Category Archives: Harper Perennial

Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Original edition (February 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062113763
  • Source: Publisher

When Bonaventure Arrow was born, he didn’t make a sound. No cries or whimpers, making the doctors believe there was something wrong with him. After running tests, they are unable to determine a cause for his muteness; he’s clearly able to hear, even picking up on the slightest sound. Years later his silence continues but with time his mother, Dancy, a young widow, can see the brilliance in her son from the beginning. Though he doesn’t speak, she realizes there is something special about him, something that sets him apart from everyone else.

By the time he starts elementary school, Bonaventure is able to hear things like the color of a leave, the sound of blood rushing through his mother’s veins even though she’s rooms away. He can also hear the voice of his father, William, who was murdered by a mysterious man known as the Wanderer before Bonaventure was born.

It isn’t until Bonaventure starts school that he realizes he is different from the other children. He doesn’t feel animosity for his gift but it forces a rift between himself and the other children. He’s an outsider, witnessing life on the sidelines, watching the other children play realizing they will never welcome him as one of their own. It is the conversations with his father, the only individual who can hear him, that are truly heartwarming, yet heartbreaking at the same time. William and Bonaventure both crave to have a normal father-son relationship, but William’s murder prevents it.

It is Bonaventure’s silence that allows him to perceive and grasp things unrecognizable to others, including secrets his family has kept hidden that might tear it apart. Aided by Trinidad, a woman who comes to work in the family’s home as a cook, the two work together to allow the family to heal not only from William’s death, but the decades of devastating secrets kept hidden from the world. Bonaventure’s existence, it seems, was intentional. A young boy, unable to speak, meant to hear, to listen, to what was going on around him as no one else could.

A truly endearing and awe-inspiring story, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow speaks to the power of listening, of hearing what is not spoken, of the love and compassion of family. What makes this a truly remarkable novel isn’t only the incredibly unique premise, nor the incredibly well-fleshed out characters, but the prose itself. Simply lyrical, I found myself reading passages aloud, just so I could hear the words spoken. I found this ironic, given the main character is mute. Perhaps this was the author’s intent, or perhaps it is simply a side effect of her talent as a writer. Following is one of my favorite excerpts:

Sometimes his silence let new sounds in, sounds with no physical memento to keep. Once, when he was playing outside, he looked up and translated the white of the clouds into the joyful noise of possibility. then he looked at the grass and turned the sound of green into the molecular chatter of growing things. In the pink and orange of a sunset, he heard the measured beats of earthbound time.

Set in 1950s New Orleans, the author embraces and incorporates the magical and mystical feel of this beautiful, southern city in her novel. While there is a touch of magic in life in general, Leganski shares with her readers a truly memorable magic: the power of love and healing.

The relationship Bonaventure has with his mother, Dancy, and his father William, is incredibly heartwarming. There is a closeness between them all, despite William’s death. His existence in “Almost Heaven” allows him to continue to visit his family, although it is only Bonaventure who can hear him. The exchanges between William and his son will bring a tear to the eyes of even the most cold-hearted of readers. William is overjoyed to have the opportunity to communicate with his son beyond the grave, but aches that he cannot reach out and hug him, console him, as he wishes.

This book is guaranteed to make a presence in book clubs with a host of discussable themes. She Reads, an online book club I am honored to have a role in, will be discussing it as the March selection. Check out what other members of the blog network think of this title and tune in later this month for a discussion.

A special thank you to TLC Book Tours for granting me the ability to participate in this blog tour. Please be sure to check out the official tour web site for other reviews in the tour.

Review: The Tell by Hester Kaplan

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (January 8, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062184024
  • Source: Publisher
Mira and Owen live in Providence, Rhode Island, in Mira’s family home. Surrounded by her past, unable to get rid of any remnants of her deceased parents, causes a strain on her relationship with Owen. While on the surface they may appear wealthy they are, in fact, struggling financially. Enter the wealthy, debonair Wilton Deere, an former popular television actor. He’s purchased the home next door to Mira and Wilton in the hopes that his estranged daughter Anya, attending school in the area, will move in with him.

Wilton still lives in the limelight of his acting career. He has no real family, no close confidant to rely upon. What he does have is money and a great deal of it. Soon after meeting Mira & Owen he begins showering them with luxurious gifts of wine and food, new packages showing up on his doorstep each day. Owen isn’t ignorant and sees that Wilton is using his wealth to win them over. On the other hand, Mira is reluctant, yet unable, to turn down the money Wilton provides to restore her failing art gallery. She begins to feel indebted to him, spending more time with him than Owen. With reason, Owen is suspicious. His marriage to Mira, already quite vulnerable, weakens as she begins to lie to him about her actions and whereabouts. Owen eventually learns that it’s not an affair he should worry about, but a cruel relationship built on addiction and co-dependence. The money Wilton showers upon Mira is an attempt to win her over as he has been unable to do with his own daughter. He’s not interested in Mira romantically but a surrogate for the daughter he pushed away all those years ago.

The characters Kaplan creates in The Tell each have a resounding trauma in their past that prevents them from having a stable relationship. For Mira, it is the guilt that she somehow caused the death of her parents; Owen feels inadequate after not doing more to save the life of his then-girl friend from a gun-wielding mugger; Wilton is unable to forgive himself for the suicide attempt that nearly ended the life of not only himself, but his young daughter as well. Through this jumbled, damaged mess together and you get the dysfunctional relationship shared by these three individuals. Each of them were near the brink of eruption but the relationship that commenced upon Wilton’s arrival turned up the intensity and truly pushed each of the characters over the edge. Yet what was truly remarkable was how all of this was so expertly portrayed, only through the eyes of Owen himself.

As I was reading, I nearly forgot that my view of what transpired was limited to what Owen witnessed or experienced himself. I was immediately transfixed by the dynamic of this incredibly incredibly caustic relationship that followed. After I read the last several pages, I couldn’t help but wonder just how jaded Owen’s recollections were, if at all. Understandably, his feelings about Wilton and Mira’s friendship were strong, almost frightening at times. While I found this book to be incredibly absorbing, I feel readers might have appreciated a glimpse of what was going on from the perspective of the other two characters as well. I felt a great deal of sympathy for what Owen was experiencing, yet felt nothing but anger and bitterness toward Mira and Wilton. Would my feelings changed had I been able to see what transpired through their eyes?

How the triangle of a relationship eventually unravels is a bit disappointing, somewhat rushed, in my opinion. It is almost as though two big action scenes were developed but not much in between. That said, the culmination of all of the other redeeming qualities of this novel, including the dynamic characters, the gorgeous writing and stunning New England setting make up for what is lacking. Ultimately, The Tell is a tremendously well-written examination of marriage, of love, of family, and the dynamics of trust and forgiveness. Recommended.

Review: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (May 15, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062130803
  • Source: Publisher

Set in the near future, terrorists have unleashed a deadly virus known as Maternal Death Syndrome (MDS ) affecting pregnant women, preventing their bodies from reacting to and fighting viral agents their body’s defenses would normally be able to combat. This virus kills the pregnant woman long before she is able to deliver, essentially causing the victim’s brain to deteriorate. Once scientists discover that everyone has been contaminated with the virus the future of humankind is indefinite. They begin implanting young girls with a form of birth control in attempt to eliminate any possibility of pregnancy.

Jessie Lamb is a sixteen year old girl, the daughter of a scientist attempting to find a cure for MDS. As many are at that age, she’s flirting with activism and joins a young group of her friends whose mission is to strike out against actions that are causing the world as they know it to deteriorate. She refuses to ride in a car or use public transportation, convinced that society’s footprints on the planet are aiding in the slow but eminent decline of the world. Her friends begin to join more radical activism groups: her best friend joins a feminist group while the object of her affection joins an animal rights faction. All groups are inspired to action when scientists reveal a program in which young girls are encouraged to turn their bodies over to science, to carry babies to term, knowing they will not survive. Once implanted, the embryos can be vaccinated against the virus but unfortunately no cure is available for those already infected. Volunteers need to be under the age of 16 1/2; the success rate drops dramatically for those individuals over this age. Jessie sees this new discovery as a means to make her voice heard, despite her parents pleas that she reconsider.

Told from Jessie’s narrative, a young girl who is just beginning to realize her own individuality and place in the world, the author is able to confront many issues already forefront in our society including the age of legal consent, the rights one has to make choices about one’s own body, animal testing, and more. Jessie is forced to deal with a reality so harsh that many youth her age would be unable to contemplate.  It is no shocker that this book has been long-listed for the Booker prize; it’s filled to the brim with discussion-worthy topics. My only desire would be to see the story from the point of view of other characters within the book, for since the reader is only allowed Jessie’s side of the story it seemed a bit limiting. Having more views of this harsh reality could have developed the story more, for I couldn’t help wanting to know more about the fate of this society.

Bottom line: The Testament of Jessie Lamb is a book that left me reeling, truly examining the way we as society view the individual’s right to choose. This is a book certain to make book club lists this summer and fall, full of topics to be discussed. Highly recommended.

 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the official tour page for other stops in the tour.

Review-Girls Like Us: A Memoir by Rachel Lloyd

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0061582069
  • Source: Publisher

Rachel Lloyd, after winding up as a victim of commercial sexual exploitation as a teen, eventually breaks free of this life, striving to help other girls in a similar situation.  She forms GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), an organization founded to provide emotional support, life counseling, to young girls who are victims of sexual exploitation.

The majority of the citizens of this country, myself included, are completely oblivious to the sheer number of young women, in many cases still children, who get sucked into the sex trade world. The statistics Lloyd provides are absolutely shocking. According to a 2001 University of Pennsylvania study, 200,000-300,000 children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation in this country, each year. Our country, not some third-world country. A country in which we are granted freedoms and rights unlike any other.

In her memoir, Lloyd focuses on the factors that drive young women to this lifestyle, including abuse of all varieties, including sexual, physical and mental. To supplement this information, Lloyd gives examples of her own experiences, and the experiences of those girls aided by GEMS, that relates to each of the risk factors.

Frighteningly, our media perpetuates this abuse of women with songs praising the role of a pimp. Lloyd herself is outraged when watching the Academy Awards to learn that the song “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp” wins Best Original Song.  Here is just a sampling of the lyrics:

Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin’
Gotta keep my hustle tight, makin’ change off these women, yeah

Lloyd does share stories of success, of young women who have freed themselves from this life, to become successful, respectful, women. Lloyd herself is a prime example, yet unfortunately not nearly enough women have access to an organization like GEMS.  They are unable to free themselves of the abuse from their family members, from the pimp who profits from their trade.

The author provides the reader a no-holds-barred look at her own life, even admitting to the fact that, unlike many of the women her organization supports, she made the decision to enter the life. Many of the women stuck in the sex trade have no other options, were forced to participate by family members, were unknowingly recruited by a pimp, etc. She admits to using the information she gains from these girls in order to understand what happened to her, hoping that if she is able to explain how/what happened to them, she could discover how she wound up in the life as well.

The success of Lloyd’s organization is largely due to the judge-free advice they give to each of the girls they assist. The don’t find reasons to blame the girls for their actions, accuse them of choosing this life. This young women, some as young as eleven and twelve years old, are victims. Victims to the world they were forced to grow up in, a world they cannot easily escape. GEMS  provides them with the healthy attention they are unable to get elsewhere, a shoulder to cry on, a female mentor to look up to.

This is not a book that I recommend anyone attempt to read in one sitting. I myself had to take frequent breaks to bring myself back to the real world, look at my children and see their happiness. Recalling then that many of the young women referenced in this book don’t have that opportunity to step away into a happier life. That said, I think this is a book that should be read by women from all walks of life: mothers, young teens, social workers and the like. It is a book that will continue to haunt me, will reappear in my mind when I’m walking through the streets of a large city, spotting young victims in the street. Highly recommended.

A special thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to visit the tour page and check out the other stops in the tour.

Rachel Lloyd testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law on the commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children.

Review: The Call by Yannick Murphy

  • Paperback:240 pages
  • Publisher:Harper Perennial; Original edition (August 2, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062023144
  • Source: Purchased

David Appleton is a small-town veterinarian in a rural New England town. His family is struggling economically, people are unable to pay to have their animals treated. When a hunting accident puts his twelve-year old son in a coma, an entirely new level of stress is put upon the shoulders of this already struggling family. Appleton becomes obsessed with discovering the identify of the hunter that shot his son.  After all, in a small town, there are a limited number of suspects.

When a stranger shows up in town, his interactions with the family put a completely different spin on their life, testing them, forcing them to re-evaluate what it means to be a family.

Through a series of journal like-entries, the reader gets a glimpse inside the mind of Appleton.  Here is an example:

CALL: Sick sheep.
ACTION: Visited sheep. Noticed they’d eaten all of the thistle.
RESULT: Talked to owner, who is a composer, about classical music. Admired his tall barn beams. Advised owner to fence off thistle so the sheep couldn’t eat it. Sheep become sick from thistle.
THOUGHTS ON THE DRIVE HOME:  Is time travel possible? Maybe time is not a thing. Because light takes a while to travel, what we’re seeing is always in the past.
WHAT THE WIFE COOKED FOR DINNER: Breakfast

The entries start off brief and to the point, but as the book progresses the entries expand, showing a side of this man.  Murphy shows his caring and endearing side through his interactions with his animal patients, the care he gives each of them is heartwarming. Additionally, the formatting permits the reader to see what the main character believes is important and valuable to share. While it is blunt and to the point, the words that are shared reveal much more than a long, flowing passage might. The author’s own familiarity with the subject matter as a wife of a veterinarian really adds to the book. Ultimately, The Call is not solely a man’s journal about his visits to treat animals. It’s a unique glimpse on one family’s trials and tribulations, about what it takes to be a “real” family. On the surface, it seems simple, but simple is the last word I would use to describe this book. Gritty, harrowing, deep. Those are more accurate descriptions of this phenomenal novel.

The book club I lead at One More Page Books recently discussed this book. Why did I pick it? Other than the obvious, I believed it was a book that could be overlooked (and has been, according to Flavorwire).  Why is this? Could it be the formatting? The description on the back of the book (which I frankly think reads like a Hallmark card)?  While there were members of the book club who were still on the fence about their feelings on the book, many of us appreciated the uniqueness of this novel.  It is a book that will make you think, one that you will want to talk about with others, but most importantly, a book that must be read.  Highly recommended.

 

Review: The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

  • Paperback:368 pages
  • Publisher:Harper Perennial; Original edition (July 19, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062065092
  • Source: Publisher

Fifteen year old Cat Rozier, once a star pupil, is now a murderer. She admits it to the reader within the first few pages of the book:

I’m a murderer and it’s not just my fault. I can blame the Germans, and I can blame my parents, and I can blame my parents’ parents.  Don’t you see?  Once you know your History, it does explain everything.  It turns out I was a murderer before I was born (p. 5).

 

Cat lives with her mother on the small island of Guernsey.  She’s often picked on at school; she has no true friends.  That changes when the beautiful Nicolette befriends Cat when she moves transfers to the school in 1984.  The two become inseperable; never before has anyone been willing to put up with Cat’s “quirkiness.”  They do the typical teen rebellion sort of things: go to parties, drink, and shoplift.  But one apparent act of betrayal causes a rift in their friendship and they go their separate ways.

Cat has long been obsessed with her recently deceased father’s “research;” he dedicated his adulthood to finding the truth behind Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans during WWII in order to repair the reputation of his older brother Charlie, accused of working for the Germans and killing his own father.  Through her father’s letters and tapes of Charlie, recorded before his death, Cat reveals secrets buried within the roots of the island, and in her own family.

The novel alternates between Cat’s retelling of the murder of her best friend and the retelling of Charlie’s saga of imprisonment and torture. At times, the shift in narration is jolting, seemingly misplaced.  Eventually, however, the reader begins to notice a similarity in Charlie and Cat’s lives. The only difference is that Cat seemingly gets away with murder.

Cat’s character is extremely difficult to trust and believe.  While she states up front she committed a murder, it was hard for me to believe anything she said.  It was also extremely difficult to like her; she seemed to be able to lie at the drop of a hat.  She’s full of cynicism, and the typical teenage attitude. For these reasons, it was impossible for me to like her character. 

Charlie’s character, on the other hand, was a bit more sympathetic.  He himself was betrayed by someone he trusted and sent to a concentration camp to be tortured.  His explanations for what happened are unvalidated, they seem as flimsy as Cat’s reason’s for killing Nic.  Yet, Cat is able to get away with it, Charlie is not.

Ultimately, it is Horlcok’s gift for writing that made me adore this book, despite my feelings about Cat’s character.  Historical fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine; not one I often get to enjoy.  I appreciated the historical bits spread throughout the novel.  I admit to not knowing much about Guernsey, other than things I’ve read in other pieces of fiction.

I did find Cat’s footnotes (backing up claims she makes throughout her portion of the novel) a bit distracting, ultimately not referring to them much at all.  I understand the point; her father was quite the researcher, documenting all sorts of facts, and it was just natural for Cat to pick up on her father’s practice.  That said, many of the footnotes were quite entertaining, adding an element of Cat’s wicked sense of humor to the storyline.

The early parts of the book were difficult to get into, perhaps this is because it takes some time to get used to the shifting of the characters and time period. Once I got over the early chapters, however, I was truly engrossed in this book.  The overall theme of the book, lies, is quite an interesting one. We all tell lies for various reasons: to protect ourselves and others. But this small island is so riddled in lies, it’s difficult to believe they have remained hidden for so long.  Definitely a thought-provoking book, I can definitely see The Book of Lies as a book club selection.

 I highly recommend this to fans of historical fiction, noting that it tends to be a little on the dark side. Considering two of the characters are murderers, it would be hard not to be!

 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops:

Tuesday, July 19: Life In Review
Wednesday, July 20: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, July 21: Book Addiction
Friday, July 22: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, July 22: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, July 26: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, July 26: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, July 28: Rundpinne
Monday, August 1: Crazy for Books
Tuesday, August 2: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 3: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, August 4: I’m Booking It
Friday, August 5:  Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, August 5: In the Next Room

 

 

Review: Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)  
  • ISBN-10: 0061963089
  • Source: Publisher

  • It’s 1969.  Atlanta-native Frances Ellerby is in Miami for a college-friend’s wedding.  She meets Marse Heiger, a free-spirited Miami-native.  Marse has her eyes on the handsome  Dennis DuVals, yet within a matter of time it is Frances and Dennis that fall in love on the dock of a stilt house. 

    Frances leaves her Atlanta life behind and moves to Miami. Within a year she and Dennis marry, ultimately having a daughter, Margo.  They continue their life together in Coral Gables, experiencing the typical ups and downs of marriage.  Dennis, a lawyer, despises his job. He’s depressed, wants to do more with his life. Margo is forced to go back to work.  She, too, questions her life, coming close to ruining their marriage. It is when she finds herself, her true purpose in life, that she finally reaches the happiness she’s been searching for all her life.

    Stiltsville is a wonderfully endearing tale of Frances & Dennis’ life; how they, along with their friends, change over time. The author so vividly depicts the characters: they are genuine, make real-life decisions and mistakes. The reader witnesses these choices in their lives and how it affects their future.

    Frances evolves from a young, naive girl into a strong, supportive mother.  Margo, at an early age, was intellectually superior to classmates her age.  After much debate, she advanced a grade at school. She was now in a class of students older than her, experiencing things she had yet to understand. Frances ensures that Margo learn from her mistakes and challenges just as she did, but maintaining her individuality is the core lesson she hopes Margo learns. After a particularly trying experience at a sleepover, Frances gives her daughter the following advice:

    ….no one should have the power to make her feel bad or ugly or embarrased, that she was the one to decide who could hurt her feelings and who could not.  I was just filling the air, of course; she knew well enough that this wasn’t true.  I hoped, however, that at some point she’d learn what is true: that although we like to believe we are our own islands, capable of protecting ourselves as well as sheltering and welcoming others, this i snever really the case.  Still, we must behave as if it is, and hope we can withstand the wills of other people more often than we cannot.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I never thought I would fall for this book and its characters as much as I did. The book ends in 1993 and in this span of time, I bonded with the characters. I cheered their successes, I criticized them for some of their decisions.  By the end of the book, I was bawling.  Not the quiet crying that you can do without anyone noticing, but the chest-heaving sobs. Don’t let this lead you to believe this is a sad or depressing book, I not only cried for the characters losses but for what they gained in life as well.

    Daniel holds nothing back when she discusses Frances and Dennis’ marriage. She tells it how it is, doesn’t sugar coat any of the issues or problems that married couples face. Oftentimes in fiction, authors try to make marriage sound too unrealistic: marriage isn’t always happiness and love.  Arguments happen, feelings change. Frances & Dennis’ marriage was full of mistakes and challenges.  Daniel’s genuine depiction of adulthood, parenthood, friendship, and marriage is what made this book.  It is genuine, true-to-life, and without a doubt explains why I enjoyed it so much. 

    Several subplots and topics appear in this book, making it the perfect book club choice.  The gorgeous Florida setting would make it a perfect summer read as well.  Highly recommended.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour.  You can connect with the author on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter.

    Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour:

    Tuesday, June 28th: The Lost Entwife
    Wednesday, June 29th: BookNAround
    Thursday, June 30th: Life In Review
    Tuesday, July 5th: As I turn the pages
    Monday, July 11th: Colloquium
    Tuesday, July 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
    Wednesday, July 13th: Books Like Breathing
    Tuesday, July 19th: StephTheBookworm
    Wednesday, July 20th: Crazy for Books

    Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 17, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0060594675
  • Source: Publisher
  • M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humback, I”  -How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi

     

    Twenty-five years ago, Larry Ott was out on a date with a young girl. A young girl who disappeared, never to be found.  Since then, Larry has always been considered a man to be fearful of, known as “Scary Larry.”  The fact that his house is packed with horror books and magazines doesn’t help the situation.

    Decades later, another girl is missing and “Scary Larry” becomes a person of interest.  He runs an old-fashioned and outdated auto body shop, never with any customers.  Despite living as a outstanding citizen all these years, he can’t get over the characterizations put upon him by the other members of the small town. 

    Silas Jones, now the town constable, was childhood friends with Larry.  This friendship was always kept a secret; they barely acknowledged one another in public.  Silas is black, Larry white.  In a small, Mississippi town, this friendship was always bound to be doomed. Still, the duo find comfort in one another’s friendship and spend their afternoons hunting together.  When Larry becomes implicated in the missing girl’s disappearance, their friendship ends. 

    Silas goes on to become a high school baseball star, leaving Larry behind to become the town weirdo.

    Silas attends college and returns to the small town of Chabot, Mississippi and becomes the town constable.  Decades later, he still refuses to contact Larry, despite Larry’s frequent messages on his answering machine. Larry insists and pleads for Silas to return his calls, stating he has something important to tell him, something that can’t be discussed over the phone.

    In order to solve the case of the missing girl, the daughter of an important businessman, both Larry & Silas must face secrets kept long hidden.

    Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of those books that transcends genres.  While it has clear characteristics of crime fiction, I hesitate to define it soley as such. Instead, it has qualities of several genres, dealing with topics such as childhood friendships, small-town secrets, and a clear and evident flavor of Southern fiction.

    The book vascillates between the present and the past; the reader is privileged to learn about the childhood that shaped each of the main characters.  Silas grew up poor, black & fatherless.  He and his mother relied up on the kindness of Larry’s mother to get by.  It is my opinion that Larry & Silas would have continued their friendship into adulthood had it not been for a violent altercation between Silas and Larry’s domineering and alcoholic father. 

    Silas and Larry’s characters are so well-defined, so developed, the reader can’t help but feel they know them. I felt sympathy for both characters: Silas was a poor young man, not gaining the recognition he deserves until he reaches high school and becomes a sports icon.  He has to escape the small town to really become something; Larry, the recluse, the avid reader.  I think I had more of a connection with him due to our shared love of horror fiction. 

    I originally read this book when it was released in hardcover last fall.  I was happy to be granted the second chance at experiencing this book when I joined this book tour for the paperback release.  However, I found that the book never really left me; the characters and the storyline lingered with me all this time.  It was a pleasure to “rediscover” Silas & Larry again.

    Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a book to be cherished; Franklin’s writing is truly a work of art. The prose is quite detailed, the setting is so rich with Southern flavor, the reader becomes engaged in the storyline instantly.  This is not a book to rush through, however.  I found myself rereading passages several times, not because I didn’t comprehend them but because the writing was so skilled, so powerful.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter  is one of those books that you set down after reading, only to pick back up again, unable to separate yourself from talent and treasures contained within.

    Learn more about Franklin and his other books here. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops:

    Monday, May 23rd: That’s What She Read
    Tuesday, May 24th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
    Wednesday, May 25th: Lit and Life
    Wednesday, May 25th: Helen’s Book Blog
    Thursday, May 26th: Life In Review
    Tuesday, May 31st: Raging Bibliomania
    Wednesday, June 1st: Life in the Thumb
    Thursday, June 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
    Tuesday, June 7th: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
    Wednesday, June 8th: Debbie’s Book Bag
    Thursday, June 9th: Books and Movies
    Friday, June 10th: My Reading Room
    Monday, June 13th: Wordsmithonia
    Tuesday, June 14th: Crazy for Books
    Wednesday, June 15th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
    Thursday, June 16th: Unputdownables
    Friday, June 17th: Rundpinne

    Review: Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon

    • Paperback: 250 pages
    • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (April 10, 2007)
    • ISBN-10: 9780061143311
    • Source: Publisher

     

    “One potato, two potato, three potato four

    She used to live here long ago

    She doesn’t anymore”

    Forty-one year old Kate has returned to her small Vermont hometown to tend to her mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s. The very night she arrives, a young girl is horrifically killed in a manner similar to one that took place three decades earlier.

    Del Griswold was a poor, skinny girl referred by her classmates as “Potato Girl” due the crops her family sold.

    “There isn’t a soul in town who hasn’t heard of the Potato Girl, though.  She is, by all accounts, the most famous resident of New Canaan–which is funny because, back when she was alive, she was just a skinny kid with scabby knees who, you could tell just by looking, would never amount to much.

    How wrong we all were.”

    Del was brutally killed the last day of fifth grade.  Her murderer was never found.  Kate was Del’s friend, but never admitted as such to her classmates.  In the last hours of her life, Del was shunned by those close to her.  Now an urban myth claims that she isn’t really gone, she comes back to seek revenge on those who were cruel to her so long ago.

    “It’s like a potato: you cut it up into pieces, bury any of those pieces-even  a little bit of peel if it has eyes-and another plant grows.”

     

     

    Kate’s past begins to rear it’s ugly head & make itself known in the present. The police begin to question her relationship with Del in an attempt to understand the most recent crime.  The uncanny similarities lead them to believe that Kate is somehow responsible; it was only after her return that things started going very wrong.

    As she tries to deal with her dementia-ridden mother, Kate begins to wonder just how much her mother really knows about what happened all those years ago.  When secrets kept hidden are forced to be revealed, it is apparent that Del’s murder is related to the most recent crime. Can Kate & those from her past put an end to the strange happenings in this small, quiet, Vermont town? Can the Potato Girl finally rest in peace? A phrase Kate heard from a patient years ago comes back: The dead can blame.

    Promise Not to Tell was McMahon’s debut novel back in 2007. What a debut it was!  She skillfully weaves a story of family secrets & betrayal into an astounding piece of fiction. Not just a murder mystery, the characters in the novel are forced to face secrets long kept hidden. 

    It would be an understatement to say I loved this book.  I first discovered McMahon’s books when I read Dismantled nearly a year ago.  She’s quite skilled at capturing the reader, pulling him/her into the book.  Promise Not to Tell gains your attention before you even turn a page; McMahon’s book covers, terrifying and stark, send chills down your spine.  The chills continue as you turn the pages.  As a fan of the supernatural, I find myself desensitized to scenes intended to shock or scare the reader. However, while reading this book, I found myself shuddering in fear, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck raising. I don’t proclaim this to frighten you, but to encourage you to read this book. You won’t forget it. Highly recommended.

    Thank you to TLC tours for providing me the opportuntiy to review this book. All of McMahon’s backlist books are being featured in this tour.  Check out the other participants below:

    Tuesday, April 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Island of Lost Girls)

    Wednesday, April 20th: Life In Review (Promise Not to Tell)

    Tuesday, May 3rd: Book Journey (Promise Not to Tell)

    Wednesday, May 4th: Rundpinne (Promise Not to Tell)

    Friday, May 6th: In the Next Room (Promise Not to Tell)

    Monday, May 9th: Reading Through Life (Promise Not to Tell)

    Tuesday, May 10th: Tina’s Book Reviews (Promise Not to Tell)

    Wednesday, May 11th: In the Next Room (Island of Lost Girls)

    Thursday, May 12th: Book Journey (Island of Lost Girls)

    Monday, May 16th: Sara’s Organized Chaos (Island of Lost Girls)

    Monday, May 16th: Stephanie’s Written Word (Promise Not to Tell)

    Wednesday, May 18th: Rundpinne (Island of Lost Girls)

    Thursday, May 19th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog (Promise Not to Tell)

    Friday, May 20th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books (Island of Lost Girls)

    Monday, May 23rd: Stephanie’s Written Word (Island of Lost Girls)

    Be sure to check out the author

    Review: The Raising by Laura Kasischke

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (March 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062004786
  • Source: Publisher
  •  

    One year earlier, a tragic car accident takes the life of Nicole, a beautiful, straight-A sorority student at a midwestern university.  Her boyfriend, Craig, the driver of the car, is held responsible for her death. The accident is witnessed by Shelly, a staff member at the local college.  She calls 911 and reports that both Craig & Nicole are alive, and talking.  However, the local newspaper reports that Nicole was found dead, in a pool of blood, burned beyond recognition. Shelly’s upset that her account of the accident has gone ignored and despite many attempts, the newspaper fails to print the truth.

    Now a year later,Craig has now returned to school and finds it impossible to get over Nicole’s death. Fellow students claim that Craig was intoxicated & fled the scene, leaving Nicole’s dead body. Nicole’s sorority sisters can’t get over this & venemently hate that Craig has “gotten off” so lightly. He hasn’t, however.  Already a cynical young man, Craig is truly tortured by what happened to his first love.

    Craig’s roomate, Perry, holds his own guilt.  He grew up in the same town as Nicole & introduced her to Craig.  He feels that Craig is suffering from amnesia after the accident & can’t recall what happened that fateful night. He also believes that Nicole (and another former student) haunt the halls of  Godwin Honors Hall; he and a few others have admitted to seeing someone resembling Nicole around campus.  A few have even claimed to have been intimate with her.

    Perry divulges this information to Mira Polson, a sociology professor who teaches a freshman class on death and dying. Mira then becomes obsessed with Nicole’s death, and soon discoveres a whole host of other deaths on campus. She reveals a whole host of secrets involving campus politics and peer pressure.

    The Raising is a dark, almost gothic, tale. A very strong character-driven novel, it is told by the viewpoints of several main characters.  The reader learns a great deal about Nicole through the characters’ retelling of her life. The timeline switches from past to present, giving a vivid view of what transpired before and after the horrible accident. 

    I was drawn into the story within the first several pages.  I’m known to enjoy a good supernatural tale; while reading even I got goosebumps. While the book is nearly 400 pages, I flew through it in a matter of hours.  I was drawn to the characters, the “mystery.” I appreciated the underlying storyline of how our culture deals with death and dying.  Each of the characters, while not victims of the accident directly, are forever affected by what happened that night.

    This isn’t, obviously, a light read.  The characters are each attempting to recover from the death of Nicole, no matter how they were involved/affected by the accident.  However, if you are looking for a haunting, suspenseful read, The Raising is the book for you! Highly recommended!

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please check out the remaining tours on this stop:

    Wednesday, April 6th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
    Thursday, April 7th: Wordsmithonia
    Friday, April 8th: Proud Book Nerd