Tag Archives: Church life

Jim Metzger. Dim. Albion, MI: Aberdeen Bay, 2011.

Tom Maloney, budding Methodist minister and native son, has returned to North Carolina after finishing up a lengthy educational stint in the northeast at Princeton Theological Seminary. The young Methodist’s first job is in Harmony, a fictional small town on the Outer Banks, preaching to a mostly elderly population. Unfortunately for Tom, his northeastern education has not prepared him to lead a flock from the Bible Belt. In a town that thrives on pimento cheese, barbecue, and strong conservative values, Tom’s parishioners think  him far too liberal and his sermons disturbingly lacking in fire and brimstone.

Besides this obvious problem, Tom himself finds the town more and more distasteful: he is frustrated by the closed-minded opinions of his parish, annoyed by their strong objections to his girlfriend Sophie, and hates pimento cheese, which everyone offers in abundance. Additionally, Tom struggles with deep feelings of inadequacy and doubt with regards to his chosen profession, and finds himself more and more engaged by the few dissenters who present alternatives to traditional Methodist principles. His doubts and the community’s dissatisfaction with his abilities both come to a head just as hurricane season rolls in, and Tom must decide what to do. Jim Metzger’s debut novel charts the spiritual and emotional journey of a young man questioning who he is, what he will become, and the meaning of his presence in the greater scheme of life against the backdrop of what is for him, a stifling community.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Coast, Metzger, Jim, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational

Travis Thrasher. Gravestone. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011.

Chris Buckley still isn’t sure whether or not he survived the ritual murder of his true love. He’s walking and breathing, but something inside feels dead. Unfortunately, life goes on as usual (or unusual) in the strange and sinister town of Solitary, North Carolina. In this sequel to Solitary and the second book in the Solitary Tales, Chris finds himself swept along in the daily grind with the rest of the kids at Harrington High– taking classes, eating lunch, and getting picked on by the school bully. His mother still struggles with alcoholism and depression following her divorce, but she manages to bring in a steady income and even finds Chris a part-time job. On the outside, Chris looks and acts like any other teenager.

However, unlike his compatriots, Chris’s goals have nothing to do with going to college or getting good grades. He has one thing on his mind: exposing Solitary’s evil, embodied by Pastor Jeremiah Marsh, to the world. The problem with this is that the Devil in Solitary is strong and watches Chris unceasingly. Bad things have happened in the past to those who have tried to root it out, and if Chris keeps pushing, he might be next. Thankfully, Chris isn’t alone in his fight, but he isn’t sure who to trust: Iris, the strange old lady who runs the inn where he works? Jared, his long-lost cousin? Poe, who used to be Jocelyn’s best friend? Sheriff Wells, who once told Chris to come to him with anything? As before, no one is forthcoming, and Chris must make his way blindly forward, hoping that this time, his decisions won’t result in his own or anyone else’s death. But evil is strong, and that hope may be in vain.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Henderson, Horror, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Thrasher, Travis

Wiley Cash. A Land More Kind Than Home. New York: William Morrow, 2012.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. – Mark 16:17-18, KJV

Adelaide Lyle remembers her hometown of Marshall, North Carolina, as a harsh but beautiful place nestled deep in the mountains of Madison County. Like most folks there, Addie is a Christian, God-fearing individual. But when the charismatic pastor Carson Chambliss moves into town and opens the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, he changes the face of her beloved town, and she feels an ugly, cold fear root in her soul. Chambliss covers all the windows of the little church in newspaper, and it is an unspoken agreement that no one talks about what happens during his fiery sermons. But when a woman dies from snakebite, Addie finally draws a line: children should not be involved in such things. She leaves the church, holding Sunday School for the children at her home. But like the rattlers he transports so carefully in little wooden boxes, Carson Chambliss is willing to wait patiently for his enemy to make a fatal misstep.

At nine years old, Jess Hall knows that he has to take care of his big brother, the boy everyone in Marshall knows as Stump. Stump is mute, and not as quick as the other children, so Jess has to protect him. But Stump doesn’t always listen to Jess, and one day both see something they shouldn’t– something dangerous that brings Stump under the cold and calculating eye of Pastor Chambliss. When Stump is invited to a very special service just for him, Jess doesn’t want him to go, but their mother is one of Pastor Chambliss’s most ardent followers and insists he’ll be fine. What happens next changes the little town of Marshall, and Jess’s world, forever.

Told through the eyes of three very different narrators, Wiley Cash’s excellent debut novel provides a glimpse into a town caught under the thumb of a man convinced he is God. Steeped in the history and flavor of the North Carolina mountains, fans of Charles Frazier will find this tale a fulfilling read.

 A Land More Kind Than Home won the inaugural Crook’s Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Cash, Wiley, Historical, Madison, Mountains

Ashley Memory. Naked and Hungry. Banner Elk, NC: Ingalls Publishing Group, 2011.

H.  T. McMullen has been roughing it. Once a successful loan officer with an expensive house, car, and wife, he lost it all to the recession. Disillusioned with his formerly excessive existence, he builds a rickety cabin in the backwoods of his fictional hometown of Yatesville, North Carolina, set deep in the Smokies. McMullen is surprisingly happy living with minimal comforts and growing his own food, despite the uncomfortable proximity of his Bible-thumping, gambling mother. He has his prize motorcycle and an ill-tempered dog named Shorty for company. What more could a man need? But one day he pulls a bright purple fish out of the nearby pond, and his simple life begins to disintegrate.

It’s clear that someone is poisoning the surrounding environment, and H. T. McMullen aims to find out who. But it’s more than just a simple matter of cornering the perpetrators. They know H. T. is sniffing around and decide to send a brash message in the form of two bullets– one in H.T.’s leg, and one in his dog, who barely survives. H. T. sends a plea for help to a Raleigh-based environmental coalition, but he doesn’t really expect an answer. He is delightfully surprised when stunning environmental lawyer Jessica Beane shows up on his doorstep, ready to personally take on his complaint. McMullen hasn’t really thought about romance since his divorce, but something about Jessica and her long red hair makes him a bit distracted. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for a budding affair, since someone is clearly out to silence him. Soon H. T. and Jessica are on the run, and up to their necks in both poisonous water and deadly killers.

Ashley Memory’s debut novel, Naked and Hungry is simultaneously a romance, an environmental thriller, and the story of a man’s attempt to reinvent himself in our shifting times.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Memory, Ashley, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Suspense/Thriller

R. K. Hardy. The Cheetah Diaries. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2012.

Fifteen-year-old Kenya Taymore is definitely a cat person. This is important, because her veterinarian father owns and operates a big cat rescue sanctuary high in the North Carolina mountains. All of the cats (six tigers, one jaguar, one panther, three leopards, a puma, and assorted ocelots, servals, and margays) are enclosed in spacious habitats designed to mimic their native surroundings as closely as possible. The only cat allowed free range is Kenya’s cheetah, Shaka, whom she raised from a kitten. Shaka is special: Kenya’s mother, a brilliant writer, passed away just over a year before due to cancer. That’s when Shaka entered Kenya’s life, a helpless kitten. Kenya knows that treating a wild animal like a house pet was wrong, but having a constant companion in Shaka helped her survive the initial stages of her grief.

Now Kenya is starting her sophomore year in high school and feeling her mother’s absence acutely. The majority of faculty and students at her school are deeply religious, and because of this often use Christian doctrine as a basis for their lessons. Kenya, who has grown up in a household that embraces atheism and science, hates being asked to pray or listening to Creationism presented as a valid alternative to Evolution. She begins to rebel in small ways, one of which is befriending the new English teacher, Mr. Draper. Mr. Draper supports Kenya’s ambitions as a budding poet, and he lends her books that have been banned from the school library. Meanwhile, other teachers and students become increasingly fixated on Kenya. Some attempt to force Christianity on her, while others claim that the scratches she gets from working with large cats are failed attempts at suicide. But Kenya slowly begins to realize the situation is far bigger than her problems at school, and by then it’s nearly too late– everything she holds dear is threatened.

R.K. Hardy’s second work of fiction, aimed at young adults, provides an interesting combination of his opinions on the presence of religion  in education and how to care for rehabilitated wildlife. The author includes a note in the back, expressing the hope that readers will check out organizations such as Carolina Tiger Rescue, which is a clear inspiration for the Taymore’s sanctuary.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Hardy, R. K., Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Travis Thrasher. Solitary. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010.

Chris Buckley is dealing with a lot for a 16-year-old: first his parents divorced, and now Chris and his mother have moved from Chicago to the small town of her girlhood in the rural North Carolina mountains. Solitary, North Carolina is as different from Chicago as night from day– here Chris and his mother live in a three-room cabin without internet access or television, and the center of town is small enough to fit into one city block. Chris is miserable at the town high school, where he manages to get on the wrong side of the school bully and his posse, can’t find his classes, and everyone stares at him constantly. But Solitary has one thing Chicago doesn’t: Jocelyn Evans.

Jocelyn is the most beautiful girl in Solitary, the most beautiful girl Chris has ever seen. Although she first ignores him and then treats him with disdainful politeness, he can’t help but keep trying to befriend her. Little by little, her icy exterior thaws, and he starts to see the real Jocelyn, who is kind, spirited–and fears for her life. Chris doesn’t understand what she’s so afraid of, but the rest of the school seems to know. Only no one’s talking, and when Chris tries to solve the mystery on his own, things get ugly quickly.

There are cryptic, anonymous notes warning him to stay away from Jocelyn, strange dogs haunting the woods behind his house, and the stares of his new classmates now seem more sinister than curious. There’s something strange about the church everyone attends, as well, especially Jeremiah  Marsh, the charismatic pastor. Everyone in town seems to take the time to tell Chris that he and his mom don’t belong here, they’re outsiders, and they had better keep their heads down if they know what’s good for them. But no one tells Chris Buckley what to do, and he refuses to give up his precious relationship with Jocelyn, even if it means his destruction. Which it surely will, because the Devil is alive and well in Solitary.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Children & Young Adults, Henderson, Horror, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Thrasher, Travis

Marybeth Whalen. She Makes It Look Easy. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011.

Ariel Baxter is struggling–her husband David is always gone on a sales trip, she has three active boys to deal with, and her photography business is picking up. There never seems to be enough time to make everything run smoothly. When she and David move their family to an upscale suburban neighborhood, Ariel feels exhausted, even though her new home is the house she’s always wanted. Then she meets Justine.

Justine Miller is Ariel’s perfect next-door neighbor. Always perfectly coiffed and lipsticked, Justine has two perfect little blonde girls, a perfectly clean house, serves meals done to perfection, and somehow always finds time to be the hit of the town. At first, Ariel thinks she’s found her new best friend, maybe even a sister, but something isn’t quite right.

Moving to the neighborhood at the same time as Ariel and David are Tom and his wife Betsy, and Tom can’t seem to keep his eyes off of Justine. Ariel assumes that her gorgeous neighbor is used to these kinds of looks from strange men, but it’s soon revealed that Tom and Justine were once high school sweethearts. When rumors begin circulating, Ariel must decide what to believe: her new best friend’s blithe reassurances, or the little voice in the back of her mind that refuses to be silenced. Is it possible for a woman who has everything to believe she has nothing worth keeping?

Told from the point of view of two first-person narrators, Ariel and Justine, Marybeth Whalen’s second novel will appeal to fans of Christian literature and Desperate Housewives alike.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Whalen, Marybeth

F. Paul Wilson. Reprisal: A Novel of the Adversary Cycle. New York: Tor, 2011.

F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle, originally published between 1981 and 1992, has been updated by the author and is now enjoying a revival. The series begins in 1941, when an incomprehensible evil whom we come to know as the Adversary is released among a group of Nazis in the Romanian wilderness. Over the course of the next four novels a wide cast of characters develops, all of whom are affected by this evil, either joining the fight against it, or falling to its dark power throughout the course of the 20th century. Reprisal, the fifth novel in this horror series, sees the Adversary rise again to seek revenge against those who tried to vanquish him in times past. The sixth and final novel of the series, Nightworld, is due to be republished in 2012.

Will Ryerson of Pendleton, North Carolina, is in reality Bill Ryan, a defrocked Jesuit priest from New York City. Years ago, a horrifying murder caused him to flee Manhattan and go into hiding in the small college town of Pendleton. Although reclusive, he has developed a good life for himself as a groundsman at Darnell University. Will reads Kierkegaard and Camus, performs small repairs and maintenance, and stays as far away from telephones as he can. If Will gets too close, the continuous ringing starts, followed by a terrified child’s screaming voice. Ryerson’s sole friend and companion is Lisl, a young, insecure assistant professor in the math department. But when she is seduced by the strangely magnetic Rafe, a graduate student in psychology, Will becomes concerned. Meanwhile, Sergeant Augustino of the NYPD thinks he has a lead on a long-missing child molester, and will stop at nothing to bring him to justice.

A complicated web of horror, seduction, and betrayal, Reprisal is a gripping glimpse into the mind of the ultimate evil in the tradition of The Exorcist.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Horror, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Wilson, F. Paul

Penelope J. Stokes. The Blue Bottle Club. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group,1999.

The year 1929 is coming to an end, and most people in the United States have started to feel the dreadful onset of the Great Depression. For four young women in Asheville, North Carolina, everything in their lives is uncertain except for one thing: their dreams. Letitia Cameron dreams of marrying the wealthy and well-connected Philip Dorn and having a large, happy family. Adora Archer has set her sights on becoming a successful actress in Hollywood or on Broadway. Eleanor James, who has lived a privileged life thus far, hopes to become the next Jane Addams as a social worker. Mary Love Buchanan wishes to follow her talent as an artist. The four commit their dreams to paper and stuff the pieces into a blue bottle stored in Letitia’s attic. No matter what happens in the coming days, the friends will always have their dreams – and each other.

Sixty-five years later Brendan Delaney, a news anchor for WLOS, is at the Cameron House reporting on its upcoming demolition. She thinks that it is just another dead-end story until a worker discovers the blue bottle. This discovery renews Brendan’s passion for investigative journalism, and she sets out to find Letitia, Adora, Eleanor, and Mary Love to learn how (or if) they fulfilled their dreams.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1999, Buncombe, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Stokes, Penelope J.

Mark Schweizer. The Organist Wore Pumps. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2010.

It’s been two years since St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in St. Germaine, North Carolina burned to the ground, and the holidays are just around the corner. Police Chief  Hayden Konig, also the organist at St. Barnabas, is looking forward to a long month of Advent music and writing bad prose between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly for those familiar with St. Barnabas, murder and mayhem intervene. First, Old Man Hiram Frost, the town grump, dies after the bank forecloses on his property. At the resulting auction, Hayden gets sucked into a bidding war with a stranger over three cases of French wine. A week later, the mystery bidder shows up again…floating face-first in Tannenbaum Lake. Additionally, St. Barnabas has a new deacon: the aptly named Donald Mushrat (that’s Moo-shrat). Deacon Mushrat is oily, overfond of the word “awesome” and obsessed with tithing. Everyone feels blessed that the beloved Rector Gaylen Weatherall will still be giving the sermons, but thanks to a terrible car accident, Rector Weatherall is put out of action for a time, opening the way for Deacon Mushrat’s pontificating. Even worse, Konig was in the car with Gaylen during the accident…and his arm is broken. A substitute organist is found, and Konig will just have to grit his teeth and endure their “creative differences.” But when another murder occurs and it becomes clear that a killer is stalking St. Germaine, the Chief finds he has bigger fish to fry.

Filled with the hilarity and quirky characters that are distinctive of The Liturgical Mysteries, this book includes a live creche, an inflammatory (literally) Christmas parade complete with a tap dancing Virgin, a scoodle of skunks, and the “liberation” of a priceless medieval reliquary by a gang of hyperactive children trapped in the church for a lock-in. It may be many things, but at least St. Germaine is never boring.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga