Category Archives: Orange

Orange

Larry Rochelle. Back to the Rat. Chapel Hill: Larry Rochelle, 2013.

Back to the Rat has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel: an athletic scandal is tarnishing UNC’s reputation and an NCAA investigation of it is itself a questionable endeavor; shadowy figures who may or may not work for the government drug and kidnap the hero; and locals who hope that a beloved Chapel Hill landmark may be resurrected.  Palmer Morel, a forty-something tennis pro is in the midst of all this.

Palmer lives just south of Chapel Hill and as his tennis fortunes have waned, he’s picked up a dubious second career as a bag man for a local mobster, Chucky Minori. He needs the money, but he needs something more too.  At the suggestion of a friend who notices his down mood, Palmer visits The Body Shop, a Carrboro dance therapy center.  There Palmer encounters Pris Price, who he fantasizes could cure all his ills.  Pris both rebuffs and bewitches him, drawing him into danger and an immense conspiracy.

Readers who know the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area will enjoy Mr. Rochelle’s use of local landmarks as the settings for many key scenes.  And Palmer’s confidant and caper partner, the columnist “Barry Cinders”, will bring to mind a certain News & Observer columnist.  But one need not be steeped in local lore to enjoy Back to the Rat.

Back to the Rat is fourteenth Palmer Morel thriller. Morel’s adventures have taken him across the United States, from Kansas City to Biloxi, to Chapel Hill and points in between.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Rochelle, Larry, Suspense/Thriller

Lights, Camera, Novel: James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls.

Kiss the Girls Movie PosterJames Patterson’s Alex Cross series was perfectly timed for moviegoers of the nineties who were primed for psychological thrillers after a number of popular hits. Reviewers drew comparisons between Kiss the Girls and other releases like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. However, the comparisons between the films were not entirely favorable. Kiss the Girls starred Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, whose career was just beginning to accelerate.

The novel follows forensic psychologist Alex Cross as he learns that his niece Naomi, a law student at Duke, was kidnapped by a lascivious serial killer who masquerades under the pseudonym, Casanova. Cross abandons DC for Durham. His emotions are high and he is focused on finding Naomi before it’s too late. Meanwhile, medical intern Kate McTiernan is Casanova’s latest victim, but not for long. McTiernan manages to escape, which makes her the anomalous sole survivor. She and Cross team up to uncover Casanova’s true identity and rescue the other victims still languishing in Casanova’s “harem.”

Kiss the Girls is Patterson’s only novel that features a North Carolina setting. But Patterson layered plenty of authenticating detail in his book to evoke the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Filming locations for the movie adaptation were largely limited to Durham, and of course, Los Angeles. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not to approve the film’s request to use the university’s campus during shooting.

In the past, the University has a mixed record of accepting some requests to film on campus, but rejecting others. According to a Daily Tarheel article from 2001, UNC’s major ruling factor is maintaining the University’s image. The University also considers how the project might provide opportunities or disruptions to campus life. Ultimately, the University decided against Kiss the Girls due to its graphic content. Chapel Hill officials did not consent to give the producers permission to shut down Franklin Street for filming.

Although Kiss the Girls is second in the Cross series it was adapted first. Along Came a Spider, the first novel in the series, was a follow-up in 2001. While Kiss the Girls performed well at the box office, critics panned the film for pacing issues and a lack of uniqueness. Both Freeman and Judd were commended for their performances however. In 2012, Tyler Perry starred in an Alex Cross reboot. There are plans for a sequel reportedly.

The clip below, from Movie Clips, shows a scene following Kate’s escape where she delivers a statement to the press:

The movie version is a bit more solemn than the novel. In the book, Kate’s introductory remarks are self-deprecating and elicit a few smiles. More or less, the monologues match up.  But both versions represent Kate as a strong and intelligent character, in spite of her ordeal.

Patterson’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. There are copies at Davis Library and Wilson Library. The film adaptation is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog as well. Copies can be found at the Media Resources Center in the Undergraduate Library and Wilson Library. The original blog post for the novel is here.

Sources consulted here: The Baltimore Sun, The Daily Tarheel (two different articles), Film Journal InternationalIMDb, Movie Clips, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Roger Ebert, The Washington Post (two different reviews), Wikipedia

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1997, Durham, Orange, Patterson, James, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

William Conescu. Kara Was Here. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2013.

Kara Was HereLife after college doesn’t always go exactly as planned. Brad Mitchell had rainbow-hued hair and hoped to find serious employment as an actor. He was cast in a few area productions and commercials, but nothing that amounted to a real paycheck. So his part-time gig as a realtor went full-time. His wife’s pregnancy and recent vision problems make Brad feel well into his mid-thirties. Margot Cominsky has shed her racy image as “Cougar Cominsky,” seductress of the football team. Instead, she’s packed on some extra weight, probably a result of her booming muffin business. Her love life is unsteady and her current long-distance relationship is steering through choppy waters. Kara Tinsley, Brad’s college girlfriend and Margot’s college friend, moved to New York City to chase after her dreams of becoming an actress. She abandoned Brad back in North Carolina without much of a second look back. Unfortunately, Kara never managed to make a name for herself on Broadway. And now she’s dead.

Kara’s old college friends and family have gathered to mourn her sudden death. Reportedly, Kara died of an overdose. Not a complete shock since to the very end,  she refused to sacrifice her wild nature. Her friends remember Kara’s untamable, spitfire personality and irreverent sense of humor. At the funeral, Brad and Margot are surprised to see each other so different from their college years. They’re even more surprised to meet Steve, Kara’s secret fiancé. Steve (or “Mullet” as Kara called him) was Kara’s last roommate. Margot recalls that Kara didn’t have a single nice word for Mullet the entire time they lived together. So she doubts that Mullet, a hulky, forty-seven year-old loser, and Kara were ever in a serious relationship.

Brad reaches out to Kara’s younger sister, Gwen, who is eighteen and on the cusp of college, freedom, and young adulthood. He offers her a number to call for a little extra support or advice. Gwen ventures to New York for a special summer arts program. She had planned to spend the summer bonding with Kara. Despite Kara’s absence, Gwen decides to attend. During Kara’s funeral though, things turn slightly strange.  Both Brad and Gwen see an apparition of Kara, who lectures them and teases them with her usual spunk. Just as Gwen enters Kara’s old haunts and associates with her sister’s former paramours, Margot drags Brad into her suspicions that Kara was murdered.

A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and NC State graduate, William Conescu, writes a psychological portrait of three college friends and their relatives and significant others. Brad’s double vision seems to represent the central aspect of the novel: aging and its effects on identity. Conescu’s characters, Brad and Margot in particular, are split in their identities, stuck between their former teenage and twenty-something self and the passage into their new thirty-something self. Gwen endures a similar entrance into young adulthood. Kara’s death brings Brad and Margot, and even Gwen, into a state of unnerving self-evaluation. But they soon realize that not only was Kara not exactly the person they thought her to be, neither are they.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Conescu, William, Mystery, Orange, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Wilton Barnhardt. Lookaway, Lookaway. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013

**Guest review by Arleen Fields**

 At the beginning of our new century, shrewd Charlotte socialite Jerene Johnston is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family’s reputation and to secure her children’s future. Her radical daughter Annie, her gay son Josh, her preacher son Bo, and her insecure daughter Jerilyn don’t make this easy. The Johnston family proudly traces its lineage to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, and Jerene’s husband Duke has abandoned all professional and political aspirations, preferring to reside in a world of nostalgia and Civil War reenactments.

Each chapter, focusing on one character’s story, is like a portrait hung in a gallery. In some of the paintings the character is front and center; in others the subject blends into the background as action takes over the foreground. The chapter about Bo provides insight into his character, but the scene of a melodramatic Christmas dinner is far more memorable.

Jerene’s children and husband are not her only worries. Her alcoholic brother Gaston makes his living writing popular Civil War novels, her sister Dillard has never recovered from a personal tragedy, and their mother Jeannette lives with the knowledge that she failed to protect her children. Add to the mix Josh’s best friend Dorrie, who’s African American and a lesbian, and Bo’s wife Kate who longs to return to the Peace Corps, and you have the perfect southern tragicomedy.

The title obviously refers to the song “Dixie” and there are other allusions as well. Characters are forced to look the other way when reality is inconvenient. Watching the events unfold is like driving by a gruesome car wreck or watching a reality TV show—we should mind our own business, but morbid curiosity prevents us from averting our gaze.

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

For an interview with Wilton Barnhardt, see http://www.alumniblog.ncsu.edu/2013/07/23/wilton-barnhardt-im-nervous-about-being-in-any-camp/

A previous version of this review appears in North Carolina Libraries, vol. 71, no. 1 (2013)

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Barnhardt, Wilton, Mecklenburg, Orange, Piedmont

John Ehle. Move Over, Mountain. New York: William Morrow, 1957.

mountainPa Cummings wanted his sons to go north.  The segregated South in the mid-twentieth century held limited opportunities for African American men.  All of his son did go north except Jordan, who married young.  Jordan has made a life for himself, with a wife and two sons, but you can’t say that he’s gotten ahead.  He’s worked at a number of jobs, but as the novel opens he’s lost his job delivering coal.  He’s also gambled away his wife’s savings.  Just as Jordan is hitting bottom, his brother Bryant returns from the North.  Bryant has money and opinions, and he seems to be interested in playing the big man to Jordan’s wife and sons.  Sibling rivalry helps Jordan harness his ambition, but he is not prepared for the lengths to which Bryant will go to defeat him.

John Ehle wrote this book when he lived in Chapel Hill, and the fictional Leafwood and Tin Top are widely thought to be modeled on Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

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

Press 53 of Winston-Salem published a 50th anniversary edition of Move Over, Mountain in 2007. The cover art in this posting is from that edition.

 

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Filed under 1950-1959, 1957, Ehle, John, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Orange, Piedmont

Jon Correll. The Sparks Fly Upward. Portland, OR: Inkwater Press, 2013.

The Sparks Fly Upward“It seemed only right and natural that the rhythms of Nathan’s life were tied so inexorably to the land and the seasons. He could not fathom people who lived days that were carbon copies of the previous one, no matter the place or the season. They were people without root in the soil, carried along by the distractions of the modern world. He was born a generation or two too late, and he was making the best of it.”

Nathan Miller and his family live in Idlewild, a tiny hamlet nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rest of the Miller family consists of his younger sister Ally, his parents, Jean and Bill, and his grandparents, Emma and Clyde, otherwise known as “Mom” and “Dad.” The Millers’ devotion to their ancestral homeland is palpable, and they are clannish in their tight-knit family unit. Although Nate’s parents work at Appalachian State University in nearby Boone, it is clear that they see their income from the outside world as a necessary means to make life in Idlewild more comfortable. “Mom” and “Dad” are traditional farming folk and they keep the Miller home functioning using their mountain wisdom and almost clairvoyant perceptions.

Nathan is the central figure of the novel and he is faced with the challenge of leaving Idlewild to attend college at Chapel Hill during the turbulent 1970s. The Sparks Fly Upward focuses upon Nathan’s transition between the two locations. The first half of the story moves at a languid pace, dense with details of Nathan’s relation to the natural world and populated by a motley assembly of several minor characters who convey the atmosphere of small-town life. Novelist Jon Correll presents a clear delineation between the good and the evil in Idlewild, which has its share of heroes, good citizens, town off-casts, and bullies. Nathan relates to such a defined sense of right and wrong, saying “where I was raised, there was right and wrong, pure and simple, and you stuck to that code no matter what.” He is a character deeply shaped by faith and morality. His adherence to a rigid internal code of morals causes occasional flares of temper though. Early in the novel, when a bully picks an unfair fight with a weaker student, Nathan intercedes and strikes out against the bully. Despite his usually well-meant motivation, Nathan’s temper and quick action inevitably lead him to trouble.

Over the course of the novel, Nathan’s black-and-white way of thought becomes clouded gray. Before he sets off to Chapel Hill, he finds himself tested in his new relationship with Becky Jenkins who is about to relocate from Idlewild to Wake Forest. Nathan wants to stifle his attraction to Becky to maintain a respectable relationship, just as he plans to not succumb to the heady temptations of college life. Upon Nathan’s arrival at UNC, he is faced immediately with all the requisites of a wild undergraduate experience — drugs, alcohol, and sex. His roommate Gus, a slightly grizzled Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, is a willing partner in these decadent escapades. He’s the first to offer Nathan a joint. And his recollections of the war deliver an ambiguous statement on a neatly wrapped dichotomy of good and evil. Still, when Nathan realizes how quickly he has strayed from his beliefs, he endeavors to return to his original path. Although Nathan’s path turns out to be less simple and straightforward than he anticipated, one thing is for certain: the ultimate destination is Idlewild.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ashe, Correll, Jon, Mountains, Orange, Piedmont

H. Leigh Aubrey. Never Say Never United States: H. Leigh Aubrey, 2011.

never

The most important man in Brian Marano’s life has always been his father.  Brian’s parents divorced when he was young and since then his father’s visits have been precious and few.  In high school Brian hopes that his athletic achievements will get his father’s attention.  They do get the attention of faculty, administrators, and other students at his Charlotte, North Carolina high school. Because he is a good athlete and a good kid, a teacher finds Brian a peer tutor to help him with the subjects that he struggles with.

That tutor is Jason Ratcliffe, a student from a well-to-do, socially prominent family.  Jason is a bit of a nerd, but well dressed and not unattractive.  Brian is uncomfortable being tutored in the opulent home in which Jason lives.  Jason is uncomfortable too, but for a different reason–he’s attracted to Brian and before long Brian is the most important man in his life.

Never Say Never follows Brian and Jason from high school, to college at UNC, to the early years of their careers.  Their friendship grows as they share the challenges of young adult life and as they come to terms, at different times and in different ways, with their love for each other.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Aubrey, H. Leigh, Mecklenburg, Orange, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Jean Reynolds Page. Safe Within. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2012.

safewithinElaine and Carson Forsyth have been married and living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for nearly thirty years when he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At first Elaine and Carson carry on with their lives but later Carson decides he wants to spend his remaining weeks in Elaine’s childhood home–a whimsical house her parents built in the trees above a lake just outside of the Triangle. Elaine is devastated at losing her husband, but what’s worse when he passes on she’ll be left with her acerbic mother-in-law. Greta Forsyth does not like her daughter-in-law. Although both her son and his wife have tried to convince her otherwise, Greta knows what the woman who walked in on Elaine and that other boy saw all those years ago. She knows that her supposed grandson, a handsome young man in his late twenties called Mick, is really a cuckoo’s child. Her son might be taken in, but Greta is not that kind of fool.

Elaine doesn’t know how to get through to Greta; at this point in their long, bitter relationship, she’s stopped trying. Mick, her son, knows to leave his grandmother alone, but he can’t be absent for his father’s last few weeks of life. He comes home to Carolina from his shipyard job in Rhode Island, but runs into trouble he doesn’t expect when he stops to catch up with some old acquaintances. His high school sweetheart, a beautiful local girl named Kayla, went away for a time with her mother after she and Mick broke up. When the two returned, they brought Kayla’s new little brother with them. Kyle is six now, and everyone but Mick is sure they know who his parents are in reality. Caught between Greta’s accusation that he’s not his father’s son and Kayla’s family’s anxiety over his attempt to reach out to little Kyle, Mick must decide who he will be for himself. As the family dynamics shift with Carson’s death, Greta and Elaine must also reconsider their assumptions.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Orange, Page, Jean Reynolds, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Payne, Peggy. Revelation. Wilmington, N.C. : Banks Channel Books, 1995, c1988.

revelationDr. Swain Hammond is perfectly happy before he steps out into his yard one summer night and hears the voice of God. He has a nice house with his beautiful wife in the heart of Chapel Hill, where he grew up. They don’t have a family, but neither wants children–they’re happy by themselves. Although he works as the minister of Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Swain would count himself as the last man likely to hear any kind of divine message. His congregation is made up of individuals who aren’t inclined to make literal interpretations of scripture, and neither is Swain. Yet, while his wife is grilling pork shish kebabs only a few yards away, God speaks to him.

The next year of Swain’s life is fraught with anguish. Far from the joy and peace he imagined hearing the voice of God would bring him, instead it seems to bring nothing but trouble. The congregation doesn’t know what to think of their formerly intellectually detached leader claiming to hear directly from God. At first they staunchly stand beside his right to free speech, but as the year wears on and Swain begins to preach about believing in miracles and hearing His voice again, they become uncomfortable and even angry. A few demand he step down, while others think he should seek counseling. Even Swain’s beloved wife, Julie, doesn’t know what to think.

In the midst of all this turmoil are the local children. Swain has never liked children, or felt comfortable around them. But when a boy named Jakey Miles, the son of a local woman he had a crush on in high school, is blinded in a terrible accident, Swain finds himself drawn to the boy. Against his will, he finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, where his intelligent parents played cruel games of emotional chess with one another that inevitably left young Swain traumatized. As the minister questions his faith, his relationships, and himself, one thing becomes startlingly clear–happiness is where you least expect to find it.

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

 

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, 1990-1999, 1995, Orange, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Ryan Jakubsen. Portals III: Band of Rogues. Kernersville: Alabaster Publishing Company, 2011.

portals In Ryan Jakubsen’s conclusion to the Portals trilogy, the Pierce brothers, dropped  on Grandfather Mountain by a tornado and lost in other-world realms linked by portals, move through one final gateway. Their mission?  To find home.

Having fixed the portal that will transport them stateside, brothers Axel, Alex, and Exile are ready to say goodbye to their brother Jacob, the new warrior king of wolf-man hybrids, a faction of “manimals.” Joined by Lucy and Jackellel, the group ventures on, this time in a dimension where trees have eyes, ancient Pierce kin reign, manimal spiders joust, and the “shrockney” beatle conjures instant death. But control of the portals is unstable, and a War of the Rogues is blooming. When a written message from the Pierces to their hosts disappears by way of courier concussion, the company’s safety is jeopardized. The addition of mysterious newcomers Araknia and The Dark One keeps suspicion, lies, and allegiances ever-puzzling and occasionally deadly while the Pierces travel.

Told by cosmic, animal, and human voices, the brothers’ story imaginatively beams from a spaceless battlefield to North Carolina locations like the UNC School of Law and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Families and their journeys are taken to new worlds in fifth-grader Ryan Jakubsen’s last installment of this series for young adult readers. Follow the portal home? If only it were that simple.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Avery, Caldwell, Children & Young Adults, Jakubsen, Ryan, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Orange, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Watauga