Author Archives: Jency Williams

Sallie Bissell. Deadliest of Sins. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2014.

Deadliest of SinsA simple runaway or a more sinister case of kidnapping? Sixteen year-old Samantha Buchanan was last seen driving home late one night from a babysitting job. Her stepfather Gudger’s car was found on the side of Highway 74 with the keys in the ignition and Samantha’s wallet and purse inside the car. But there was no trace of Samantha and no sign of a struggle that would indicate her disappearance as foul play. Campbell County cops are sure that Samantha must have run off with her boyfriend. Gudger, ex-military and a former cop, close with his fellow officers, has supported this conclusion. Samantha’s younger brother Chase is driven by his intuition that Samantha didn’t intentionally flee from their rural town, bordering Charlotte and Gastonia. He’s convinced that Sam was targeted and taken, and he has an awful feeling that Grudger was somehow involved.

Meanwhile, at the whim of North Carolina governor Ann Chandler, special prosecutor Mary Crow finds herself temporarily and involuntarily reassigned to Campbell County. The governor wants Mary to investigate the recent murder of Brandon Taylor, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and his body dumped in the county. One year earlier, another gay man was found murdered in a nearby county. Governor Chandler believes that the infamous Reverend Trull might have some connection to the attacks – or at least, she would like to believe so. A video of one of Reverend Trull’s homophobic sermons, proclaiming that gays and lesbians should be separated and contained, has gone viral on YouTube. Ever since, the governor has struggled in negotiations to bring businesses to the state. She’s concerned about an upcoming meeting with Ecotron Corporation, a company that could offer 500 new jobs to Campbell County. With Reverend Trull in the headlines, Governor Chandler is worried that he will scare off their best chance to improve the county’s deplorable ten percent unemployment rate. She hopes to mitigate Reverend Trull’s extreme sermons and high-profile with the assurance that special prosecutor Mary Crow is examining traces of homophobic conspiracies down in Campbell County.

Mary isn’t interested in digging through the Taylor case – especially since she’s sure the local DAs will feel threatened by her presence, encroaching on their turf – and she is less certain than Governor Chandler that a case can be brought against Reverend Trull. Hateful though his words may be, his sermons are still protected speech. As the Governor’s special prosecutor though, she’s prepared to fulfill her obligations. Before Mary departs, she discovers Chase Buchanan sitting on her doorstep. He managed to hitch a ride on a peach truck from Campbell County to Asheville. After reading Mary’s name in the Campbell County Clarion, he is set on seeking out Mary. Chase implores Mary to track down his missing sister. He fills her in on all the details of Samantha’s disappearance. However, Mary again is skeptical; she appreciate Chase’s concern about his sister, but from her outside viewpoint, her instinct tells her that Sam escaped from a dead-end town and a lousy stepfather.

But Mary ought to tread with caution. There’s a nickname for Highway 74: la carretera del dolor, “the road of sorrows.” The area’s Latino population named it such because “it carries them far from home to a lot of hard work and pain.” There’s something darker than she expects linked to Highway 74 and Campbell County. She better keep her wits sharp, lest she fall prey to the disturbing truth herself.

Sallie Bissell writes another gripping thriller for her Mary Crow series. Deadliest of Sins is the sixth book in the series, and like the first five, it covers some hard territory. Read about Bissell’s other novels in past blog posts here. Mary Crow is a tough, level-headed protagonist with plenty of moxie, and the plot lines are reminiscent of cases you might see on Law & Order, and its spinoffs, Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. Readers who favor suspense and mystery are sure to get hooked on Mary Crow, but they might be haunted by the fictionalized events that seem all too real in Bissell’s unflinching reflection of the dark side of human nature and its rapacious hunger for flesh and profit.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bissell, Sallie, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Lights, Camera, Novel: Rene Gutteridge and John Ward’s Heart of the Country.

Heart of the Country labels itself as “A modern re-telling of The Prodigal story, in the form of Wall Street meets Sweet Home Alabama meets Nicholas Sparks.” Half of the references in that description speak to notions of down-home, good old-fashioned Southern families and romance. Sweet Home Alabama was a popular romantic comedy about a displaced Southerner who returns from New York City and her successful, sophisticated lifestyle, and winds up reconnecting with her roots. Nicholas Sparks, who has been blogged about on here in the past, is a notable North Carolina resident and something of an icon who has shaped popular romantic writing, and with it, the image of the state.

After Faith Carraday’s husband, Luke, is caught taking part in some shady business dealings, he is arrested. Faith abandons Luke and their life together in Manhattan and seeks solace with her father and sister in her hometown in Columbus County, North Carolina. Unfortunately, her reception is strained. Faith bolted from home when she was given the opportunity to attend Julliard. Since then she hasn’t remained close with her father, Calvin, and sister, Olivia. Olivia is jealous of sharing their father’s affections, and, Calvin has grown old and tired. As Faith tries to heal and sort out her life, Luke approaches his high society family and attempts to make amends.

The story was co-authored by novelist Rene Gutteridge and screenwriter/director/actor John Ward. As if taking a cue from Nicholas Sparks and his writing method in The Last Song, Heart of the Country was written in novel form and screenplay, fairly close together; Gutteridge indicates working with Ward’s material in her acknowledgement. Gutteridge took a larger role in the novel and Ward in the screenplay. Both the film and the novel were released in 2013. The film version was shot on location in Wilmington, North Carolina and New York City. Jana Kramer stars as Faith Carraday and Gerald McRaney, an actor primarily known for his work on TV shows, plays her father Calvin. Funnily enough, McRaney has an unlisted role in Nicholas Sparks’s upcoming adaptation, The Best of Me. Kramer played a supporting role in One Tree Hill – also set in North Carolina and filmed in Wilmington — in seasons 7 and 8 and the first two episodes in season 9. She left the show to pursue her country music career. During this film, Kramer gets a chance to flaunt her musical talents on screen with a few songs.

It’s not a surprising coincidence that One Tree Hill and Heart of the Country were filmed in Wilmington, however. Over the years, Wilmington has earned the nickname of “Hollywood of the East,” “Hollywood East,” and even “Wilmywood.” Our State attributes Wilmington’s major break in the film industry in the early 1980s to Dino DiLaurentiis’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, which starred a young Drew Barrymore. DiLaurentiis was interested in finding a plantation for filming, and after a location scout shared a photo of Orton Plantation, DiLaurentiis was smitten. So smitten, in fact, that he built a studio in Wilmington.

Since Firestarter, Wilmington has been the backdrop to films like Blue Velvet, Weekend at Bernie’s, Sleeping with the Enemy, a handful of Nicholas Sparks adaptations, The Secret Life of Bees, and more. Wilmington Regional Film Commission has lists for Feature Films, TV Shows, Music Videos, and Commercials shot in the area. The North Carolina Film Office likewise has a listing of films and TV shows shot in the state. Of these films and TV shows listed, it might be interesting to consider how many were really set in North Carolina, or crafted to look like another location? Heart of the Country sticks close to home. Although the story is set in Columbus County and Wilmington is actually located in New Hanover County, the two counties neighbor each other on the southern tip of the state, so shooting in Wilmington wasn’t much of a departure from the storyline.

Read the original post that covers the novel version of Heart of the Country here. Both the novel and the film are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Sources consulted: Bayridge Films, CMIL, Examiner, Facebook, Heart of the Country, IMDb (The Best of Me, Heart of the Country, Jana Kramer, Gerald McRaney, Sweet Home Alabama), Jana Kramer, NC Hollywood, North Carolina Film Office, Our State, Rene Gutteridge, Taste of Country, Wikipedia (Jana Kramer, Gerald McRaney, One Tree Hill), The Wilmywood Daily, Wilmington Regional Film Commission, Inc.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Coastal Plain, Columbus, Gutteridge, Rene, New Hanover, Religious/Inspirational, Ward, John

Lights, Camera, Novel: Louise Shivers’s Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail

Here to Get My Baby Out of JailTransitioning a work from page to screen is a complex process full of decisions from small details to large abstractions about what to include, what not to include, and what to add. In some of the past posts, there were instances of authors involved in both sides of the process, novel to screenplay. But in many cases, the author of the original work isn’t overseeing the adaptation. Sometimes, like in the instance of Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail and Summer Heat, the story doesn’t translate well between the mediums.

Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail was Louise Shivers’s first novel. Her bio on her publisher’s site notes that Shivers was born in Stantonsburg, but grew up in Wilson. The towns bear a close resemblance to Tarborough, the fictional East Carolina town featured in Shivers’s novel. After a year at Meredith College in Raleigh, Shivers was married. She and her husband relocated to Augusta, Georgia, where they raised their three children.

Shivers was a literary world late-bloomer. At age 40, at the encouragement of her children, she took a creative writing class that eventually produced her first novel. Following its release in 1983, Shivers’s work was selected by USA Today as the “Best First Novel of the Year.” A review in The New York Times praises Shivers’s work. The story is simple and compact; Shivers wrote poetry before she ventured to writing novels. Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail is the tale of a love triangle spun out of control. Roxy Walston is a Depression-era woman stuck on a tobacco farm with her husband Aaron. She’s a young mother, 20 with a 2-year-old daughter, Baby. When Aaron hires a drifter named Jack Ruffin, it leads to an affair that will change all their lives drastically.

The film adaptation was released in 1987, just four years after the novel’s publication. Mitchie Gleason wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Lori Singer played Roxy. Singer at the time had already starred opposite Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Anthony Edwards, of Revenge of the Nerds, Top Gun, and later ER fame, played Roxy’s husband, Aaron, and Bruce Abbott played Jack Ruffin. Kathy Bates appears in a supporting role, but doesn’t appear in the trailer, which focuses on the three leads. The movie was filmed in North Carolina around Nashville, Robersonville, Tarboro, and Wilson.Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail 20th

Reviews from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times by Janet Maslin and Shelia Benson recognize good qualities in Summer Heat, the big picture adaptation of the slim novel, Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. Performances by the actors are commended and Mitchie Gleason’s visuals are appreciated. But the critics complain that Gleason’s script is the weak link in the final product. Maslin observes that “the script is a string of one-idea scenes; sometimes a whole episode seems designed to allow a character to deliver a single line,” and notes that the film’s pacing is off.  Benson also notes that despite the fact Gleason’s script adheres closely — even “slavishly,” she suggests – the force behind the story isn’t there. Sticking straight to the story in this case did not benefit Summer Heat. Benson remarks that the adaptation “lollygags” to its final conclusion rather than showing a “fevered rise and fall” of a pair of doomed lovers tangled in a frenzy of passion.

Benson chides Gleason, whom didn’t take enough risks in re-telling Shivers’s story. The most obvious liberty taken during the adaptation process is the title, which was revised from the longer, song-inspired Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail to the more benign and blockbuster-friendly, Summer Heat. The trailer brandishes the steamy side of the story. The title is emphasized, the words are shown individually between scenes of passion and aggression, and then together. Here’s a link to one version of the movie poster. The visuals, particularly the positioning of Roxy and Jack, are sultry and provocative. However, the writing on the poster skims over the top of the purpose behind the story. Plus, it basically gives away the twist. They’re quite different from the novel’s covers from 1993 and its 2003 pictured in this post in their raw sensuality. Then again, film operates, and profits on, on a more visual level.

Read the original blog post on Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. The novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, but the film is not. The film does not appear to be available through the Chapel Hill or Durham County Public Libraries. The film is listed on Amazon for sale.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1983, 1987, Edgecombe, Historical, Shivers, Louise

Gwenda Bond. Blackwood. Long Island City, NY: Strange Chemistry, 2012.

BlackwoodBearing the brunt of a centuries-long family curse in a small town isn’t easy, especially if you’re a seventeen year-old girl. Miranda Blackwood has gotten used to being called a freak and being treated like something of a leper, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. The Blackwood family has lived on Roanoke Island since the times of the original Lost Colony. Locals consider Blackwoods bad luck. Miranda mostly keeps to herself. She doesn’t want to draw attention or give credit to the family folklore. She interns as a set and costume lackey at the Waterside Theater, which puts on productions of The Lost Colony for tourists visiting the island.

One ordinary night, on what seems like a routine performance, Miranda notices something strange while she watches the end of the show with the stage manager, Polly. She sees a life-sized, black ship that is careening toward the performers. Nobody, not the performers nor the audience members, notices the ship, except Miranda. She watches as the ship approaches the stage. At the last second, on impulse, Miranda leaps onto the stage to throw herself at the seven-year-old actress playing Virginia Dare. Too bad no one else present understands Miranda’s actions. What was meant as a virtuous, self-sacrifice on Miranda’s part is chalked up by the cast and crew as the typical Blackwood weirdness. After the show, the director chews out Miranda’s unprofessional actions, questioning whether or not Miranda should participate in future performances.

Miranda heads home, haunted by the embarrassment and the phantom ship. She lives outside of the picturesque part of Manteo with her father, her golden retriever named Sidekick, and her old yellow car (complete with a dashboard hula girl) that she affectionately calls Pineapple. Since her mother’s death several years prior, Miranda has taken care of her father. Over time, her father’s alcoholism has grown worse. His skin is so ruddy from drinking that his odd, snake-shaped birthmark is almost obscured. Miranda crashes on the couch so she can greet her father when he returns home intoxicated and help him into bed.

Morning comes and Miranda’s father never comes back home. Confused, and slightly concerned, Miranda goes looking for him. She finds the town huddled around the police station.  Police Chief Rawling reports that around 100 people on the island went missing overnight. People have inexplicably vanished; leaving without any sign of intentional abandonment. The official number is later finalized at 114, coincidentally the same number of people missing several hundred years ago in the Lost Colony. Shaken by the sudden mass disappearances, Rawling calls his seventeen-year old son, Phillips, home.

Phillips Rawling thought he had escaped the island for good. Once he started hearing the voices, he made trouble to force his parents to send him away. Off the island, Phillips is normal, like any other teen, but on the island, he can’t shut out the voices of spirits. The clamor of the voices is enough to make him go crazy. He isn’t interested in returning home, but his father has already made arrangements. Police Chief Rawling doesn’t believe in supernatural occurrences and other fantastical nonsense, but something in his gut tells him that Phillips might be able to help. However, Phillips has his own agenda. If he’s forced to go back to Roanoke Island, then he’s bent on finding one person first: Miranda Blackwood. She’s a primary focus of the voices’ chatter, and none of it is any good.

Blackwood is novelist Gwenda Bond’s first young adult novel, published in 2012. In the interim, Bond has published another work, The Woken Gods, and her third novel, Girl on a Wire, is set to be released in October 2014. In Blackwood, Bond weaves together historical events (portrayed with fictionalized liberties), supernatural elements, and teen romance, all doused with a healthy dash of humor. The novel includes a concise summary of the Lost Colony to prime readers with background information before Bond’s story begins.  Bond infuses the original legend of the Lost Colony with quite a bit of imagination. Blackwood is perfect for readers on the look-out for an intelligent young adult novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Bond, Gwenda, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Trudy Krisher. Fallout. New York: Holiday House, 2006.

FalloutStarting high school can be an unnerving yet exciting experience, full of change. For Genevieve Hardcastle, a teen in the 1950s, starting high school is beyond intimidating. That feeling is made all the scarier by the fact that her only friend, Sally Redmond, has moved far away, up to New Jersey. Genevieve likes being a wallflower. Genevieve doesn’t want to be embarrassed, and attention is the surest route to embarrassment. Last year, Genevieve had a taste of gossip and backbiting when she helped Sally in her campaign for class secretary. After witnessing Janice’s smear tactics, the already shy and awkward Genevieve has become even more cautious. She aims not to stand out, lest Janice Neddeger or one of her sidekicks catch her in the crosshairs and single her out in front of everyone.

Her mother, Martha, wishes Genevieve was more of a “go-getter” kind of girl. Martha (a homemaker and president of the town of Easton’s Welcome Wagon) encourages Genevieve to make friends, but to no avail. Even if Genevieve wasn’t quiet, she blames her parents for making developing friendships a little difficult. Between the plastic-covered furniture, her mother’s over-eager, hyper-positive attitude, and her father’s suspicious lurking around the house, Genevieve observes that her family and its dysfunctions aren’t as wholesome as Ozzie and Harriet. Genevieve’s father, George, is a solemn actuary, obsessed with disaster and disaster preparations. He also hangs on Senator McCarthy’s every word.

The coastal town of Easton is used to its familiar, traditional ways. The locals, Genevieve included, know when to sense an impending hurricane and how to prepare, for instance. They’re pro-American and pro-atom, and anti-Red. But all that changes when a new family moves to town. The Wompers — Harry, Patricia, and Brenda — are from California, although from the way Easton folk receive them, it seems they might as well come from outer space. The townspeople of Easton are taken aback by the Wompers’ strange ideas and expressions – their belief in raw food, their decision to eliminate sugar from the drug store they purchased, their atheism, and, most of all, their challenge of the Civil Defense curriculum with claims that the atomic energy is dangerous.

The Wompers don’t fit the standard mold. Mrs. Womper is a physicist who gives little regard to dressing in the style of all the other housewives; she favors sandals over heels. Before they moved, Mr. Womper worked in Hollywood, in the film industry. Brenda is outspoken and brave. She isn’t afraid to question her fellow students, or even her teachers. The Wompers’ open-minded skepticism and differences are frowned upon by Easton, and by Genevieve’s parents. But the girls bond after Genevieve’s algebra teacher assigns Brenda as Genevieve’s tutor.  They’re a pair of opposites. Genevieve is mesmerized by Brenda’s straightforward bravery; she describes herself as a hermit crab, self-protective and scuttling out-of-sight. Brenda lives by a set of “Rules for Thinking,” to question any belief, whether seemingly true or false, with detachment. Her dogma prompts sensitive Genevieve to eventually challenge Brenda’s scientific view of the world.

Fallout is set against the political atmosphere of the Cold War and the constant threat of an atomic bomb scare, and the literal atmosphere of a coastal North Carolina town during the thick of hurricane season. Trudy Krisher wisely plays the political and meteorological atmospheres against the distress and distrust of new people and new ideas in a traditional small town. The novel develops Genevieve’s character believably. At the beginning of the novel she’s a shrinking violet. By the end she isn’t fearless, but she’s less afraid, and her awareness of the world and powers of introspection have been honed. While the book cover indicates that Fallout is marketed for young adults, Trudy Krisher’s novel is a thought-provoking read, perfect for the upcoming summer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, Krisher, Trudy, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Kim Church. Byrd. Ann Arbor, MI: Dzanc Books, 2014.

ByrdAddie Lockwood notices Roland Rhodes the first day he appears in her fourth grade class. He’s the new boy in town, the son of a doctor. Roland doesn’t notice Addie until his senior year of high school. By then, she knows all sorts of personal details about him. Roland is a talented musician. He favors the Blues. Impressed by Addie’s outspoken intellect during an elective class (“The American Counterculture”), he invites her over to write lyrics to accompany a song. They quickly become friends, but after an awkward encounter, they drift apart just as quickly. Roland places a wedge between them, and Addie accepts it without much of a fight. They never write a song. After graduation, they part ways, for what seems like good.

Roland pursues his dreams of musical stardom in Los Angeles and Addie attends college in Greensboro, nearby to her fictional home town of Carswell. Although their lives are set on two different tracks, Addie refuses to give up on the idea of Roland. Now in her early thirties, she gets Roland’s contact information from high school friends and calls him up.

His musical career, as it happens, hasn’t panned out. He still plays, but he works for a company that constructs movie sets. Roland struggles with the practical details of life, like making rent or picking people up from the airport on time. All of his friends, Addie included, have heard the story of his childhood swimming pool accident and the resultant head injury that left him not quite right. Addie, meanwhile, has remained working at the same secondhand bookstore in her college town. Emboldened by a bottle of Beaujolais, she arranges to visit California after she and Roland catch up over the phone. During the visit, Addie becomes pregnant. On a promptly scheduled return trip, she informs Roland in person that she will terminate the pregnancy. But mysteriously, the abortion fails and Addie gives birth to a son that she names Byrd. She puts up Byrd for adoption without notifying Roland. The adoption colors Addie’s life well into her middle age. Surrendering her son becomes her and Roland’s most life-altering secret.

Byrd is Kim Church’s first novel. The novel focuses on the two main characters from childhood to middle age, showing their influences on each other’s lives. The story concentrates primarily on Addie and Roland’s perspectives, with imaginary letters from Addie to her forfeited son, Byrd spliced in between. Church represents the pieces of Addie and Roland’s lives with prose that feels simultaneously removed yet intimate. Characters are observed with a detached eye from the third-person, but their emotions and inner thoughts are conveyed openly on the page. Addie is wistful, longing first over Roland, and later over Byrd. As a daughter, she shies away from her parents, keeping them at arm’s length. As a sister, she doesn’t have much contact with her brother, Sam, following her high school graduation. As a mother, she loses the chance to experience motherhood with Byrd. Addie, Roland, and the other characters contend with relationships and love, accepting regret and shame, and coming to terms with loss.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Church, Kim, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Diana L. Sharples. Running Lean. Grand Rapids, MI: Blink, 2013.

Running LeanCrazy Stacey bubble butt.
Never keeps her big mouth shut.
Chubbikins, Chubbikins.
How much does she weigh?

Voices from Stacey Varnell’s childhood still haunt her, even into high school. Stacey struggles to see herself as she is now, a pretty, talented teen. As a child, Stacey’s overprotective parents focused an unrelenting eye on her due to her health problems and a series of heart surgeries. Stacey’s mother forbade her to exert herself physically and she kept Stacey indoors, fearful of her health and fragility. Classmates taunted Stacey about her weight. Their teasing sparked Stacey’s obsession with dieting and calories. No matter how much weight Stacey drops though, she sees a chubby version of herself staring back in the mirror. Surprisingly, Stacey’s helicopter parents don’t seem to notice her compulsive habits (she’s a master at shuffling food around her plate), and her friend Zoe reinforces Stacey’s dangerous behavior.

The only person who seems to notice is Stacey’s boyfriend, Calvin Greenlee. Eight months ago, he and Stacey became smitten with each other; she was the new city girl who had just relocated with her family to the country. Over the course of several months, their courtship developed slowly – first a youth event at Calvin’s church, then Homecoming. When Calvin’s brother Michael died in Afghanistan, Stacey supported Calvin through his pain. He felt as if Stacey understood his grief naturally, unlike any of his other friends. In spite of Stacey’s artistic temperament, she’s consistent. She is always there for Calvin. Lately, however, her behavior has started to alarm Calvin. Stacey complains of dizziness and she looks sickly. He doesn’t like or trust her friend Zoe, and the feeling is mutual. Zoe badmouths Calvin to Stacey, calling him a “farm boy” and other insults. Stacey and Calvin’s relationship grows tenser as Stacey’s mental and physical health deteriorates.

Calvin’s other main devotion is his vintage Yamaha Enduro motorcycle that has seen better days. He loves his bike. His friends, the ugly duckling turned swan, Tyler, and the tomboyish Flannery enjoy motorcycles and outdoor activities. Stacey’s insecurities cause her to suspect that Flannery dislikes her. She fears that Flannery and Calvin’s friendship will develop into a more serious relationship. Stacey sees flirtations where Calvin insists there are none. Ironically, as much Stacey feels left out, Calvin feels equally shut out when he tries to express his concern about her health. Stacey isn’t sure how to communicate her problems to Calvin.

After Stacey becomes more erratic, Calvin seeks his friends’ advice. Observing Stacey closely and piecing together all the evidence, Calvin stumbles upon the truth. He feels daunted by Stacey’s eating disorder, a disorder that she won’t even admit to. Some web research shows Calvin that they aren’t the only couple out there battling this problem, but it doesn’t give him any clear answers or the promise for a cure. Calvin tries to encourage Stacey to eat better and reassure her flagging sense of self-worth. He tells her that she’s smart and beautiful, and the single object of his affections.

Despite Calvin’s well-meaning attempts, Stacey can’t shut out her obsessive thoughts about her appearance or stop her harmful actions. Her past has fueled her poor self-esteem and distorted self-image. All she wants is to hang on to Calvin, but Stacey’s fixation on thinness, perfection, and control threaten their relationship, and even worse, her life. Will Calvin be able to rescue Stacey from her internal torment, or will he lose her just like his brother?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Sharples, Diana L.

Elizabeth Craig. Quilt Trip. New York: Penguin Group, 2013.

Quilt TripAs usual, Beatrice Coleman has a bad feeling about Meadow Downey’s latest scheme. Meadow has caught wind of the old and rich Muriel Starnes’s get-together to determine an executor for her quilting foundation. The fact that Muriel didn’t invite Meadow to her party is of very little importance to Meadow, who is busy cooking up plans for the foundation. She’s convinced that Muriel should choose the Village Quilters. Beatrice, a recently retired art curator with a keen sense of etiquette, has waning patience for Meadow’s cockamamie ideas. Somehow though, Beatrice finds herself riding shotgun to Meadow, who speeds away from Dappled Hills and up a treacherous mountain in pursuit of quilting glory. Unfortunately for Meadow and Beatrice, the weather is looking awful gloomy…

Even as they approach the mountain-top Victorian “Southern Gothic” mansion, sleet is falling and the sky is gray. Beatrice and Meadow are greeted with a chilly reception, though at the very least sweet Posy Beck and batty Miss Sissy, fellow Village Quilters members, have also crashed the party (at Meadow’s request). Muriel allows the party-crashers to stay, but not without a few subtle jibes at their expense. The atmosphere of party is noticeably lackluster. The house is cold and unwelcoming, and the real guests are gathered in the library in silence. Just as Muriel alludes to another reason for asking her guests here today, separate from the foundation, the power goes out.

Apparently, the build-up of ice on the power lines caused the outage. However, the outage is the least of everyone’s worries: the sleet also severed a large limb from a giant tree, blocking the driveway and Beatrice’s hope of a quick exit. Stranded, without power, a phone line, or even cell phone reception, it looks as if the party is turning into a sleepover. Once the outage has been identified and the hubbub dies down somewhat, Muriel reveals her big secret.

She’s been diagnosed with cancer and has only a few weeks left. She used the foundation as an excuse to gather friends and family to apologize for any past transgressions. Alexandra, her estranged daughter, Holly, a librarian and fellow quilter, Dot, another fellow quilter, and Winnie, her former friend are the formally gathered guests, along with Muriel’s lawyer, Colton. Beatrice and the rest of the Village Quilters soon learn that Muriel’s unkindness has created rifts in almost all of her relationships. Muriel’s company is shocked when she delivers a blanket apology to the entire room. Beatrice observes that Muriel’s apology seems legitimate in its sincerity, yet rehearsed, regrettably. Nobody in the room appears to lap it up with much enthusiasm. Perhaps Muriel has stepped on the toes of her friends and family one too many times. Following the surprise announcement, each guest makes a case for her guild and the foundation, and then Muriel bids them good night.

Muriel’s apology was well-timed, because she doesn’t live to see the next morning. Despite her old age and admission of cancer, Beatrice is sure that foul play is afoot. From the look of Muriel’s body, Beatrice recognizes what she is sure are signs of suffocation. At Meadow’s insistence, she plays detective, questioning each one of the guests. But how just how safe is Beatrice in the role of detective, blatantly trying to sniff out the killer? Just how safe are any of the guests, trapped in an isolated mansion with a killer lurking in plain sight?

Quilt Trip is the third novel in Elizabeth Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. Craig’s latest novel is slightly different in structure. Quilt Trip is set in a much more condensed time frame of a few days and almost entirely in a single setting, which heightens the urgency and mystery, but the novel has the same charm as Quilt or Innocence and Knot What It Seems thanks to well-crafted, quirky characters. There isn’t considerable development in the slowly unfolding relationship between Beatrice and Wyatt, the amiable Dappled Hills minister, though Craig does include a little bit of interaction between the two. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series, take a look at past posts here and here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

David Madden. Pleasure-Dome. Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1979.

Desperate to get his little brother Bucky off a chain gang, Lucius Hutchfield attempts to rescue his brother from his misdeeds. Newly released from reform school, Bucky got caught for passing a string of bad checks. Now Lucius has taken responsibility for talking Bucky’s way out of a whole mess of trouble. Lucius tracks down each of Bucky’s ‘victims’ and negotiates that Bucky will make restitution (eventually – he notes the loophole of not arranging a deadline), if they will drop charges. Lucius is training to be a teacher, but his true passion rests in writing. Stories bubble up from within Lucius’s mind. His story-telling urge is now put to the test as Lucius must learn to twist his words to benefit Bucky’s case. However, the antics of their older brother Earl, a dedicated con man, is a corrupting influence on Bucky.

In the midst of trying to redeem Bucky, Lucius learns of old Zara Jane Ransom, the sole resident of the Blue Goose Hotel, in the small town of Sweetwater. Zara purports that in her youth she was Jesse James’s lover. The novel then transitions to Lucius convincing Zara to share her stories of Jesse James. Lucius is intent on using her recollection to inspire a story for publication in Harper’s Bazaar. After settling on cash payment in exchange for her memories, the pair meets for three sessions and Zara shares the details of her possible (but unproven) relationship with Jesse James and another man, Davis Woodring, who was interested in gaining Zara’s attention. While Lucius transcribes the story, he becomes acquainted with Hart Woodring who is obsessed with a beauty named Sabra Van Ness, and dangerously intrigued by Lucius’s story of Zara and Jesse James.

Novelist David Madden presents a character-driven story with a balance of humor and pathos. The novel opens conversationally, from Lucius’s perspective, as part of one long, winding quest that meanders around two major stories filled with a number of different plotlines and characters. The Southern influence is prominent; Madden includes dialect and an intense level of detail. The novel is set in Tennessee and North Carolina during the 1950s. Pleasure-Dome is a sequel to Madden’s earlier work, Bijou (1974), although Madden considers Pleasure-Dome as a sequel in the loosest sense of the word. In an interview, Madden explains that he originally conceptualized the novel with five separate story lines, which he later cut down to two for length. Read more here and here in a series of interviews compiled by the University of Tennessee’s Newfound Press. In Pleasure-Dome, Madden tackles concepts of truth and reality versus myth and illusion through the Lucius’s story-telling.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1979, Madden, David, Mountains, Watauga

Sheila Turnage. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2014.

The Ghosts of Tupelo LandingA laugh floated down the stairway, secret and low. My heart jumped. So did Dale. “Steady, Dale,” I said, my voice shaking. “Don’t leap to conclusions. A good detective starts with the obvious and works toward the strange.”

Sixth grade is about to start, and scrappy orphan Mo LoBeau is convinced that the Desperado Detective Agency needs a new case to crack. Since the Agency (comprised of Mo, her friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III, and his dog, Queen Elizabeth) successfully solved a murder, they’ve only been hired on for two lost pet cases. Mo wants something ground-breaking to rev up business and make a name for Dale and herself as sixth grade sleuths. Luckily, she doesn’t have to wait for long–a new case is right about to fall into her lap.

The novel opens the day of the auction of The Old Tupelo Inn, which creates big buzz around the small town of Tupelo Landing (population now 147, following the past summer’s murder). Just about everyone in the town is at the auction, including Mo, Dale and one of Mo’s caretakers, Miss Lana, the owner of the local diner and Old Hollywood aficionado. Miss Lana has her heart set on an umbrella stand, but after an unfriendly woman from out of town (dubbed “Rat Face,” by Mo) makes a move to buy the Inn, Miss Lana hastily outbids her and by accident becomes the new owner of The Old Tupelo Inn along with the partial contents of the property and some very serious fine print.

According to the fine print, the inn is haunted by a ghost. Mo, and Dale after plenty of coaxing, set out to identify the ghost. Their mission couldn’t have come at a better time. A few days later, Miss Retzyl, their new teacher, tells the class that as part of the 250th anniversary of Tupelo Landing, she wants each student to interview a town elder. Mo’s arch-enemy Anna Celeste Simpson (aka Attila) somewhat unfairly claims Mo’s adoptive grandmother and the richest and nicest old person in town, Miss Lacy Thornton.

But Mo is ready to one-up Attila. She names the unidentified ghost of The Old Tupelo Inn as her interview subject. To Mo, “there ain’t nobody older than dead.” If she and Dale can determine the ghost’s identity, then they’re sure to have the best report and earn themselves a little extra credit in the process. Finding a ghost and convincing it to reveal who it is and why it’s haunting the inn isn’t an open-and-shut case however. Meanwhile, the presence of a new boy called Harm Crenshaw in Mo’s class irks Mo almost as much as living in Tupelo Landing irks Harm. He informs everyone he meets that he is only temporarily staying in Tupelo Landing until his brother Flick (a confirmed, good-for-nothing punk) can collect him to return to Greensboro. And Miss Lacy signs on to bankroll Miss Lana’s staggering bid for the ramshackle Old Tupelo Inn, yet it surfaces that Miss Lacy might not be as rich as everyone believes her to be. Could Miss Lana and Miss Lacy’s ownership of the inn be in jeopardy?

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is novelist Shelia Turnage’s second Mo LoBeau mystery. Turnage creates a magical setting in the fictional Tupelo Landing — it’s a wacky, charming small town. Outrageously spunky and spirited Mo has a lively voice and her narration makes the pages turn quickly. Don’t let the young adult packaging stop you from picking up Turnage’s follow-up to Three Times Lucky. With Mo as your guide, Tupelo Landing is quite an entertaining place to pass some time. Click here to read a blog post on the first novel in the series, Three Times Lucky.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Turnage, Sheila