Monday, October 28, 2013

After Her

After Her by Joyce Maynard

Imagination.  Oh, the places you'll see, the people you'll meet;  just use your imagination.

Sisters Patty and Rachel Torricelli live in a sleepy housing development in Northern California not far from San Francisco.  From their window they can see Mount Tamalpais.  Who needs an expensive playground in your yard when acres an acres of mountain trails and untouched treasures are waitung to be explored?  Patty loves basketball, dogs and  her older sister.  Rachel, the protector, can turn any mundane summer day into a memorable one with her ability to make-believe, tell tall tales, and create fantasies about the neighbors.  She also claims to have  the gift of knowing what is in the minds of those around her.

Two girls virtually on their own.  Parents who love them but not each other.  Father Tony is an incredibly handsome, charasmatic homicide detective.  Mother Lillian spends most nights alone reading in her room, no longer able to  live with her husband's infidelities.  A fractured family learning to cope, until murders begin to take place in the mountain area.  Hideous, horrific crimes of a serial killer (known as the Sunset Strangler)  leave the police baffled, most of all Detective Tony Torricelli.  He is thrown into the spotlight as the lead investigator, and as the months go by with no arrests, people begin to lose faith in him; he loses faith in himself.  Rachel and Patty must now take it upon themselves to trap the killer and save their father's reputation.

The story covers a span of over thirty years.  During that span of time, many other characters emerge that become a vital part of the novel.  Yes, the descriptive details of the murders are disturbing.  But the author also attempts to convey to the reader the undying love and loyalty between sisters, Rachel's relentless, dangerous journey to  vindicate her father, and a most astounding  family secret that is finally revealed.  Needless to say, a dramatic conclusion. 

Loosely based on a true story from the 1970s, this narrative is a suspenseful thriller.  It is also poignant and heartwarming as the bond of sisterhood is explored.  Two young girls with .....


Friday, October 25, 2013

The Prayer Box

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

The written word.  So powerful.  Letters, diaries, and journals that reveal our private innermost thoughts not meant to be read by strangers.  But when  a young woman, struggling with demons of her own, discovers the insightful words of an old woman, she cannot resist the temptation......and so the story begins.

Tandi Jo Reese, her teenage daughter Zoey, and son J.T. are back on North Carolina's Hatteras Island living  in a rented bungalow.  Fond memories with Meemaw and Pap-Pap linger, but unfortunately, so do those days with her abusive, troubled parents and sister.  Desperate to escape her sordid past and  nearly destitute, she barters with the local church to clean out the massive, crumbling Victorian house next door in exchange for free housing.  While tackling the grueling task ahead, Tandi is inexplicably drawn to a room upstairs where she finds the body of ninety-one-year old Iola Anne Poole.  She also discovers the first of eighty-one prayer boxes that Iola filled every year with heartfelt words; her fears, secrets, disappointments, loves, hopes, dreams and so much more.  In the days and weeks that follow, Tandi learns by bits and pieces that Iola was a recluse, and many of the locals fostered a distaste for her. Why?  Little by little, as Iola's life enfolds before Tandi's eyes, the realization that this deceased woman's words of wisdom will begin to shape lives proves to be beyond anyone's wildest imagination.  Most of all, Tandi's.

With the turn of each page, Tandi realizes that the truth of this unselfish woman's life needs to be revealed.  Can a stranger's words heal Tandi's strained relationship with her own children, help her discover her own self-worth, and make redemption a reality?  Tandi begins to understand that perhaps a greater force is taking her life in a new direction-maybe there is a hidden reason why she feels an affinity to someone she never knew.  

This is a soothing, inspirational novel; one that lifts the spirits.  Hopefully, we learn lessons as we pass through the seasons of our lives, and good still prevails in this world.

For some of you....that's the power of prayer.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly

"Once you postpone doing what's right, you become a big part of what's wrong."

Words that play over and over like a record stuck  on an old phonograph in the mind of Jimmy "Riddle" Camperdown.  That's the problem with hindsight; you just can't go back to right a wrong.

Twelve-year-old Riddle is the only child  and daughter of Godfrey "Camp" Camperdown and his stunning, former Hollywood actress wife, Greer.  Most people coil in retreat when her caustic, biting, witty remarks leave them speechless.  They live in a spacious Cape Cod home high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  It is 1972 and Riddle is looking forward to a carefree, lazy summer  riding her horses and avoiding the constant petty arguments between her parents.  Camp is running for political office, launching a rigorous campaign for a seat in the state House of Representatives.  With a larger-than-life personality, Camp relishes his role as a candidate, hosting fundraisers, recruiting campaign workers, and espewing his views on the latest Vietnam atrocities.  Constituents know he served in WWII.  What they don't know are the secrets he hoped to leave behind there. 

Another powerful family lives not far away.  The Devlins.  Dashing, handsome  Michael arrives with his two sons, Charlie and Harry.  Michael and Camp were once the best of friends, having served together as snipers in the War.  Seems they also shared Greer.  This charming, debonair former lover left her standing at the altar before she married Camp.  Now Michael threatens to expose a volatile secret that could destroy Camp's life and a coveted career in politics. 

It is on one of those endless summer days that Riddle's life changes forever.  She accidentally overhears a violent scuffle in a neighbor's barn.  Frightened, in a panic, she flees, knowing in her heart that she has witnessed violence, perhaps murder.  Yet she chooses not to tell her parents. Then a missing person is reported, and Riddle must live with the consequences of her actions.  Her life and the lives of all those around her spins out of control.

Author Kelly certainly has a way with words.  In fact, at times, too verbose.  However, she has the ability  to transform the reader to a different place and time.  You can almost feel the salty spray of the ocean, hear the churning waves of the sea, and feel the icy, whipping winds that Riddle experiences as she stands on the cliff seeking solitude from her unconventional life.  Feel the fear and trepidation as the author describes the murder scene.  There is an eerie, sinister secret lurking behind the Camperdowns and the Devlins which Kelly reveals at the end.  But she keeps you guessing until then.

And with a title like this, aren't you just a liitle curious?  Take a chance on this one...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Last Original Wife

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Enticed by the title?   Yes, this novel is exactly what you think......

Leslie Anne Greene Carter's circle of friends is dwindling;  well, it has actually disappeared.  She finds herself without the comfort of cherished female relationships that molded her life as a wife and mother for so many years.  Her friend Tessa died of cancer.  Tessa's  husband Paolo easily replaced her with young, gorgeous she was waiting in the wings all along?   Then there is Harold who unceremoniously dumped Danette for sumptous, young (see the pattern?) Cornelia.  Leslie must face the realization that her children are spoiled, irresponsible adults while her husband, Wesley, who expects starched shirts and a spotless home, continues to rob her of dreams she once envisioned.  He is unwilling to show appreciation or love.  Maybe he just doesn't know how.  Maybe she is to blame.

Now Les finds solace and a therapeutic refuge at her brother Harlan's home in Charleston, S.C.

This historical, enchanting city is  just what Leslie needs to ponder a life-changing decision.   Oh how she has missed Harlan; pompous, gay, flamboyant, endearing to all who know him, and with a heart of gold.  She also reconnects with first love Jonathan.  Together they soak up all that Charleston has to offer, and gradually Les begins to understand the path she must choose at this stage of her life to achieve happiness.

This is a simple story of lives gone astray peppered with humor.  You will laugh out loud at the antics and escapades of the Barbie Wives On Parade.  Sugar-coated?  Perhaps.  However, one might consider rather than looking for the fountain of youth, try aging gracefully and embracing rhe benefits of the golden years.  Creating independence and self-confidence in our children?   The greatest gift of all.

As for Wesley, Harold, and Paolo....

Watch what you wish for, it may just come true.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bitter River

Bitter River by Julia Keller

Welcome to Acker's Gap, West Virginia.  "Old cars.  Old brick.  Old people."  A dated, forlorn town; you can almost hear its bones cracking, the gasps for air as it struggles to stay alive. High unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness. For many who live here, simply....home.

Bell Elkins has returned to Acker's Gap after five years in Washington D.C.  Now the prosecuting attorney of Raythune County where she grew up, she misses her daughter, Carla, who lives miles away  with ex-husband Sam.  Mundane cases fill her days while Clayton Meckling fills her nights. The fact that Clay is fifteen years younger than her makes for juicy gossip at the local diner.

Now Bell is faced with one of the toughest cases of her career.  Pregnant, sixteen-year-old Lucinda Trimble's body is found in a car submerged in the murky waters of Bitter River.  Good friend and sometimes adversary, sheriff  Nick Fogelsong, confirms that this was not an accident.  It was murder.  And so, so many suspects to consider....

Lucinda's mother, Maddie Trimble, eccentric, hoarder of junk, Nick's former lover....
Shawn Doggett, Lucinda's high school boyfriend, timid, shy, and loyal....
Wendy Doggett, Shawn's mother, victim of domestic abuse, a woman who bitterly regrets her stagnant life in this God-forsaken place,  brimming with hate for the girl who ruined her son's life....
Matt Harless, former colleague and friend from D.C. who wants a place to unwind and  remain invisible from his mysterious past....

As the plot progresses, the author weaves suspense with an engrossing tale of the love people hold in their hearts for family and friends. There are untimely deaths of beloved residents,  rumors of an unlikely terrorist plot, a young man facing life with a debilitating injury, and the hope the townspeople share that a good life can be found even in a place riddled with anguish and despair.

Keller's first novel, A Killing in the Hills, introduces you to the character of Bella Elkins. She is the product of a dysfunctional family, a strong, determined, independent woman continuing her quest to make a difference in the heart of Appalachia.

Unravel a mystery as you enjoy your visit to a place they call Acker's Gap.


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

In 1973 lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman and composer Marvin Hamlisch wrote a haunting melody.......

Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were

Ninety-one year old Ira Levinson is trapped inside his car on a snowy, remote country road having crashed his car hours earlier, hanging precariously over a steep embankment.  As day turns into night,  he realizes there is little hope he will be rescued-his weary body can't sustain life much longer.  Then his beloved Ruth appears urging him to find the will to live.  But how can that be?  She died nine years ago.  Yet there she is, and as Ira slips away, the memories of their life together, the joy and the pain, flood his mind.  Her love of art and teaching,  the dark, ominous days of World War II, and the tender love letters commemorating wedding anniversaries.  It all seems so real.

Sophia Danko hopes a night out with friends at the rodeo will help her forget former boyfriend Brian's infidelity.  Here she meets a cowboy named Luke Collins and is introduced to his life as a bull rider.  They make a most unlikely couple-she an art major hoping to start a promising career in a prestigious museum, he a rancher, struggling financially with his widowed mother, risking his life in a dangerous profession.  But the attraction is there and love grows.  Their lives become complicated and Luke must decide if it is time to reveal a secret.

Two couples worlds apart; years apart with little in common.  But fate will intervene and bring this love story of four strangers to a dramatic conclusion.

Once again, Nicholas Sparks writes a poignant, heart-wrenching novel which his readers have come to expect.  The author touches upon many themes-unfulfilled dreams and disappointments that shape our  lives. Aging-the reality that  not one of us will escape.  This harsh truth will envelope you with emotion.  Ira and Ruth's journey as lovers and friends is truly a gift to celebrate. Without trust, honesty, and friendship a relationship cannot survive.  And of course the circle of life is inevitable.

After all is said and done, the lucky ones have...

Precious memories...