Category Archives: Piedmont

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Brynn Bonner. Death in Reel Time. New York: Gallery Books, 2014.

reel timeSophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier are back in this, the second novel in the Family History Mystery Series. Their client, Olivia Clement, is recovering from treatment for breast cancer.  Her illness has shaken her and upset her family and friends too.  The friends banded together to help Olivia through her treatment, but they also want to give Olivia something special for her birthday—Sophreena and Esme’s genealogical research services.

Olivia is thrilled.  Both her maternal and paternal grandparents died before she knew  them.  She grew up as an only child, raised by her mother and and aunt and uncle who lived next door.  The adults in her life rarely spoke about her father who disgraced the family by running away during World War II to avoid the draft.  Olivia really wants to know about her father–What kind of man was he? Why did he leave? Could he still be alive?

Soph and Esme get to work right away, visiting Olivia almost daily to ask her questions, review boxes of family memorabilia, and bring Olivia up-to-date on leads they found searching the web.  These daily interactions cause the women to notice certain things about Olivia’s family–her son’s great cooking and his dissatisfaction with his legal career; her daughter Beth’s deference to her bullying husband Blaine; and Beth’s unsettled relationship with Blaine’s brother.  Creating an unwelcome distraction is a young filmmaker, Tony Barrett, who is staying with Olivia while he interviews an elderly local man.  He has recently enlisted Beth to help him with the interviews.  Beth enjoys this work, and the old man seems to have taken a shine to her

But when Beth arrives injured and a bit incoherent for her mother’s birthday party, everything changes.  Just as dessert is being served, Detective Denton Carlson arrives to tell Beth that her husband has been murdered.  Soph and Esme (who has been dating Detective Carlson) pump him for information, but little is known about Blaine’s death other than how he died.  The where, when, why, and who did it are unknown.  As the police work on the case, Soph and Esme try to continue their research while treading very gently with a family that has had more than its share of trauma. To take some pressure off Beth, Soph steps in to help Tony complete his interviews.  Little does anyone know how important his work will be to Olivia’s family.

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

For the first book in the Family History Mystery Series, see Paging the Dead.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bonner, Brynn, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Barbara Claypole White. The In-Between Hour. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin Mira, 2014.

The In-Between HourWhen eighty year-old Jacob Shepard is kicked out of Hawk’s Ridge Retirement Community for his belligerent behavior, his son Will’s last nerve has already been plucked. Jacob has developed short-term memory loss. This condition, along with Jacob’s troublesome behaviors like knocking back Wild Turkey despite the community’s no-drinking policy, spouting off obscenities, and complaining about the staff and the other residents, has worn Will thin. As it stands, Will is struggling to churn out his next best-seller. He’s feeling uninspired by his formulaic yet popular thriller series, Agent Dodds, and constant calls from Jacob only interfere with his writing process. But it’s the secret Will has been hiding from his father that weighs on him the heaviest.

Will’s five year-old son, Freddie was killed in a recent car accident. Freddie’s mother, Cassandra, an irresponsible heiress, was drunk behind the wheel. She caused a single car accident that killed her, Freddie, and her current boyfriend. Since the accident, the grief has crippled Will. And re-living the painful memory every time Jacob calls him becomes too difficult for Will to bear. Will impulsively tells Jacob that he can’t see his grandson because Freddie and Cassandra are taking a long trip to Europe. After he considers his fib, Will sees it as an opportunity to re-write the truth and celebrate Freddie. The decision becomes more problematic though when Jacob gets himself booted out of Hawk’s Ridge. Now, Will must leave New York City and return home to North Carolina to figure out what to do with his lonely, rabble-rousing father. Unfortunately, that means he’s also trapped in a lie. To protect Jacob, Will must find a way to keep the charade going while he grieves in secret.

With no place to live, Jacob’s new art teacher at Hawk’s Ridge, Poppy, suggests that they visit her friend Hannah who has an extra cottage for rent. Hannah Linden is holistic veterinarian who lives in rural Orange County and struggles with plenty of familial troubles of her own. Her elder son Galen is succumbing to a battle with depression and alcoholism, diseases that run in the family. A few weeks prior he stumbled into an ER and told them he wanted to commit suicide. Will and Jacob arrive on Hannah’s doorstep on the eve of Galen’s release from a psychological ward. She agrees to let them stay, though her mind is already preoccupied. Hannah is at odds trying to understand how her calmest, sweetest son could be so dark and tormented inside. Over time, Hannah and Will are united by the difficulties in their lives. Denying the spark between them grows increasingly impossible …

Novelist Barbara Claypole White writes “love stories for damaged people.” Indeed, The In-Between Hour delves into many difficult topics (suicide, depression and mental illness, family secrets, death, divorce, alcoholism, etc.) The novel focuses upon people at a crossroads, people who have to leave behind emotional loss and upheaval in order to forge a new beginning out of old suffering. White also integrates details from her research on the Occaneechi Indians, a tribe around Hillsborough, North Carolina in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Orange, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, White, Barbara Claypole

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

Mary Flinn. The Nest. New York: Aviva Publishing, 2013.

nestA nest, yes, but whose nest?

With retirement on the horizon, her daughters out of the house, and her husband traveling for business, Cherie Johnson was looking forward to enjoying the freedom and peace of being an empty-nester.  But all that changes in a single week when her older daughter, Hope, moves home after her boyfriend announces that he is moving to Italy without her.  Hope has studied to be an art teacher, but in the down economy, she can’t get a teaching job.  She gets by–barely–by working in a high-end dress shop and bartending.  Cherie has adjusted to Hope’s situation, but she is unprepared when her husband, Dave, becomes another casualty of the economy.  After twelve years as a sales representative, a corporate restructuring leaves Dave without a job.  Dave could go to his mother, who heads a furniture manufacturing company, but neither he nor Cherie want to do that.  Instead, Dave sends out resumes, checks employment websites, and handles the household chores–including training the little Papillon puppy that Hope brought home with her.  Dave juggles this all pretty well for the first month or two, until his fruitless job search takes its toll on his spirits.

At least Cherie and Dave’s daughter Wesley is doing well.  She is about to finish her nursing degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has just become engaged to a nice fellow who has a good job with Apple.  But with the cost of a wedding now on the horizon, Cherie realizes that she must put off retirement.  At least she has coworkers who lift her spirits and gently offer advice–and so does Hope.  In chapters that alternate between Cherie and Hope’s perspective, readers learn how each woman thinks and grows, and how the family rights itself.  As in Mary Flinn’s other books, The Nest includes a network of family and friends populated by well drawn characters.  Readers will be both exasperated and charmed by Dave’s mother, Toots, and it’s a testament to Flinn’s generosity that even Hope’s self-absorbed boyfriend Liam is not wholly dislikable.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Flinn, Mary, Guilford, Piedmont

Reynolds Price. Kate Vaiden. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Considering how I was soon to behave, I have to wonder if I ever really loved him. I’d shown most other human instincts till then. Why did mothering fail me?

At age 11, Kate Vaiden makes a vow to her mother Frances never to become a mother. In a sense, she never does. Although Kate gives birth at 17 to a son named Lee, she leaves him behind with her extended family. Forty years later, Kate begins to wonder what happened to Lee. If he is still alive and well, Lee is forty, and at Kate’s best estimation, he has made his way in the world without her. She believes it is unlikely that Lee would need or want her in his life at this point. For all intents and purposes, Kate kept good on her promise. By abandoning her son, it’s as if she never bore him at all. Yet there are questions hanging over her her, the first: Who is Lee Vaiden?

The second question traces back to Kate’s roots and a major turning point in her life: Who was Frances Bullock Vaiden? Kate’s parents, Frances Bullock and Dan Vaiden  met in 1925 and married soon after. Their union was tumultuous. Dan’s father was against the marriage. Although Dan was convinced that his father would grow to love Frances, he overestimated his father’s affections. The couple decided to escape to Greensboro for a fresh start. But the fresh start withered under their passions. As a child, Kate observed her father “burn” her mother with a “hot flow of words.”

Frances’ closeness with her family created a source of tension between her and Dan. When Frances’ nephew Traswell dies, she takes Kate home to Macon to attend the funeral, but Dan stays behind. After the funeral, Dan unexpectedly shows up in Macon. He arrives while Frances and another nephew have gone to Traswell’s grave. Dan drives to the cemetery, and without warning, shoots Frances and himself. Up to that point, Kate had believed that she had a happy childhood, irrespective of any strain between Frances and Dan.  Following her parent’s murder-suicide, she is left under the care of Frances’ sister Caroline and her husband in Macon. From there, the novel follows Kate from adolescence to middle-age. Kate struggles to form any sort of lasting commitment or attachment to another person. During her formative years, what Kate loved left her. As a young woman and adult, she becomes a quitter. Whenever things get serious, Kate bolts. Single and fifty-seven years old, she’s an eternal orphan.

Kate Vaiden is the story of Kate’s life, as told by Kate in hindsight. Parents, family, and home are contentious topics for Kate. Her residual questions about her mother and lingering questions about her son influence her life. In regard to Lee, Kate regrets that her “baby-making machinery works” but “when they made me, they left out the mothering part.” Price creates a flawed protagonist in Kate who is good at hurting others and has been hurt in turn. Despite all her imperfections, Kate’s engaging and entertaining voice smooths over her less attractive qualities and makes her situation more sympathetic. The novel earned Price, who was a novelist, poet, and English professor at Duke University, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Guilford, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake, Warren

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

Wiley Cash. This Dark Road to Mercy. New York: William Morrow, 2014.

dark roadEaster Quillby is twelve, but she has already made up her mind about her dad, Wade: he is the loser that her mom always said he was. Wade was a professional baseball player, a pitcher, but he never made it to the major leagues and he has drifted ever since. Robert Pruitt is an ex-ballplayer too. He’s a hard man–brought up by a sadistic dad, he’s been a drug dealer and now he’s an ex-con who works as a bouncer at the Tomcat bar just outside Gastonia. And he knows what he thinks about Wade: Wade beaned him a ballgame, disfiguring him and ending his baseball career. Wade ruined his life, and Pruitt would do anything to ruin Wade’s. Brady Weller doesn’t know what to think about Wade. Brady is the guardian ad litem for Easter and her little sister Ruby–someone assigned by the courts to watch out for their best interests after their mother died from a drug overdose.

As This Dark Road to Mercy opens, Wade reappears in Easter and Ruby’s lives. He has heard that their mother died, and he thinks that he and the girls can be a family again. But it’s not just his ex-wife’s death that has spurred Wade into action. He has a stash of money–money that he stole from the original thief. With this stake, he thinks he can start anew–with the girls, and in a new place. Wade easily spirits his daughters away from the group home where they’ve been living, but before long both Pruitt and Weller are on his trail.  The action moves from Gastonia to the coast, down to Myrtle Beach, and then on to St. Louis, where a pivotal scene takes place. At times the book reads like a road-trip novel and Easter’s occasional narration adds humor, but this is a novel about serious issues: the ties of family, the darkness of the human heart, and the hope that many people have that they can outrun their past. Cash mixes in references to North Carolina minor league baseball teams, the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire home run race of 1998, and echoes of the 1997 armored car robbery that occurred in Gaston County, all of which clearly center his story in time and place. This Dark Road to Mercy is hard to categorize but easy to enjoy.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Cash, Wiley, Gaston, Piedmont

J. J. Murray. A Good Man. New York: Kensington Books, 2013.

goodmanSonya Richardson likes a quiet life.  After ten years in the WNBA and some wise investments, Sonya has a nice income stream and a lovely home in Charlotte. But she’s living in that big house by herself and feeling a bit lonely and bored.  Out of the blue, her publicist calls to ask her to star in  “Hunk or Punk,” a reality TV show in which a bachelorette must pick a partner from dozen men vying for her hand.  Sonya knows better than to get involved, but when her publicist signs the contract, Sonya has no choice but to be “the Nubian princess” at the center of the show.

But Sonya is her own person.  Her unscripted behavior–taking off her uncomfortable shoes in the first episode, the odd “challenges” she gives the men, her unwillingness to dump suitors on schedule–make for interesting viewing. And Sonya is not the only surprisingly element in the show.  John Bond, a widower from Burnt Corn, Alabama, is the token white suitor.  John is an assistant deacon at the AME church in Burnt Corn, a deeply religious man who has been mourning his late wife for fifteen years.  He and Sonya connect in ways that the producers could not anticipate.

A Good Man takes readers behind the scene of reality TV with funny situations and crisp dialogue. It’s clear that Sonya and John are strangers in that strange land, but their faith and their self-knowledge guide them, and even some of the people around them, to a true happily-ever-after.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Monique Miller. Secret Sisterhood. Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, 2010.

Secret SisterhoodInfertility can be all-consuming. It’s a devastating setback for couples ready to start their families. Novelist Monique Miller writes a story of three women from different backgrounds united by their struggles with infertility.

At first Shelby Tomlinson loved her job as a registered nurse with the Silvermont Women’s Center. Her patients’ happiness at their good news rubbed off on Shelby. She felt excited to come to work in such a positive atmosphere. That elation has fizzled out ever since Shelby and her husband Phillip started trying for a baby. They’ve tried for two years without any luck. Now, whenever Shelby deals with prenatal patients their good fortune depresses her. Suddenly, she feels a stronger bond with the patients who suffer from infertility too. However, her anxiety attacks, a lifelong problem, are increasing and Phillip has been distant whenever she broaches the topic of children. Shelby can’t figure out his odd behavior. Does he have a secret he’s hiding? In the face of all this stress, Shelby manages to find some hope when a patient struggling with infertility gets pregnant. Maybe Shelby still stands a chance at beating her infertility.

Crystal Shaw wants to open a day care center of her own one day. She also wants to have a baby, but it doesn’t look like that dream is going to come true any time soon. Crystal is envious of the pregnant women around her, especially those who don’t seem worthy in her eyes. Everyone around her is getting pregnant, including her sister Shanice, who already has a baby with another man and refuses to work, relying on public assistance and her “Man of the Quarter” instead.  Crystal is tired of breezily claiming that she’s not quite ready for kids. Even her work toward establishing a day care center is difficult. Spending all her time around children only reminds Crystal how she and her husband Warren, her childhood sweetheart, haven’t been able to conceive despite trying for years. Crystal starts thinking how nice a desk job might be so she could stop confronting the harsh reality of her childlessness.

When she was young, Vivian Parker made a promise to her grandmother, Eva – a promise that she has managed to fulfill, and then some. Eva emphasized the importance of an education as a priceless investment. Once Vivian earned an education, she insisted, it could never be taken away. After Eva passed away, Vivian focused all her energy on her grades and her career. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s, eventually becoming a successful and esteemed architect with careful planning and hard work. But she’s behind on her plans for her personal life. By thirty she assumed she would be married, and then a child or two would follow shortly thereafter. Instead, Vivian didn’t get married until thirty-eight. Her husband Roland is the CEO of the company Vivian works for. Together, they’re a powerful couple professionally. But now that they’re more serious about having a baby, they learn that even though they can bankroll expensive procedures like in vitro fertilization, they still might not be able to fight time.

Faith is a central element to Secret Sisterhood. Shelby, Crystal, and Vivian turn to their religion to strengthen themselves in the midst of hardships. Miller breaks the story up, chapter by chapter, alternating the perspectives of the three main characters, although she also creates some areas of overlap and interconnection between the women during their journey to become mothers.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Monique Miller. Nobody’s Angel. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2013.

nobodyCi Ci Jackson really is no angel.  As soon as she finished high school she jumped into a hasty marriage to a man who had no intention of being a steady husband to her and father to their children.  When that marriage broke up and Ci Ci lost custody of her children, she left rural Duplin County heading for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, planning to start over.

And start over she did–with a new name, a new husband, and the habit of weighing all relationships based on what she can get out of them.  But she still carries a lot of hurt and anger from her earlier life and this spills out from time-to-time.  As Nobody’s Angel opens, Ci Ci (now calling herself Morgan Tracy) is about to be arrested for attempting to murder her new husband, Will.  While in jail awaiting trial, another prisoner, Desiree, offers Ci Ci/Morgan her friendship and Will visits to say that he has forgiven her, but she rebuffs their kindnesses and the religious sentiments attached to them.  Once she is again a free woman, Morgan resumes her ways, searching with a cold determination for the things that money can buy and a man to provide them.  Only when she meets her match does she come to realize that the path that Desiree, Will, and their church friends follow is the better way.

Nobody’s Angel is the latest book in Miller’s series of novels set in on near the fiction city of Silvermont, North Carolina.  For the earlier novel in the series, see The Marrying Kind and Quiet As It’s Kept.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational