Category Archives: Novels by County

6. Novels by County

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa

Electra Rome Parks. When Baldwin Loved Brenden. Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, 2013.

when baldwin lovedFor many people, those college years are the most intense period of their lives.  Friendship are made, identities are established, and hearts are won and lost.  So it was for “The Group,” five African Americans in the 1980s attending a school similar to North Carolina State University.  Brenden, Christopher, Bria, Baldwin, and Rihanna had good times–Christopher and Bria partying and hooking up with abandon, Brenden and Baldwin falling in love, and Rihanna keeping everyone from getting too far off track.

But as tight as their friendships were, The Group came apart. In the ten years since their graduation, communications were infrequent, and face-to-face get-togethers just didn’t happen.  It’s Rihanna’s death that brings them back together, at least for a few days.  In that time the friends confront their mistakes, bad choices, and secrets. Readers learn what happened between Brenden and Baldwin, the things that Christopher and Rihanna did that made a bad situation worse, and the secret that wild child Bria was keeping even from herself.  Their few days together, mourning Rihanna and reconsidering the past, allow them to move on with their lives and for them to support each other in the good–and sad–times ahead.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Parks, Electra Rome, Piedmont, Wake

Lee Smith. Guests on Earth. New York: Algonquin Books, 2013.

Guests on EarthEvalina Toussaint is the narrator of many stories. From page one she insists her reminisces of Zelda Fitzgerald are the primary focus of this story. But Lee Smith’s Guests on Earth isn’t a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s a novel that Zelda Fitzgerald happens to appear in. As Evalina concedes, “Is any story not always the narrator’s story, in the end?” The infamous Zelda imbues Smith’s work of fiction with color and historical context, but she’s a glittering gem in Evalina’s kaleidoscopic world. A detached and detailed narrator, Evalina holds the kaleidoscope and watches all characters scatter and shift around her.

Evalina was born the daughter of an exotic dancer named Louise. She is devoted to her mother. They live in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Louise gains the affections of a Mr. Arthur Graves, a wealthy cotton broker, who dotes on her and Evalina. When Louise becomes pregnant, Mr. Graves furnishes a house outside of the Quarter, in a more respectable suburb. But the relationship sours after a sickly baby arrives and quickly dies. Distraught, Louise commits suicide. The repentant Mr. Graves takes the now orphaned Evalina into his home, Bellefleur, with predictably bad results. After her short-lived stint at Bellefleur, Evalina is shipped off to Highland Hospital in Asheville, partially because she refuses to eat and partially, as the novel suggests, at the urging of Mr. Graves’ wife.

Despite being uprooted again, Evalina acclimates without much trouble. The head doctor’s wife, Grace Potter Carroll, befriends Evalina. Mrs. Carroll heard word of Evalina’s unpolished musical talent before her arrival and offers Evalina piano lessons. Dr. Carroll believes that patients benefit from structure, good nutrition, and plenty of exercise. He orchestrates a schedule of constant activity for the Highland residents. Between the art classes and the hikes and the patient-staged theatricals, Highland feels like an extended summer camp to watch after the mentally ill.

Zelda is one of the many patients traipsing around Highland, but Smith renders her with a radiant energy, distinct from the rest. Evalina learns Zelda’s fickle nature straight away, how she can be friendly one instant and then cruel the next. After their art class, Zelda invites Evalina to make paper dolls and then rips them to shreds. Evalina observes how Zelda never looks the same twice and she notes that Zelda’s face was always shifting. Appropriately, Zelda plays Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary during a ballet at the hospital – one of her many productions at Highland.

Eventually, after some time there, Evalina, like many of the characters, moves on from Highland. She is accepted into the Peabody Institute to study music. Even though Evalina demonstrates immense talent, she prefers to play as an accompanist rather than a soloist. After several years in the real world, Evalina suffers another breakdown that sends her straight back to Highland. Things have changed. New doctors preside over the hospital with different philosophies. None of the old patients remain. Zelda is gone (but not for long).

Yet Highland still feels like home to Evalina. The security of its structure gives Evalina comfort since her childhood was spent in an unconventional environment, due to her mother’s employment. And her mother’s suicide shattered and displaced Evalina during her formative years. Evalina observes that the distinction between mentally sound and mentally unsound is tenuous at best; a line that she and other patients play jump rope with. While Evalina collects stories from the new and incoming residents, she is reticent to share own with others. Smith, in fact, provides many of patients’ stories secondhand, but does not cover much of the ugly reality in them firsthand. As one of the doctors discusses with Evalina, patients only stay at Highland for a brief moment, an excerpt from their entire life. With such a limited glimpse of a person, it is difficult to put a whole life in context. Lee Smith’s Guests on Earth portrays fabricated glimpses of a flamboyant historical figure, infused by the perspective and life story of a fictional and fascinating narrator.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Historical, Mountains, Smith, Lee

William Roy Pipes. Darby. Kent, U.K.: Ecanus Publishing, 2013.

darbyThe impulse for revenge consumes Andrew Woodard.  His father, George Woodard, was murdered in the woods near their home in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Floyd Caldwell came upon the elder Woodard as he was dying and tried to save his life.  For his kindness, he is regarded with suspicion by the Woodard family, who believe that Floyd killed George over a land deal gone bad.  Even when the sheriff clears Floyd of the crime, bad feelings fester. It finally reaches the point that George’s brother, Virgil Woodard, challenges Floyd to a duel.  The  two men cross over into Tennessee, where dueling is still legal in at this time (1904), and Floyd kills Virgil.

Could that be the end of this feud?  No.  Virgil’s second at the duel was George’s son, Andrew, who vows to avenge both his father and uncle’s deaths. Although a young man, Andrew is exceptionally violent and wily.  Even as other members of the Woodard and Caldwell families move on from the past to make rich lives, Andrew plots his revenge.  Darby follows Andrew through a twenty-year period of crimes, incarceration, deception, and madness in a chilling look at the destructive power of hate and illusion.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mountains, Pipes, William Roy, Wilkes

Diane Chamberlain. Necessary Lies. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013.

Necessary LiesJane Forrester’s (née Mackie) husband, Robert, can’t understand why his new wife wants to work. Neither can her mother nor any of the stay-at-home wives in her imposed social circle. When Jane and Robert first met, her quirks beguiled him. She wasn’t cut from the same cloth of the prototypical 1960s woman. Now that they’re official newlyweds, Robert wishes that Jane would join the Raleigh Junior League and derive satisfaction in being a physician’s wife, as well as the future mother of his unborn children. But Jane wants a chance at a brief career before children. She is sensitive and idealistic and interested in helping others through work. She gets hired as a social worker in the Department of Public Welfare shortly before their wedding. Robert tolerates Jane’s job, however he makes his desire for children and his short timetable known. With an M.D., Robert has ascended the socio-economic ladder and he is concerned acutely with fitting into his more well-heeled surroundings.

Robert is not thrilled when he learns that Jane will conduct field work alone in the fictional rural Grace County. Field work entails visiting the families of the cases that the social worker manages to monitor their needs and progress. The social worker executes any actions or files any paperwork considered necessary for the greater good. Jane’s two first cases are the Hart and Jordan families who live and work on Davidson Gardiner’s farm. She neglects her boss’s advice and becomes invested emotionally in the Hart family, leading her to a series of choices that could violate the procedures of the Department of Public Welfare and negate the defined purpose of her position. But Jane feels unable to accept the rules as they’ve been handed to her. She is disturbed by how the department enforces its own code of morality and communicates its actions deceptively to the parties involved.

According Charlotte Werkmen, Jane’s boss and former social worker in charge of the case, fifteen year-old Ivy Hart is the last chance for the Hart family. Ivy’s older sister, Mary Ella has already given birth to a baby named William. Mary Ella is beautiful and slow, which Charlotte regards as a dangerous combination. Ivy and Mary Ella’s father is dead and mother is an institutionalized schizophrenic. They live in a farmhouse with their diabetic grandmother, Nonnie. Ivy worries about her family’s security in the farmhouse. Nonnie is increasingly unable to work and she has little regard for her health, indulging frequently in sugar. Because Nonnie is petulant and ornery and Mary Ella is unreliable and often missing, Ivy is the nucleus forced to mother and to hold the family together. By government standards, Ivy qualifies at a functioning level, but barely. She has an IQ of 80 and Petit Mal epilepsy. Charlotte warns Jane to watch Ivy carefully — if Ivy winds up pregnant, all her opportunities will evaporate.

Veteran novelist Diane Chamberlain deals with the sexism and racism prevalent during the 1960s and provides a historical basis to Necessary Lies. She alternates the story between Ivy and Jane’s points-of-view primarily. The novel explores the issue of people’s authority over their bodies. Chamberlain illustrates this point from both perspectives: a doctor refusing to prescribe Jane birth control without her husband’s permission to a eugenics program masked to its recipients as benevolent healthcare. The themes of control and consent reappear over the course of the novel, where institutions and people are given the power to make personal judgements for others. Additionally, the book questions the idea of people who are classified as “incapable” or “unfit” by official sanctioning. Who, if anyone, should have the agency to make decisions for those deemed “incapable” or “unfit”? Chamberlain offers an absorbing read on a fictionalized portrayal of a regrettable segment of North Carolina’s history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chamberlain, Diane, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Wake

David James. Harmes’ Way. United States: River Farm Books, 2012.

harmesBen Harmes is an Outer Banks native, but he spent most of his adult life working as a policeman in Boston.  After his wife’s death, an ill-advised second marriage, and over zealous interest in a politically sensitive case, Ben has washed back up on the North Carolina coast.  His daughter Kate, a state park ranger, provides good company, as do a number of easy-going, beer-drinking locals.

One of those locals is Charlie Evans, a good ol’ boy who matches Ben drink for drink.  Charlie can take it easy because his underwater filming company made good money from its part in the recovery of gold from a downed German U-boat just off the coast.  As Harmes’ Way opens Ben, hung over, is rushing to meet Charlie for some early morning surf casting.  When Ben finds Charlie’s SUV, rod, and waders, but no Charlie, his policeman’s instincts kick in.  Even though the sheriff’s deputy suspects nothing more sinister than an accidental drowning, Ben begins to nose around.  He learns from Charlie’s business partner, Sophie Carson, that two men associated with the U-boat film project died under suspicious circumstances just a few months back.  Then Sophie’s house is bombed.  Sophie survives, and she teams up with Ben in a adventures that moves across North Carolina from the Outer Banks, to Wilmington, to Grandfather Mountain, to 100 feet below the surface of the ocean off Hatteras Island.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, James, David, Mystery

Joan Opyr. Shaken and Stirred. Ann Arbor, MI: Bywater Books, 2011.

shakenTar Heels know that you can’t go home again–but sometimes you have to.  Poppy Koslowski has been living clear across the country from her loving, but dysfunctional, family.  Growing up, Poppy and her mother lived with her maternal grandparents in Wake County, North Carolina.  Or, that’s how it was until her grandfather, Hunter, ran off with the boozy mother of Poppy’s friends.  Before too long, Poppy herself left–to college, then graduate school, to jobs, moving ever further north and west, until she settled in Portland, Oregon.

As Shaken and Stirred opens, Poppy is recovering from a hysterectomy and is feeling sore and sad.  Poppy’s long-time BFF, Abby, who is a nurse, is keeping a watchful eye on her, and she’s present when Poppy gets the phone call telling her that her grandfather is dying.  Poppy can’t refuse her mother’s request that she come home to help her and Nana through this difficult time.  Abby volunteers to come too–Poppy is not back to full strength and Wake County is home turf for Abby too.  Abby can visit with her mother and help Poppy’s family make sense of Hunter’s medical condition.

But being back in North Carolina brings back so many memories for Poppy–her parents’ separation, her grandmother’s strict sense of propriety, her attempts to fit in at school and at home, her grandfather’s drinking.  Even as a child, she knew that her grandfather’s behavior was irresponsible, but he took an interest in her and took her on some of the most memorable adventures of her youth.  But all that came to an end when Hunter took off with Jean–the mother of Poppy’s first love, Susan.  Now Hunter’s whole life will be reviewed, and that old can of worms–and many others–will be opened.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Opyr, Joan, Piedmont, Wake

Edward Lazellari. The Lost Prince. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2013.

The Lost PrinceWhat if your entire life was an illusion? What if you were living a double life — and you didn’t even know it?

In Awakenings, the first book in Edward Lazellari’s Guardians of Aandor series, readers meet Cal MacDonnell, a police officer, and Seth Raincrest, a struggling photographer. At first glance, the two men seem to have little in common – except for one distinguishing characteristic. Both men suffer from retrograde amnesia. They have no memory of their prior lives. Unexpectedly and inexplicably, fantastical creatures begin to hunt down MacDonnell and Raincrest. Over the course of the novel, Lazellari develops, through multiple plot lines and perspectives, that Cal and Set originate from an alternate, medieval land, called Aandor. They traveled to Earth to protect the infant prince of Aandor from a group of assassins. But the prince was lost and their memories were wiped clean after an accident.

With the sequel, The Lost Prince, Cal and Set gradually remember more details about their former lives. During the prologue, more characters experience sudden seizures that return their memories of Aandor. Malcolm Robbe is an industrial titan and the top weapons producer in America. Allyn Grey is the reverend at the First Community Baptist Church of Raleigh. Or so their earthly memories would lead them to believe. Recollections of Aandor and their botched mission complicate their relationships on Earth. Reverend Grey, for example, shocks his family by integrating his pagan beliefs from Aandor with his Christian ministry. And Cal’s wife, Cat, is set on edge when Cal remembers his betrothed, a wealthy and beautiful lady.

However, the search for the prince is the driving action in the second chapter of this series. The guardians, with their refreshed memories, are desperate to get their hands on the prince before the vicious sorcerer Dorn finds him. Dorn is bent on purifying Aandor from supposedly lesser races. He lives in the neighboring land of Farrenheil and wishes to control Aandor.

Daniel, the thirteen year-old prince, stumbles between regular danger and momentary safety. Dorn and the guardians aren’t the only ones searching for Daniel. Law enforcement and the press have branded Daniel as the “teen killer” after murdering his abusive stepfather. For the time being, Daniel is safe, but only marginally so.  Seedy private investigator Colby Dretch has sheltered Daniel with his sister Beverly and her lascivious sixteen year-old daughter, Luanne in a trailer parker situated in the “boonies” of North Carolina. However, Colby doesn’t hold Daniel’s best interests at heart. He has a secret agenda. Dorn employed Colby to locate and deliver Daniel to him. Now that Daniel is willingly in his care, will Colby surrender him over Dorn? Or will Cal and Seth or another one of the newly awakened guardians rescue Daniel first?

Although Lazellari has included enough detail for new readers to catch on to the story, readers might want to start with the first book in the series for a fuller experience given the length and intricacy of the novels and the quantity of characters. Lazellari handles the complexity of the characters’ double lives well. The characters express a range of reactions to their reinstated memories. Some are not troubled by the duality, while others are conflicted by the duality and where they truly belong.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Lazellari, Edward, Nash, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wake

Courtney Giardina. Tear Stained Beaches. Florham Park, NJ: Take Two Publishing, 2013.

Haylie met Chase when she was a senior in college.  Chase, then a law student, had been captain of the college soccer team and was known around campus for his good looks and good character. When Haylie and Chase become a couple and eventually marry, Haylie feels that her life is truly blessed.

But trouble enters their life after Chase takes a job in Charlotte. Haylie has difficulty finding a job, and she finds little support from the women in her upscale neighborhood, who think that her career aspirations are a bit odd. Meanwhile, Chase becomes ever more absorbed in his work–staying late, bringing home paperwork, and being inattentive and short with Haylie.  Just when Haylie thinks she can come to terms with this, it gets worse.  Chase texts at all hours of the day and night, and he starts taking many more trips–without Haylie. Haylie fears that Chase is having an affair. When her suspicions are confirmed, she flees to a small island on the Carolina coast. There she finds a woman she can confide in–someone who offers sisterhood in a way that Haylie’s Charlotte neighbors did not. But this friendship brings with it unexpected pain.

Written in the first person, Tear Stained Beaches, takes us inside Haylie’s mind. Happy memories are interspersed with an linear plot that takes Haylie from the first moments of attraction through betrayal and to a life that she builds on her own. This realistic, generous novel comes with book club discussion questions and a Q and A with the author at the end.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Giardina, Courtney, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship