Category Archives: Coastal Plain

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Monique Miller. Redemption Lake. New York: Kensington Books, 2012.

Redemption LakeAnd it was all relative when she thought about it; a person’s perception was truly their reality.

Marriage is a two-way street, and it takes plenty of effort and patience to resolve disputes and stave off conflict. Problems can erupt from a single source and branch off to create additional complications. Often, it’s tough to definitively pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Redemption Lake covers three couples struggling to support their marriages. The spouses here have been pushed so far they can barely manage to talk to each other without contempt or anger, let alone hear what the other person is saying.

Readers of Miller’s work will recognize Phillip and Shelby Tomlinson, characters from her first novel, Secret Sisterhood. In Secret Sisterhood, Shelby and Phillip confronted their marital difficulties. After attending a marriage counseling retreat and helping with the couples’ ministry, Phillip has been tasked with leading a week-long retreat at a mountain resort for three couples, and Shelby has come along to help. Phillip is worried that he isn’t skilled enough to facilitate effective communication between the couples and guide them through their problems to a successful resolution. Based on the general profiles of each couple, this isn’t going to be an easy week for anyone.

Charlotte Knight has been collecting proof of her husband Xavier’s infidelities meticulously. She knows, in secret, that Xavier visits a number of diverse sources to stray, from the Internet to a neighbor down the street. The news of her positive STD test was the final piece of evidence that pushed her over the edge. Beryl Highgate is fed up with her lazy husband Travis. He promises to find a job and pull his weight, but he never delivers. She’s exhausted from taking care of their children, their finances, and him. Something has to change. Beryl can’t take his excuses any longer. Pastor George Jones was surprised and embarrassed to learn of his wife Nina’s hidden gambling problem. Recently, he’s found out that her addiction has affected not only their finances, but also those of his church in Greenville, North Carolina. He has to find a remedy before her gambling destroys both of their lives.

Phillip knows that there are always three sides to any story: “his side, her side, and the truth.” Novelist Monique Miller structured Redemption Lake so that readers will see the stories of the three couples from all angles. The novel is organized with brief prologue documenting the surface grievances of each couple. The remainder is largely broken up in chapters that rotate between the three husbands and Phillip, followed by the three wives and Shelby. Miller concludes with “the truth” as seen through Phillip’s eyes, observing the end of the retreat and the final outcomes among the couples. Miller doesn’t gloss over her characters and write a neat, happy ending for every couple. She sticks closer to the side of realism, where sometimes things work out but sometimes things are too far gone to fix.

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

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Filed under Coastal Plain, Miller, Monique, Mountains, Pitt, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Ernest Beasley. Cape Fear Murders. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011.

capefearThe body count gets high in this novel of adultery, revenge, and abuse of power set in Lee County, North Carolina.  First one high school girl is raped and murdered, then another, and another, and another. When the father of the fourth victim becomes impatient with the pace of the investigation, he contacts retired United States Marshall, Kenneth Sadler.  Sadler, a widower, is happy for the work and grateful for an excuse to temporarily relocate away from the many widows in nearby Moore County who view him as a desirable catch.

Sadler does not get off on the right foot with Lee County Sheriff Joe Dorman.  While it’s natural that the local authorities do not welcome a private investigator from the outside, Sadler learns that Sheriff Dorman may have particular reasons for trying to keep a tight rein on this case.  Other discoveries raise questions about the behaviors and intentions of both high school students and the adults in their lives.  Whose behavior is more foolish? More dangerous?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Beasley, Ernest, Coastal Plain, Lee, Moore, Mystery, New Hanover

Rene Gutteridge and John Ward. Heart of the Country. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.

heartCatherine Barnett’s death in an automobile accident scarred her entire family.  Calvin, her husband, was left with the task of bringing his daughters out of adolescence and into adulthood.  That, and keeping up the farm and his horses, consumed him.  Olivia stayed close to home, marrying and raising her children near the home place in Columbus County, North Carolina.  Faith, who has her mother’s beautiful voice and stage presence, left to attend the Julliard School in New York City.  Faith’s lack of confidence and drive derailed her singing career, but in New York she met Luke Carraday, the younger son of financial wizard Austin Carraday.

When Heart of the Country opens, Faith and Luke have been married four years.  The young couple have tried to find their own way in New York, living in a modest Manhattan apartment rather than on the Upper East Side, and keeping their appearances at big society events to minimum.  None of this pleases Luke’s family, but only when Luke leaves the family firm to buy in with a competitor, the slightly shady Michov Brothers, does the Carraday family unity crack.  Luke’s brother, Jake, is particularly harsh in his judgments–first Luke marries this country girl who must be a gold-digger and then he turn his back on the firm that their father poured his life into.  It’s all Jake can do not to say “I told you so” when the Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Luke and the Michovs, and Faith turns her back on Luke and returns to North Carolina.

Faith’s return to North Carolina is no joyous homecoming.  Olivia, who is feeling worn out at thirty, resents the attention that Faith receives and she is possessive about their father.  Plus, she is offended by Faith’s failure to bring Luke to North Carolina to meet the family.  The Barnetts wouldn’t know Luke if they walked right into him.  Calvin is just feeling old, too old to care much about the house, the barn, even his beloved horse, Silver.  Lee, the local ER doctor, offers his friendship to Faith, but his special knowledge of her mother’s death stands between them like a radioactive field.

Faith has come back to re-build her life, but she cannot do that without facing up to some truths about herself.  Is she weak–someone who gives up after the first setback?  The way she bolted when Luke was arrested marks her as someone who runs at the first sign of trouble.  But what about Luke, will he survive his  legal troubles, and if he does, will he find a way to win back Faith’s trust?  Heart of the Country explores the pain that exists in even the closest of families and how religious faith and family love can bring about healing.

The film version of Heart of the Country, starring Jana Kramer, was released in 2012.

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

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

Shelley Pearsall. Jump into the Sky. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Jump into the SkyChange is nothing new to thirteen-year- old Levi Battle. He is well acquainted with getting passed around and traded off among relatives. His mother, Queen Bee Walker, a beautiful but demanding jazz singer, abandoned Levi as an infant in an old Ford in the parking lot of a jazz club because she was dissatisfied with her unglamorous lifestyle and the weight of her maternal obligations. His father, Charles Battle, left Levi behind to serve as an army lieutenant in World War II. By contrast to his family, Levi views himself as a person who sticks around, even though his relatives are constantly shifting.

In his father’s absence, Levi lived first in the custody of his grandmother. Upon her death, he was transferred to the care of his Aunt Odella. The novel begins in the spring of 1945. After three years of housing her nephew, Aunt Odella has decided that since the war is almost over, the time has arrived for Levi to depart Chicago and reconnect with his father who is stationed in Fayetteville. Truth be told, she is tired of her charge and wants a reprieve from her responsibility. For three years she has slept on a cot in her living room to make space for Levi in her cramped apartment. With the end of the war in sight, Aunt Odella sees the opportunity for her personal liberation too.

So Aunt Odella packs Levi onto a train from Illinois to North Carolina with a suitcase and a bag of fried chicken. Levi is panic-stricken. He fears that he will arrive at his father’s army post unwanted. As the train travels further South, Levi faces another unexpected trouble as well–racism. Before relocating, Levi was unaware of the full extent of regional differences toward race. He is unaccustomed to the open hostility that he meets in the South. On his route and upon his arrival to North Carolina, he makes a couple of honest faux pas that do not jibe with the laws of Jim Crow. In one hard lesson, a shopkeeper threatens Levi’s life when he asks for a Coca-Cola. Following that encounter, Levi understands Southern racial etiquette with greater clarity.

With a little bit of luck, Levi manages to arrive unharmed in Fayetteville only to discover that his father’s unit has moved out to a new, undisclosed location. Yet again, he has been deserted, albeit unintentionally. The people in Levi’s life do not appear to discard him totally out of malevolence. Outside factors seem to nudge between Levi and his family and snip the ties. During his time in North Carolina, Levi encounters an old sweetgrass basket weaver named MawMaw Sands who teaches him that at the center of every basket is “a knot of pain” that anchors its foundation. In MawMaw Sands’ opinion, pain and sweetness are interwoven in life. Levi’s life appears knotted with an especially large amount of pain. His challenge is to clutch at the sweetness he can find and braid it in, no matter the struggle.

Novelist Shelley Pearsall sends Levi on a journey to unexpected locations across the country in pursuit of his father. Family, is not so easily found or established, and, as Pearsall reveals, these bonds must sometimes be learned anew. This book is intended for children and young adults, however, Pearsall’s memorable characters and witty narrator could hook readers of any age. Additionally, the portrayal of racism from Levi’s adolescent and unfamiliar perspective is poignant in its genuine and innocent surprise.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Moore, Pearsall, Shelley, Piedmont

Jill McCorkle. Life after Life. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013.

lifeA good family saga weaves together the stories of multiple generations of distinctly different but connected characters.  In Life after Life, the family is not the Forsytes, the Snopes, or the Corleones, but the residents and staff of Pine Haven, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina.  Pine Haven is the current home of a number of long-time Fulton residents including Lois Flowers, the local fashion plate; Marge Walker, the hyper-judgmental widow of a local judge; Stanley Stone, a retired attorney; and Sadie Randolph, who was widowed young and went on to become a beloved teacher.  But Pine Haven has attracted some outsiders too, including Toby Tyler, a retired teacher who drifted up from South Carolina and Rachel Silverman, a lawyer from Massachusetts (pronounced MassaTOOsetts by the locals) who choose Pine Haven for a very private reason.  People like Sadie are friendly with everyone, but Marge and Stanley (who is faking dementia) stir up some trouble.  Marge can be quite critical of C.J., the young woman who serves at the beautician for the residents.  C.J. is an easy target, with her piercings, tattoos, and her odd clothing.  And Marge doesn’t even know about how C.J. earned money before she had her baby, Kurt.

Joanna, the hospice worker, knows a bit about C.J’s life, but her heart is open to C.J. and her baby.  Joanna, a local who went away and then came back, has her own past which is a ready topic for Marge and Stanley when no better subject is at hand.  The intervention of a large dog saved her life and the dog’s wise owner helped Joanna find a way past her sadness to a meaningful life.

Joanna tends both the dying and the living–even Abby, a young girl who lives nearby and who is a regular visitor at Pine Haven.  Abby’s father is a childhood friend of Joanna’s and her mother is a mean, shallow person who every reader will root against.  The lives of Abby and her parents intersect with those of the Pine Haven characters in surprising ways.  This is a novel of revelations and unexpected connections.  Life after Life is a book in McCorkle’s characteristic style–there is sadness, humor, and wry acceptance of the muddle that people can make of their lives.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coastal Plain, McCorkle, Jill

Karen Foley. Coming Up for Air. Toronto: Harlequin, 2012.

comingupforairArmy captain Jenna Larson is an ace Black Hawk helicopter pilot on her way from Fort Drum in New York to Kabul Airbase in Afghanistan. Stuck at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for three days before heading out, Jenna finds herself running into the same handsome serviceman over and over. Her nosy Warrant Officer and best friend, Laura Costanza, ID’s him– he’s Chase Rawlins, a soon-to-be-deployed, serious-minded special ops officer. When Jenna next sees him at a local bar, he seems just as attracted to her as she is to him. One thing leads to another. Jenna files the memorable encounter away in her head for later, when she’s running dangerous missions in Afghanistan. She never thinks she’ll see Chase Rawlins again.

In fact, she’d be surprised to learn that she has never met Chase Rawlins to begin with. Her tryst was not with him, but with his identical twin brother Chance– a hot-headed, devilish Apache helicopter pilot. When Jenna’s path crosses that of the real Chase in Afghanistan, she’s surprised and disappointed but stoic about his blank response to her presence…until she runs into Chance the same day. Chance hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Jenna, and when he finally sets her case of mistaken identity to rights, she isn’t pleased. Jenna has rules about sleeping with other pilots. Will Chance get a second chance with Jenna? And is their budding romance able to withstand both Afghanistan and the United States Army’s strict regulations?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Foley, Karen, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Romance/Relationship

Corrine Jackson. If I Lie. New York: Simon Pulse, 2012.

lieWhen you’re in high school, things can seem very black-or-white. Girl cheats on her boyfriend who is a Marine on duty in Afghanistan, she’s trash. When that boyfriend is MIA after a firefight, the whole town shuns her and calls her ugly names.  Since this girl is the child of a woman who ran off with another man, even her own father treats her with a cold disdain. Like mother, like daughter.

This is Sophie Topper Quinn’s life. Quinn–the name her father insists on–has learned to accept her father’s cold manner. In the years since her mother left, Quinn has wondered what role she might have played in her mother’s departure. She can’t say that her father’s behavior is unreasonable, but she is shocked to find herself so on her own after a photo surfaces on Facebook that shows her kissing someone other than Carey Breen. No one knows that Quinn turned to someone else after Carey told her her that he was gay and asked her help in covering that for him in their small military town.

To keep Quinn out of trouble, her dad arranges for her to volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in nearby Fayetteville.  There she becomes friends with George Wilkins, a retired military photographer.  George recognizes Quinn’s talent and enlists her to work with him on the Veterans History Project. Quinn’s edgy defensiveness does not put off George and as their friendship grows, he helps her navigate additional curve balls–like her mother’s return–that come her way.

Although If I Lie focuses on how Quinn responds the turmoil in her life, readers also get a look into the lives of other characters, particularly George, Quinn’s mother, and Carey’s best friend, Blake.  All have behaved in ways that they regret, without mercy or grace to themselves or those closest to them. By placing this coming-of-age novel in a military town in the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell Era, Corrine Jackson has produced a book that will engage both young adult and mature readers.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Jackson, Corrine, Onslow

Margaret Maron. The Buzzard Table. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012.

It’s hard to believe that the war on terror has come to Colleton County, but that’s what PAT–Patriots Against Torture–thinks.  Its members believe that the county airport is being used  to fly terrorism suspects out of this country to secret prisons in Europe where they will be tortured.  As this novel opens, Jeremy Harper, a local high school boy in the group who trespassed at the airport, appears in Deborah Knott’s court to answer the charges against him.  Because Jeremy does not have a record, he is given community service time.  He will use his talents as a photographer to document the stories of local veterans.  His activities will be directed by a local minister and Anne Harald, a noted photojournalist who is in town to attend to the needs of her dying mother, local grande dame Mrs. Lattimore.

Anne Harald is the mother of NYPD detective Sigrid Harald, who has also come to Colleton County to be with Mrs. Lattimore.  Even though Mrs. Lattimore is fading fast, she insists that the family entertain a long-lost nephew who is in the area doing research on buzzards.  Against her will, Deborah is roped in to dining with the Lattimore clan.  Deborah has already met the nephew and has been put off by his bad manners and excessive desire for privacy.  Later, when an attractive realtor is murdered and her body dumped near the birder’s research site, Deborah is suspicious, as is Sigrid.

But this is a case for the county sheriff, and Deborah’s husband, sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant, suspects that a jealous husband or spurned lover committed the crime.  The murder of a stranger at a local motel sets both Dwight and the reader to ponder whether the two murders are connected.  While Dwight works on the cases, Deborah keeps the home fires burning, cementing her relationship with her stepson Cal.  As the novel ends they are more a family, even as Deborah realizes that there are things about Dwight’s past that she does not–and may never–know.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Barbara Arntsen. High on the Hog: A Peri Mason Mystery. United States: CreateSpace, 2012.

Reporter Periwinkle “Peri” Mason is looking forward to a relaxing Carolina fall. Earlier in the year she narrowly avoided becoming a victim while unexpectedly solving a slew of murders on Myrtle Beach, and in her opinion, once was enough. Unfortunately, the universe has other plans for the tough journalist from fictional Lofton, North Carolina.

While walking along the Neuse River in Wayne County near Lofton, Peri’s spirited Jack Russell terrier discovers something truly grisly– a body floating in the shallows. The corpse is that of Curtis Ganner, who was missing for several days. Mysteriously, his truck was found miles upriver, making murder the likely cause of his demise. Curtis worked for the McKeel Processing Plant, which is one of the largest pork producers in eastern North Carolina. The plant’s human fatality rate begins to rise when another missing employee is also found murdered. When a third victim’s head is found among some porcine remains, Peri can’t help herself– she starts investigating.

As she digs into the soft underbelly of the pork industry the intrepid reporter finds not only murder, but industrial espionage. Soon she is knee-deep in pig excrement (literally and figuratively), and more in danger than ever. Will Peri make it out alive this time?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Arnsten, Barbara, Coastal Plain, Duplin, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller, Wayne

Stephanie McCoy. Sweet as Cane. Berkeley, CA: Pen & Mouse Books, 2012.

Marrow is a small, fictional town in North Carolina, somewhere between the Triangle and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1957, it still clings to many of the thoughts and traditions that have been at its core for the last century. This includes the practice of photographing deceased loved ones as if they were still among the living– babies in particular. No one is more skilled in this morbid photography than Cane Walker, the daughter of the town’s (surprisingly female) mortician.

At a healthy twenty-three years, one would expect Cane to be married with a family of her own. But a tragic accident during her birth left her with a scarred and disfigured face. Neither life nor the townsfolk have been kind to Cane, who finds her raison d’etre behind the safe, concealing disguise of a camera lens. She has a gift for composing a photograph so good that it brings a dead child back to life, at least for a time. While the town inhabitants ridicule her face, they cannot deny her talent– every mother who loses a child wants a photograph from the mysterious Miss Walker. Unfortunately, Cane has a bad habit of stealing small keepsakes from the little bodies before they go next-door to her mother, Darleen, for burial. A pin here, a letter there– Cane herself isn’t sure why she steals, only that it is part of her process. But Cane’s life is about to change, and although they don’t realize it, the community around her will also change as a result.

Told through the eyes of different residents in the small town, from rich to poor and black to white, Sweet as Cane follows the little tragedies of daily life in a more unforgiving time.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Historical, McCoy, Stephanie, Novels Set in Fictional Places