Category Archives: Wake


Therese Fowler. Exposure. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2011.

Therese Fowler’s powerful novel, based loosely on the real-life experiences of one of her children, reminds us of the horrifying way that a community can lose its head. The story begins simply: Amelia Wilkes and Anthony Winter are in love. She is 17, he is 18, and together they have built a fairytale world of their entwined dreams. Together they will attend NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, living together in an apartment in New York City, and starring together on Broadway. Always together. But Amelia’s father, Harlan Wilkes, has different plans. Having clawed his way from the very bottom of life to the very top, he is as determined as any loving father would be to see that his precious baby, his little girl, never has to experience the poverty and deprivation that was once his lot. She will attend Duke University, only a few miles from the Wilkes’ Raleigh mansion, where she will major in something financially sound. One day, far off in the future, she will marry a wealthy, charming husband who will take care of her for the rest of her life.

Then, in a moment, that vision shatters when he finds nude photographs of an unknown young man on her computer.

What follows is a tragedy, and very nearly worse, in the most heart-stopping of ways. With a deft hand and the voice of personal experience, Fowler explores the depth of emotion and consequences that occur when two teenagers are publicly criminalized nearly beyond recognition. This novel does, and should, provoke conversations about the abuse of justice, the power of fear, and the difficulty of allowing a child to become an adult in a society that is both predatory and cruel. Therese Fowler’s novel suggests that, while placing trust in an adolescent to choose rightly is terrifying, withholding that trust can be more damaging than we think.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Fowler, Therese, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Wake

Maureen Crane Wartski. Yuri’s Brush with Magic. Durham, NC: Sleepy Hollow Books, 2010.

“Mean” Yuri Hamada is a family legend. When Nana married an American, her sister Yuri refused to reply to her letters and never spoke to her again, or at least that’s what everyone thinks. So when “Mean” Yuri surprises the family and rents a cottage on the Outer Banks, living with Yuri for the summer is the very last thing Tammy and her brother Ken want. Unfortunately they have no choice: their mother, the victim of a terrible accident, is in the hospital and their father thinks it would be better for them to get away for awhile, even if it means living with “Mean” Yuri. Protesting, the youngsters are bundled off to the North Carolina shore, where they decide to be as terrible as possible in order to convince Yuri to send them back to Raleigh. But it doesn’t work. Yuri’s magical painting abilities entrance the children, as does her storytelling. Tammy and Ken begin to understand more about their Hamada roots, and even “Mean” Yuri. Their terrible summer trapped with an evil woman turns into one they will remember forever, bringing with it both difficult and liberating life lessons about self-reliance and the power of the heart. Filled with compelling characters, Japanese lore, and baby sea turtles, Yuri’s Brush with Magic will keep young readers and parents alike as enthralled as if Yuri were reading it aloud herself, for Maureen Wartski’s beautiful prose lingers in the mind long after the tale is done.

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


Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Piedmont, Wake, Wartski, Maureen Crane

Jacquelin Thomas. Shades of Gray. New York: Steeple Hill Books, 2006.

Sela and Rodney Barnes married when they were quite young, and as this novel opens they are celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary.  They have built a good life together–their two oldest children are in college at North Carolina State University, and Rodney owns a successful trucking business.  But Rodney’s parents have never accepted Sela.  They believe that Rodney’s marriage to Sela and the quick birth of their oldest daughter kept Rodney from finishing college and becoming to white collar professional that they expected him to be.  Although it is unsaid, Sela can sense that they disapprove of her because she is African American and Mr. and Mrs. Barnes are white.

Sela’s relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Barnes is one of the few points of tension between her and Rodney.  Religion is the other one.  Rodney has been born again as a Christian; he and the children attend church each week and he looks to the Bible for guidance in his daily life.  Shortly after the celebration of  their twentieth wedding anniversary, Rodney is diagnosed with heart disease.  After a heart transplant fails to save Rodney, Sela is left to raise the children and run the business alone.  Reading Rodney’s diary, and an intervention by her two oldest children, help Sela to see the value of religion and to make peace with her in-laws. There will be challenges ahead, but Sela and her family–all of them–will go down the road together.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Thomas, Jacquelin, Wake

Michael Morris. Slow Way Home. New York: HarperOne, 2004.

Brandon’s life has always been full of uncertainty. Whether he is trying to navigate his mother’s erratic, alcohol-fueled moods or to protect himself from her abusive boyfriends, Brandon is always on the edge. That all changes when, at the insistence of his mother’s latest mate, Brandon is sent to live with his grandparents near Raleigh. Although he feels abandoned at first, Brandon deeply appreciates his new stable home life and his grandparents’ undying love.

Uncertainty follows him to the Triangle, however, when his mother returns demanding Brandon. His grandparents are unwilling to place him back in her unpredictable care, and they initiate a custody battle. Although Brandon’s mother arrives late and disheveled to visitations and legal meetings, the judge rules that Brandon should be returned to her. Brandon’s grandparents cannot bear the thought of parting with him, and seeing no other options, they decide to abscond with Brandon to Florida. They change their names, their appearances, and their stories and start life anew.

Brandon has a chance to start over in Florida, but he brings one aspect of his previous life with him: fear. He and his grandparents bristle at the sight of police officers, and Brandon panics on a field trip when he mistakes a stranger for his mother. Although they find a happy life in Florida, Brandon’s fears are realized when their secret is uncovered. He is sent back to Raleigh to live with his mother, and his grandparents are sent to prison.

Although Brandon can anticipate that his mother will prove to be an unfit mother, he has no intuition about who will save him. One individual’s benevolence allows Brandon to let go of his fears and to be reunited with his grandparents. Feeling free at last, Brandon maps out his destiny.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2004, Morris, Michael, Piedmont, Wake

N.W. “Red” Pope. The Sweet Potato Caper. Scottsdale, AZ: Five Points Publishing, 2009.

Benson, North Carolina, in the fall of 1959 may appear to be a typically sleepy, small Southern town, but that simplicity is deceiving. Sure, traditional mores still dictate interactions and stores close for the noontime meal (“dinner,” not “supper”). However, Benson becomes the center of excitement when a few outsiders kick up some dust.

The strangers who cause the ruckus arrive in Benson for different reasons. Jimmy, a gambler with a losing-streak and a demanding family, is in town to train for a banking job with the People’s State Bank. He drives to work from Raleigh with Woody, a likable fellow who begins dating a teller at the bank. One afternoon, they make the acquaintance of Tom Boney, aka T-Bone, an unsuccessful crop insurance salesman from Roanoke Rapids. His infidelity leads to divorce, and he is desperate for money. Woody makes an off-handed comment about how the positioning of the train – which divides Benson and blocks five major roads in town – would make robbing the bank easy. For the next few weeks, no one thinks anything else of his remark.

As Jimmy’s and T-Bone’s situations worsen, Jimmy decides to put Woody’s observation to the test. He gets T-Bone in on the plan, arranging for him to find two associates to help with the robbery. Although the burglary goes off without a hitch, the criminals leave damning clues that the FBI uses to catch two of the crooks; the other pair are off the hook to live luxuriously in Costa Rica.

And for Benson, this alarming episode signals a change in its once-trusting community – simply that “times ain’t like they used to be.”

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coastal Plain, Johnston, Pope, N. W., Suspense/Thriller, Wake

Jacquelin Thomas. Samson. New York: Gallery Books, 2010.

Samson Taylor was raised to be a man of God.  His great grandfather founded Hillside Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the men of his family, down to Samson’s own father, have been pastors of the church.  Now Uncle Zachariah is the senior pastor, and he has called Samson to be his assistant.  Samson, a graduate of Duke and its divinity school, intends to walk humbly with the lord and make his family proud.

But Samson is not just a man of God, he is a man of the flesh too.  Like his father before him, Samson has a weakness for beautiful women.  His weakness leads him into situations that hurt him, his ministry, and those who love him: marriage to a woman not of his faith, an act of revenge against his wife that hurts many people, a dangerous relationship with a married woman that leaves him broken and humbled.  Uncle Zacharia and Aunt Hazel try to guide him, and a true friend is there for Samson when he hits bottom, but Samson has to decide for himself what kind of man he will be.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Thomas, Jacquelin, Wake

Kim Reynolds. Alex Charles: The Evening Oak. Plymouth, MI: HMSI Publishing, 2010.

Alexandra “Alex” Charles is at a crossroads in her life. Over the past eighteen months, she has wished many times for her parents’ guidance. After both perished in a tragic car accident when she was just sixteen, Alex was left with no family. Having just graduated from high school, she wonders if college is the right next step. Alex is trying to enjoy a carefree summer when a man contacts her claiming to be her long lost uncle. Although Alex is apprehensive about meeting the stranger, she is enticed by the idea that she might not be completely alone. She decides to meet Joseph Graham.

Alex immediately likes her Uncle Joe, but she must learn to trust him. Joe has some (almost) unbelievable information about her heritage: her family has the ability to travel through time. They see themselves as special angels who can go back in history seven times throughout their lives to right wrongs. Although her parents chose to live a normal life, Joe wants Alex to know her options.

As she gets to know her sole family member through his own stories of time travel, Alex realizes that this is the direction for which she has been yearning. She lets Joe introduce her to the family business, which includes teaching her how to research an event in history that she would like to change (nothing too big or too personal, so she cannot save her parents), and allowing Alex to view his own first experience in 1865 Bentonville, North Carolina. With this knowledge, Alex must choose which life to live.

Alex Charles: The Evening Oak is the first book in the “Alex Charles Book Series.”

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Johnston, New Hanover, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Reynolds, Kim, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wake

Sandra Carrington-Smith. The Book of Obeah. Winchester, UK: O Books, 2010.

Melody Bennet and her grandmother, Giselle, were close, so she wasn’t surprise when her grandmother specified that Melody should be the one to take her ashes back home to Louisiana.  Melody grew up in Johnston County, North Carolina and knows little about her family’s roots in the bayous of Louisiana.  Melody thought it was odd that Giselle talked so little about her mother and her brother and why they left Louisiana. Melody also though it a bit strange that while all the other family members regularly attended the local Catholic church, Giselle, although spiritually inclined, attended mass only on major holy days.

Following Giselle’s request, Melody goes to Louisiana to bring Giselle’s ashes to Marie Devereux for a blessing.  Marie welcomes Melody, knowing that Giselle tapped Melody for this assignment because she saw in her granddaughter the potential to carry on a tradition of power and healing outside the conventions of modern life.  In a story that moves back and forth between Louisiana and North Carolina, Melody comes to understand her family’s legacy and to accept the power within.  She also has to fight off individuals jealous of her power and a religious organization threatened by the knowledge in a book of “magick” that her great-grandmother brought from the bayou.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Carrington-Smith, Sandra, Johnston, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller, Wake

Matthew Corey. Remember the Rollerdogs. United States: Prince Street Publishing, 2010.

Michael Stanton is having a quarter life crisis. Although he has a good job with the local Triangle television station’s graphics department, Michael misses his college days at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Everything was less complicated before he was responsible for his bills, and he had more time for his hobbies, such as hockey. His relationship with his girlfriend of three years, Alison, was also better. Although they are engaged now, Michael is beginning to wonder if their recent arguments and the tension between them foreshadow what their marriage will be like. Alison has become combative, controlling, and distant. One example of this is her discouragement of his joining the Rollerdogs, a recreational roller hockey team, with his friends. When Michael and Alison decide to end their engagement, he realizes that he needs to make some changes. He allows himself to get closer to his teenage hockey pen pal, Mandy, who lives in Atlanta. Although there is a sizable age difference between the two, Michael sees value in their friendship. He also starts to exercise more and eat healthier, and he finally joins the Rollerdogs. With his new-found self-respect, commitment to Mandy, and support from his hockey teammates, Michael enjoys a new happiness and discovers that not all change is bad.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Corey, Matthew, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Wake

Bernice Kelly Harris. Purslane. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939.

This loosely structured novel made a big splash when it was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1939. It was a departure from the academic nonfiction typically published by UNC Press and it was an altogether different book from the sensationalistic novels of the South put out by commercial publishers in the 1930s.

Purslane is set in a small farming community in central North Carolina.  John and Dele Fuller and their extended family are the focus of the novel.  The hard work of farming; daily routines before rural electrification; the decisions, large  and small, that set the course of each person’s life; and the ties that bind individuals to their kin and the community fill the pages of the novel.  Portrayals of the events of the community–church picnics, corn huskings, coon hunts, hog killings–give readers a rich picture of a culture that has slipped away during our parents’ lifetimes.

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

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Filed under 1930-1939, 1939, Harris, Bernice Kelly, Piedmont, Wake