Georgie McCool is in crisis mode. She is a writer for a sitcom that just may get a pilot. Her marriage, family, mental health and personal hygiene suffer from the effort. She needs to reconnect. Her old yellow phone becomes her lifeline to the past and the present. Told with great humor and tenderness, Landline is a delight!

All Joy and No FunAll Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Why, why, why is parenting so hard today? This thought has crossed my mind a lot, well, more accurately, this thought lives in my mind and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Parenting seemed easy for my mom (it also did not hurt that I was a perfect child, am I right?). This is really the only parenting book I have ever read and boy, do I love it! It is not a book about how to parent , but a look at what parenting is about these days from a sociological and psychological perspective. So, I was right — it is hard–but now I spend a lot less time focusing on the no fun aspects of parenting. See my full review.

Thousand Dollar Tan LineThe Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
I loved the Veronica Mars television series! This book takes place a few years after the series ends when Veronica gets really close to joining the FBI but decides to live and work in her small, California beach-side hometown, Neptune. Written by the series creator, writer and producer, Rob Thomas, stylistically the book is true to the spirit of the show and the 2014 movie. I know you are thinking, “that sounds kind of low-brow for you, a well-read librarian”. Well, it’s not. This book is not great literature, but it is perfectly entertaining and it was great to be reunited with old friends (this is the part where you remember the catchy theme song…A long time ago, we used to be friends….).

Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace

November 7, 2014

There is precious little that can be said about this book without spoiling some or all of it. But if Vertigo taught us anything it’s that sometimes, even if you know where you’re going to end up, you still want to know how you get there. Here we go.

Henry Walker, an African-American magician (who may or may not be African-American) now fallen on hard times, is haunted by the Faustian deal (if that’s really what it was) he made as a 10 year-old boy with a mysterious man man who introduced himself as Mr. Sebastian (who may or may not have been the devil incarnate). This is a story about magic–stage magic, tricks with cards and doves and fire–so nothing is as it seems. Not even the magic.

In true Daniel Wallace fashion, the story is not so much told as it is shaped out of things done and left undone. The truth of Henry Walker’s life probably (possibly) lies somewhere between the different versions of the story of his life–stories he told and which are now retold. Rudy the Strong Man’s story parallels and overlaps with JJ the Barker’s story and Jenny the Ossified Girl’s story, which shape out some of Henry’s past, and a late-arriving private detective with a story of his own succeeds in clearing away the last of the fog and mirrors. But it may be too little too late, as Henry himself has disappeared (so think, then, of the tales told at a funeral).

It’s a Southern gothic fairy-tale, told in many voices, complete with a traveling circus, magic (which may or may not be real magic), and a deal with the devil (maybe). But this is no magic trick itself. There is no illusion at its end.  Rather, we learn how the trick was done, which breaks the spell.

Then there is only a stripping away, a sad decay that reveals plainness and ordinariness under peeling paint.

The illusion is that there was an illusion at all.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Daniel Wallace will be visiting the West Regional Library on Thursday, November 13 @ 7 p.m.  Click here to register.

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

May 19, 2014

darkroadbookcover.phpThis Dark Road to Mercy is the much anticipated sophomore effort of North Carolina author and all around nice guy Wiley Cash. As with his debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, Mr Cash does not disappoint. I always appreciate his even handed treatment of Southern culture since we are more than Hee Haw and grits. Cash has a knack for the Southern Gothic small-town setting. This Dark Road to Mercy takes place at the end of summer and you can really feel it– the humidity easing a tiny bit in anticipation for the first hint of a crisp fall morning. Also adding to the anticipation, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone, adults and children.

Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden, but not surprising, death of their junkie mother. The girls, raised in poverty by their single mother, are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska who are total strangers, living in a strange land.   Their estranged father and washed up amateur league baseball player, Wade, appears suddenly. Easter is not happy to see Wade, who legally gave up his right to be their parent. She has found him to be a reliable disappointment. Her kid sister, Ruby, is intrigued by smooth-talking Wade despite Easter’s insistence that he is nothing but trouble. Wade admits he made some bad decisions in his personal life as well as his professional life. Wade wants to be their dad no matter what the law says.

Brady Weller is the court-appointed guardian for the girls tasked with watching over Easter and Ruby until they are in a permanent home. Even though he seems to radiate responsibility, Brady (like Wade), has made bad decisions costing him his law enforcement career and family. Brady uncovers information about Wade that makes him more of a danger to the girls than just a harmless nuisance.

Similar to his debut novel, This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog. 

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

March 28, 2013

A beautiful first novel by a writer born in North Carolina, Wiley Cash. It is a story of three generations of the Hall family, who live in western North Carolina, and the people who intersect their lives: Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife, Sheriff Clem Barefield, and the one person who plays a defining role in all their lives, Carson Chambliss, the preacher.  A preacher who speaks in tongues, who tests God will to rid people of evil by having them confront poisonous snakes and who papers over the windows of his church so no one not attending his service can be aware of what transpires inside.

The book is mostly the story of Jess Hall, the son of Bill and Julie Hall and grandson of Jim Hall, but it is the Reverend who sets the story in motion. Jess is very protective of his older brother, Christopher who is a mute and nicknamed ‘Stump ‘. And it is what happens to Stump that will either bring the community of Marshall closer together or forever divide it.

The book is divided into sections, each highlighting one of the main players while still bringing the story forward. It is a fascinating look at a part of our culture that is often ignored in today’s fast paced electronic existence. It is wonderfully written book that makes it easy to predict the author’s continued success.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Read a previous post about this book.


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