Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten Books

My cousin recently posted a list of ten books that have, for one reason or another, stuck with her. I decided to do the same. The only problem is that I couldn't narrow it down to ten. So here are fifteen of my favorites that have stuck with me, in no particular order:

The Stand by Stephen King

Imagine America devastated by a vast killer plague that moves from coast to coast. Imagine the countryside destroyed and great cities decimated as the entire population desperately and futilely seeks safety. Imagine then an even greater evil rising to threaten the survivors---and a last embattled group of men and women coming together to make a last stand against it.

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria; their five children; and his sister, Anna, struggled to survive on the harsh northern Canadian prairie, but now Teodor—a man who has overcome drought, starvation, and Stalin's purges—is determined to make a better life for them. As he tirelessly clears the untamed land, Teodor begins to heal himself and his children. But the family's hopes and newfound happiness are short-lived. Anna's rogue husband, the arrogant and scheming Stefan, unexpectedly returns, stirring up rancor and discord that will end in violence and tragedy.

Under This Unbroken Sky is a mesmerizing tale of love and greed, pride and desperation, that will resonate long after the last page is turned. Shandi Mitchell has woven an unbearably suspenseful story, written in a language of luminous beauty and clarity. Rich with fiery conflict and culminating in a gut-wrenching climax, this is an unforgettably powerful novel from a passionate new voice in contemporary literature.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets; Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station; and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gifts. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself.

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

Many adults name this book as their favorite Little Golden Book. Generations of kids have interacted with lovable, furry old Grover as he begs the reader not to turn the page—for fear of a monster at the end of the book. “Oh, I am so embarrassed,” he says on the last page . . . for, of course, the monster is Grover himself!

This all-time favorite is now available as a Big Little Golden Book—perfect for lap-time reading.

The Long Walk by Stephen King

On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as "The Long Walk". If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying...

Cold River by William Judson

Fourteen-year-old Lizzy Allison and her younger brother Timothy are stranded in the frozen Adirondacks during one of the worst snowstorms of the century. Battling the untamed perils of nature, they embark on a heart-stopping journey of courage, strength, and endurance against all odds. 

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Orphaned by an earthquake, Ayla 5, is rescued by the medicine woman of a Neanderthal Clan of the Cave Bear, left homeless by the same disaster. When the Cro-magnon girl matures, she challenges the traditions and taboos of her adopted clan. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his

Huxley's ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

It's hard to imagine a world without A Light in the Attic. This now-classic collection of poetry and drawings from Shel Silverstein celebrates its 20th anniversary with this special edition. Silverstein's humorous and creative verse can amuse the dowdiest of readers. Lemon-faced adults and fidgety kids sit still and read these rhythmic words and laugh and smile and love that Silverstein. Need proof of his genius?


Rockabye baby, in the treetop
Don't you know a treetop
Is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,
And your cradle, too?
Baby, I think someone down here's
Got it in for you
Shel, you never sounded so good.

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

This best-selling classic tells the story of one of the world's greatest scientific adventures. Jane Goodall was a young secretarial school graduate when the legendary Louis Leakey chose her to undertake a landmark study of chimpanzees in the wild. In the Shadow of Man is an absorbing account of her early years at Gombe Stream Reserve, telling us of the remarkable discoveries she made as she got to know the chimps and they got to know her. This paperback edition, illustrated with 80 photographs, includes an introduction by Stephen Jay Gould and a postscript by Goodall.

During Goodall's forty years of studying chimpanzees, she has become one of the world's most honored scientists. She tells of the later years in THROUGH A WINDOW, also available in Mariner paperback. AFRICA IN MY BLOOD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN LETTERS tells the story, through her letters, of childhood through the early years at Gombe.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world. 

Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield

The Taliban have disappeared from Kabul's streets, but the long shadows of their brutal regime remain. In his short life eleven-year-old Fawad has known more grief than most: his father and brother have been killed, his sister has been abducted, and Fawad and his mother, Mariya, must rely on the charity of family to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Then Mariya finds a position as housekeeper for a charismatic western woman, Georgie, and Fawad dares to hope for an end to their struggle. He soon discovers that his beloved Georgie is caught up in a dangerous love affair with the powerful Afghan warlord Haji Khan, a legendary name on the streets of Kabul. At first resentful of Haji Khan's presence, Fawad learns that love can move a man to act in surprising ways, and an overwhelming act of generosity persuades him of the warlord's good intentions.

But even a man as influential as Haji Khan can't protect Fawad from the next tragedy to blight his young life, a tragedy so devastating that it threatens to destroy the one thing Fawad thought he could never lose: his love for his country.

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

This national bestseller exploring the complex emotional lives of animals was hailed as "a masterpiece" by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and as "marvelous" by Jane Goodall.

The popularity of When Elephants Weep has swept the nation, as author Jeffrey Masson appeared on Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, and was profiled in People for his ground-breaking and fascinating study. Not since Darwin's The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals has a book so thoroughly and effectively explored the full range of emotions that exist throughout the animal kingdom.

From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy bring forth fascinating anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful proof of the existence of animal emotion. Chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness are framed by a provocative re-evaluation of how we treat animals, from hunting and eating them to scientific experimentation. Forming a complete and compelling picture of the inner lives of animals, When Elephants Weep assures that we will never look at animals in the same way again.

Next of Kin by Roger Fouts

For 30 years Roger Fouts has pioneered communication with chimpanzees through sign language--beginning with a mischievous baby chimp named Washoe. This remarkable book describes Fout's odyssey from novice researcher to celebrity scientist to impassioned crusader for the rights of animals. Living and conversing with these sensitive creatures has given him a profound appreciation of what they can teach us about ourselves. It has also made Fouts an outspoken opponent of biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees. A voyage of scientific discovery and interspecies communication, this is a stirring tale of friendship, courage, and compassion that will change forever the way we view our biological--and spritual--next of kin.

Fouts is a professor of Psychology.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

It wasn't that she didn't love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake--a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work--children who--one by one--must be destroyed....

'Way upstairs there are
four secrets hidden.
Blond, beautiful, innocent
struggling to stay alive.... 

SHARING: My Weekend is All Booked

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Friday, August 29, 2014

ON MY RADAR (8/29/14 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernán Cortés.

But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquis-tadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.
The Moor’s Account brilliantly captures Estebanico’s voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition. As the dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration and Native American men and women were not merely silent witnesses to it. In Laila Lalami’s deft hands, Estebanico’s memoir illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, even as storytelling can offer a chance for redemption and survival.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2014 by Pantheon (first published September 1st 2014)
ISBN 0307911667 (ISBN13: 9780307911667)

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life — or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Hardcover, 576 pages
Expected publication: September 16th 2014 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published August 28th 2014)
ISBN 1594633118 (ISBN13: 9781594633119)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as the Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2014 by HarperCollins Canada
ISBN 1443434868 (ISBN13: 9781443434867)

Elephant Company by Vicki Constantine Croke

The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill

Billy Williams came to colonial Burma in 1920, fresh from service in World War I, to a job as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence, character, and even humor of the great animals who hauled logs through the remote jungles, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.” Increasingly skilled at treating their illnesses and injuries, he also championed more humane treatment for them, even establishing an elephant “school” and “hospital.” In return, he said, the elephants made him a better man. The friendship of one magnificent tusker in particular, Bandoola, would be revelatory. In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams’s growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.

But Elephant Company is also a tale of war and daring. When Imperial Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite Force 136, the British dirty tricks department, operating behind enemy lines. His war elephants would carry supplies, build bridges, and transport the sick and elderly over treacherous mountain terrain. Now well versed in the ways of the jungle, an older, wiser Williams even added to his stable by smuggling more elephants out of Japanese-held territory. As the occupying authorities put a price on his head, Williams and his elephants faced his most perilous test. In a Hollywood-worthy climax, Elephant Company, cornered by the enemy, attempted a desperate escape: a risky trek over the mountainous border to India, with a bedraggled group of refugees in tow. Elephant Bill’s exploits would earn him top military honors and the praise of famed Field Marshal Sir William Slim.

Part biography, part war epic, and part wildlife adventure, Elephant Company is an inspirational narrative that illuminates a little-known chapter in the annals of wartime heroism.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Random House (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 1400069335 (ISBN13: 9781400069330) 

Monday, August 25, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes


A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.

In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

Paperback, First, 400 pages
Published January 22nd 2014 by Campanile Books (first published March 20th 2012)
ISBN  0985239301 (ISBN13: 9780985239305) 

About the Author
the author talks about himself on Goodreads

Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer) from Olympia Washington.

I especially enjoy historical fiction like Philippa Gregory, Anita Diamant and Hilary Mantel, as well as supernatural historical fiction from Susanne Clarke and Tim Powers, along with the hilarious (and disturbing) works of Danny Marks. But I've also been known to read -- and teach -- literary fiction such as Annie Dillard, Jorge Borges and Michael Chabon.

My new novel is the best-selling SINFUL FOLK, a novel set in the 14th century. The book cover for SINFUL FOLK and a series of lovely internal illustrations have been created by the marvelous New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure.

SINFUL FOLK was a semi-finalist in the "2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel" contest, and I'm excited to have it appear in January 2014 from Campanile Books.

An early version of the two first chapters of my new novel SINFUL FOLK are now available here on GoodReads, as a free download.

I've also written Coeur d'Alene Waters -- a Pacific Northwest novel set in northern Idaho. More about this novel at Coeur d'Alene

Check out the author's page
Follow the author on Twitter
Like the book on Facebook
Follow the author on Pinterest

My Thoughts
Pray for us, we sinful folk unstable…
My child is dead within these two weeks,
Soon after that, we went out of this town…
Up I rose, with many a tear trickling on my cheeks

-- Geoffrey Chaucer,
The Canterbury Tales
In a small village during the Middle Ages, a fire has killed five boys: Breton, Stephen, Matthew, Jonathon and Christian. Christian's mother Mear has been living as a mute man for the past decade, and the village has no idea all of the secrets she hides. The only proof she has of her past is a ring she finds her son was wearing around his neck when he died-- the ring of his father.

Mear has been working for the blacksmith Salvius, who has been her friend since she and her son were found injured and desperate when Christian was but a baby. Salvius is blond, tall and handsome, and he has always taken on the role of a leader. He has also been the caretaker of the orphan boy Cole, who is known for his habits of thieving and lying.

The fire occurred in the home of Benedict the weaver, whose son Stephen was also killed. Some, like Breton's father Tom, wish to point to Benedict and his Jewish wife Sophia as the ones who set the fire.

Mear's good friend Liam bravely attempted to save their boys, including his own son Jonathon. Liam is a large, red-headed "layabout" woodsman, and he is the one person who can always make Mear laugh.

Counter to that is the carpenter Geoff-- the dark, brooding father of Matthew. Mear has always found Geoff somewhat distasteful. There are rumors that Geoff was molested by his father when he was a boy, and that maybe he has his father's predilections.

After the fire, these despondent parents embark on a journey to the king, along with Hob the alderman, seeking justice for their children.

During the trip, dangers abound and secrets are uncovered. We learn that Mear used to have another friend, a woman by the name of Nell. Nell took Mear in after she was brought to the village, and offered her sanctuary. But it seems some in the village may have viewed Nell as something of a witch, and she was killed some years before (and mystery surrounds her death). After all, in villages where everyone knows everyone's business, and speculates on what they don't know, people can be bitter and backbiting.

The talk flickered back and forth from mouth to mouth. They were jackdaws fighting over a bit of flesh, ripping this grisly matter back and forth until nothing of sense was left.
I loved this story. The characters drew me in, and the author has such a talent for putting emotion into visual pictures, to give them real substance.
I am pierced to the root then, all of my veins bathed in a liquor of terror.
Hob’s absence is like a tooth missing-- everyone feels the wound, but no one knows how to fill the gap.
The past puts the bit in Tom’s mouth and rides him like a demon. His face is thick with rage.
The author pulled me into a tragic and engaging story, with all the sights, smells and emotions of the characters' world. It had a Gothic feel to it, and in my mind as I saw them on their journey, I envisioned a dark and desolate snow-covered woods, like something out of the north of Game of Thrones. I heard the creak of the wagon wheels and felt the cold. I heard the silence of no birds or insects making themselves known.

The characters bicker and argue on their dangerous trek, but they also fight for and care for one another. 

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Sunday, July 27th: You’ve GOTTA Read This!
Monday, August 4th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book
Tuesday, August 5th: Words for Worms
Wednesday, August 6th: What She Read
Thursday, August 7th: M. Denise C.
Monday, August 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, August 13th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, August 14th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, August 18th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, August 19th: nightly reading
Wednesday, August 20th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, August 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, August 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, August 27th: BoundbyWords
Thursday, August 28th: Passages to the Past
Friday, August 29th: West Metro Mommy
TBD: Kimberly’s Bookshelf

My final word: This was my kind of book. It is a clever, interesting and touching story inspired by history, and the paranoia and persecution that surrounded those of the Jewish faith (stories were rampant that the Jewish would drink the blood of Christian children, and there are accounts of local Jews being blamed for things like fires). This story is all about facing your past. Restrained and yet absorbing, this story may be dark and barren, but it isn't bereft of hope. Don't fear. Take Mear's hand, and she'll lead you down the path of your past, through the flames, and will bring you safely to the other side-- from the darkness of your past and into the brilliance of your future.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:



I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: A Beginning, No Middle, and an End by G. Eric Francis

What was once a planet of 196 governments has been reduced to 1, governed by an expanded United Nations.  While some rights have been taken away, most people on the planet have never had more freedoms.

One of the most successful men in this new world is JaFrancis Brownell.   A video game and book publisher, he is rich, intelligent, and gay.  At the verge of publishing his 200th title, a friend brings to his attention something from the past that he didn't know existed, forcing him to come face to face with someone he hasn't seen in years...his father, Franklin.  A writer who never made it, he is a bitter and bigoted man nearing the end of his life's journey.  

Angry at his son for not only ignoring his own natural gift for writing, but for his alternative lifestyle as well, the two strong-willed men butt heads.  But an unexpected threat due to JaFrancis' fame brings danger from those who want what he has.  Now both father and son not only face years of hurt feelings, but a clock that will definitely strike midnight for one of them...but not in a way either one expected.

Paperback, 122 pages
Published August 7th 2014 by Createspace
ISBN 1500586242 (ISBN13: 9781500586249)

A Beginning, No Middle, and an End by G. Eric Francis is available now through Amazon

Monday, August 18, 2014

REVIEW: Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith


What if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Atria Books
ISBN 1476730539 (ISBN13: 9781476730530)

About the Author

Working professional screenwriter represented by Resolution and Circle of Confusion. I have sold or optioned six spec screenplays and I have been hired by studios for numerous rewrites. Currently I have two movies in post-production, STUCK and THE CLOSET. Both are due to be released in 2014.

My first novel, a thriller titled FORTY ACRES, is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster July 1st, 2014.

Check out the author's website

My Thoughts

Martin is a black lawyer whose career is taking off, when he is approached by Damon Darrell, another black lawyer who is well known and well respected in town. Damon reaches out to Martin as a friend, and their friendship quickly grows into a bond like that found between brothers. Damon introduces Martin to his other group of friends-- all of which are successful black men. One day Martin is invited on a getaway with this group of impressive and powerful friends, and it leads him to some startling revelations and the discovery that his friends are involved in white slavery, and followers of an old black man by the name of Dr. Kasim.

At times this story seemed awkward and somewhat childish in its simplified assessments.
There was also the all-white staff to consider. How awkward must it be for them to just stand there, listening to a story of how their ancestors committed genocide against people who looked a lot like their current employers.
And I always get frustrated with storylines like this that have some mentor spewing crap that everyone views as genius. It seems preposterous to me when the sensible protagonist Martin almost immediately seems to seriously consider the madness as a truth (even if he eventually decides it isn't). Why even pollute and convolute a perfectly fascinating storyline with such ridiculousness? Why not just have simple revenge as the motivating factor? Rather than ridiculous theory and propaganda that fuel this group of mad lunatics, make them simply a group of angry and cruel black men? That would have been more believable, but perhaps the author didn't want to risk playing into the "angry black man" stereotype? I just always have a hard time falling for the group that seem to be under mass hypnosis, perhaps because I am such a strong-minded individual.

My final word: I had such high hopes for this story, but in the end I wound up having a really hard time with the main character Martin, and all of his justifications for his own actions. I thought it was a fascinating idea, but it wound up preposterous. It would have been much better if it had been built on simple revenge, but instead it was convoluted with Dr. Kasim and his propaganda. I don't know. I had high hopes, but in the end I would up pretty disappointed and not liking it all that much.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Mailbox Monday (8/17/14 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.

Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.

When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.

Friday, August 15, 2014

ON MY RADAR (8-15-14 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell

The past has arrived uninvited at Jason Danvers’s door…

…and it’s his younger sister, Hayden, a former addict who severed all contact with her family as her life spiraled out of control. Now she’s clean and sober but in need of a desperate favor—she asks Jason and his wife to take care of her teenage daughter for forty-eight hours while she handles some business in town.

But Hayden never returns.

And her disappearance brings up more unresolved problems from Jason’s past, including the abrupt departure of his best friend on their high school graduation night twenty-seven years earlier. When a body is discovered in the woods, the mysteries of his sister’s life—and possible death—deepen. And one by one these events will shatter every expectation Jason has ever had about families, about the awful truths that bind them and the secrets that should be taken to the grave.

The 6th Extinction by James Rollins

A remote military research station sends out a frantic distress call, ending with a chilling final command: Kill us all! Personnel from the neighboring base rush in to discover everyone already dead-and not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria.

The land is entirely sterile-and the blight is spreading.

To halt the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must unravel a threat that rises out of the distant past, to a time when Antarctica was green and all life on Earth balanced upon the blade of a knife. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will discover the truth about an ancient continent, about a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge to date: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

In Don't Look Back, Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she’s long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Disturbed by the sight, Eve moves quickly and quietly back to her group, taking care to avoid being seen. As she creeps along, she finds a broken digital camera, marked with the name Teresa Hamilton. Later that night, in a rarely used tourist cabin, she finds a discarded prescription bottle—also with the name Teresa Hamilton. From the camera’s memory card, Eve discovers Teresa Hamilton took a photo of that same menacing looking man in the woods. Teresa Hamilton has since disappeared.

Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered.  A major storm wipes out the roads and all communication with the outside world. Now the tour group is trapped in the jungle with a dangerous predator with a secret to protect. With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she's to make it back home alive.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing... Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic. I stepped across the border out of Indiana into Ohio. Twenty dollars, two salt-pork sandwiches, and I took jerky, biscuits, six old apples, fresh underthings, and a blanket too. There was a heat in the air so I walked in my shirtsleeves with my hat pulled low. I wasn't the only one looking to enlist and by and by we had ourselves a band. Farm folk cheered as we went by. Gave us food. Their best shad to stop in. Played un on their fiddles. Everything you've heard about from the early days, even though it had already been a year since Fort Sumter, and there had already been the First Bull Run, and Shiloh had stole off its souls, and the early days were done and dead and gone.

-- Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Monday, August 11, 2014

REVIEW: The Orenda by Joseph Boyden


A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

ebook, 448 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Penguin Group (first published September 1st 2013)
ISBN13 9780143189404

About the Author

Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Boyden, of Irish, Scottish and Métis heritage, writes about First Nations heritage and culture. Three Day Road, a novel about two Cree soldiers serving in the Canadian military during World War I, is inspired by Ojibwa Francis Pegahmagabow, the legendary First World War sniper. Boyden's second novel, Through Black Spruce follows the story of Will, son of one of the characters in Three Day Road. He has indicated in interviews that the titles are part of a planned trilogy, the third of which is forthcoming.

He studied creative writing at York University and the University of New Orleans, and subsequently taught in the Aboriginal Student Program at Northern College. He divides his time between Louisiana, where he and his wife, Amanda Boyden, are writers in residence, and Northern Ontario.

Check out the publisher's author page

My Thoughts
We had magic before the crows came. Before the rise of the great villages they so roughly carved on the shores of our inland sea and named with words plucked from our tongues-- Chicago, Toronto, Milwaukee, Ottawa-- we had our own great villages on these same shores. And we understood our magic. We understood what the orenda implied.
The book title is explained at one point: “...these sauvages believe that we all have within us a life force that is similar, if you will, to our own Catholic belief in the soul. They call this life force the orenda.”

This story covers the volatile relationship between the Iroquois and Hurons, and their early encounters with the French in Canada. It revolves around Bird, who is a Huron elder, the young girl he has kidnapped from an Iroquois tribe and adopted as his daughter, and a Jesuit priest by the name of Cristophe.

Bird is a well-respected elder in his tribe, and he lost his wife and daughters in a slaughter by the Iroquois. He relies on his good friend Fox, who always supports him in everything, and he has the medicine woman Gosling (a traveler from a northern tribe) to warm his bed and share her visions of the future and lend Bird advice.
"We aren’t the masters of the earth. We’re the servants."
After a raid on a group, Bird kidnaps a young Iroquois girl by the name of Snow Falls and decides to adopt her as a replacement for his lost wife and daughters. This is the way that these tribes have settled things for years. Tit for tat, including taking members of the enemy tribe as replacements for lost family members, or as slaves, or simply to torture to death and sometimes cannibalize to make things even. It's their own brand of justice.

Snow Falls is viewed as being "special". Somewhat spiritual, even mystical, it seems she may come from a well-respected and high-ranking family.
"I am Snow Falls. I am the western door of the five nations of my people. I am a Seneca, an Onondawaga of the Haudenosaunee.”
Initially her hatred for Bird is palpable, but over time she does come to view him as a father. She is torn and conflicted over the years, realizing she is basically a woman without a tribe. No longer Iroquois, but also not Huron, she doesn't really fit anywhere.

Cristophe is a Jesuit missionary trying to bring the word of God to the "heathens" in the wilds of Canada, and he is captured by Bird along with Snow Falls. Cristophe was found to be so annoying that he had found himself abandoned in the wilderness by the Algonquin with whom he was traveling:

“One heathen even began to loudly suggest I was a demon in human form. But it’s when we came across a barely cold Iroquois campfire that the Algonquin made their decision. That afternoon, after they inspected the camp, silent and cautious as wolves, and just as I was relieving myself behind a clump of willow, they climbed into their canoes. They’d deposited my black cloth bag containing my chalice and diary and few personal possessions on the shore, along with a small sack of food. I emerged from the bush and watched as they paddled away at speed.

The more I shouted for them to come back, the faster they worked to get away.”

He is an honest man, and a man of strong faith. His faith carries him through his years with the Huron, and helps him endure many trying times.

I had no idea just how brutal the Huron and Iroquois could be to one another or to outsiders. The book incited my curiosity, and I looked up the fact that they tortured and cannibalized their victims. Good grief! The account that I read of a Jesuit priest that survived after watching his Jesuit brothers tortured and burned alive went on and on, page after page. I thought it would never end! It was absolutely hideous!

And all the while, these tribes are being decimated by small pox brought by the French.

I grew to like the characters later on in the story, but early on I had a hard time liking any of them. The first half was more the “savage” side of the natives, and the latter half was the human side. And Cristophe was pretty weak and annoying early on, but he gained strength along with his faith, and became the epitome of humanity and self-sacrifice.

My final word: Overall I thought this was a pretty great read. I found it was often hard to tell the narrator, as it alternated the chapters between Bird, Cristophe, and Snow Falls. And I found the pace of the story a bit like a car ride with my mother: I desired a gas pedal, so as to speed our progress a little faster, feeling we were always going 4 mph too slow. And at times I struggled with the likability (or lack thereof) of the characters, but mostly I found the writing engaging and the storyline interesting, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the lives of the tribes that thrived in the Canadian wilderness.

Buy Now:

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My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

REVIEW: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple


Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

Hardcover, 330 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 0316204277 (ISBN13: 9780316204279)

About the Author

Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where her second novel takes place.

Check out the author's website
Friend the author on Facebook

My Thoughts

Bernadette was once a brilliant architect, but some mysterious event caused her to buy an old rundown private school in Seattle and move there with her husband and daughter. With grand plans of restoring the old place into a beautiful home for her family, she has instead become mired in bitterness and weighted with regret and found herself living in a broken and crumbling building. However she is proud of her husband Elgie, although he may not always be clear on just how much he means to his wife, and Bernadette absolutely adores her daughter Bee, who is a truly bright child and charms everyone who knows her. Bernadette just seems to have lost her way a bit.

Elgie is a trailblazer working at Microsoft, but may be best known for a brilliant TED talk that he did. He's reached a point in his life when he begins to doubt his wife and her competency, thinking perhaps she's gone over the edge. Then there is Soo-Lin, his assistant at work, who has begun to express an interest in him and made him feel special, and made him question his wife and his life with her.

At the request of Bee, the family plans a trip to Antarctica, but just as things come to a boil-- just as Bernadette finds herself betrayed by her husband and as it seems that all the world has turned against her-- Bernadette disappears without a trace.

This book is an organized collection of letters, emails and recitations of conversations. It isn't clear until the end just where all of this documentation originated, but it was a very clever way to develop the story. It allows you to build one perspective, and then read an email from someone else, and later get yet a different perspective.

My final word: This was a book club selection, and I did enjoy it. It wasn't a real thrilling or gripping story, but it was clever and fresh and original. It is easy to read, has a cast of colorful characters, and I enjoyed the snippets that came from letters, newspaper articles, emails, etc. The dynamics between Bernadette and the other mothers from school, as well as the emails from “Emily” (the woman in charge of organizing the school functions that the parents are involved in), all made me very happy to not have kids! And like Bee, I was not a fan of Soo-Lin:
“Soo-Lin,” I started to say, but even uttering her name made it difficult to keep talking. “She’s nice. But she’s like poop in the stew.”

“Poop in the stew?” he said.

“Let’s say you make some stew,” I explained, “and it’s really yummy and you want to eat it, right?”

“OK,” Dad said.

“And then someone stirs a little bit of poop in it. Even if it’s just a teeny-tiny amount, and even if you mix it in really well, would you want to eat it?”

“No,” Dad said.

“So that’s what Soo-Lin is. Poop in the stew.”
This is definitely a worthwhile read.

Buy Now:

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My Rating: 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

QUICK REVIEW: 100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible by Stephen M. Miller


A bestselling author tackles 100 tough questions both Christians and nonbelievers ask, reporting popular viewpoints among biblical scholars and inviting you to draw your own conclusions.

Paperback, 236 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Bethany House Publishers
ISBN 0764211625 (ISBN13: 9780764211621)

My Thoughts

The author says “Not being a preacher, I’m not inclined to preach at you. So please don’t expect me to tell you what to think. I did graduate from seminary, but before that I was a news journalist-- a newspaperman…Think of me as Switzerland. Neutral. I’m a journalist covering the Bible beat. I’ve tried to round up the best answers I can find and report them to you for your consideration. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the answers I found...”
The author covers questions like "Given what we know today from science, why do so many Christians say the universe was created in six days, a few thousand years ago?", "Jesus said we shouldn't judge one another, so why do Christians do it so much?", and "If God knows everything, why did he test Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his own son?"

I saw another reviewer complain that at times this book was more agnostic than Christian, and that’s exactly why I loved it! The author really did do a great job at being unbiased and presenting information of varying perspectives, then allowing you to come to your own conclusions.

Overall I liked the relaxed manner in which the information was shared, but there were times when it felt he was trying a little too hard to sound unbiased and all cool with it. Sort of like a teen’s dad trying to act cool, and coming off sort of dorky instead.

My final word: I liked this book so well, I bought a copy even after I'd read a free copy obtained through Netgalley. A great book for the open-minded who don't want to be told what to think, but to simply have the information to reach their own conclusions.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Introducing... Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Louis Ward walked across the Green Hill Mall parking lot in Southdale, Minnesota, reading the back cover of the Seinfeld DVD that he had just purchased.

He did not notice the black van creeping up behind him.

-- Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mailbox Monday (8-04-14 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes

A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.

In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption. 

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

 A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Guests on Earth by Lee Smith

It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart--in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

Set against the backdrop of the historic 1927 Mississippi Flood, a story of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, dynamite and deluge-and a man and a woman who find unexpected love-from Tom Franklin, author of the bestselling Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and his wife, Pushcart Prize-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly

The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf all in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents on the trail of a local bootlegger, they unexpectedly find an abandoned baby boy at a crime scene.

An orphan raised by nuns, Ingersoll is determined to find the infant a home, a search that leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A lonely woman married too young to a charming and sometimes violent philanderer, Dixie Clay has lost her only child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she's the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the missing agents. And while he seems kind and gentle, Dixie Clay knows he is the enemy and must not be trusted.

Then a deadly new peril arises, endangering them all. A saboteur, hired by rich New Orleans bankers eager to protect their city, is planning to dynamite the levee and flood Hobnob, where the river bends precariously. Now, with time running out, Ingersoll, Ham, and Dixie Clay must make desperate choices, choices that will radically transform their lives-if they survive.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana.

Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.

At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.

And, because this was one of my favorite books of 2012, I bought a copy for my bookshelf:

Wilderness by Lance Weller

Thirty years after the Civil War's Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It's a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.

As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life-from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.

In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness tells not only the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller's immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.