Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Since a serial killer stopped terrorizing local citizens in the 1990's, nothing much happens in the rural burg of Painters Mill, Ohio, which is just how Chief Kate Burkholder likes it. After years of experience in the more urban setting of Columbus, Ohio, she jumped at the chance to become the police chief of her hometown. Her past as a member of the local Amish community has given her a unique perspective and ability to act as a go-between between the private Amish community and the "English."

When one of her officers responds to a "loose cattle" call and instead finds the nude body of a young woman in the snow, Kate's peaceful existence comes to an abrupt halt. Not only is the murder reminiscent of the serial killings that took place in the '90's, but it brings Kate's history crashing back to her, including a secret that she, her brother and sister have kept all these years. When the town calls in outside help, Kate is resistant, fearing her secret will be exposed after 16 years, but as bodies continue to turn up, she must face her fear in order to solve the gruesome crimes.

John Tomasetti has been to hell, and does not seem to want to leave. Since losing his partner and family a few years earlier, his life has continued in a downward spiral, thanks to his steady diet of booze and painkillers. When he is assigned to work on the Painters Mill murders, he knows it is his last chance. Can Kate overcome her fear and mistrust to work with Tomasetti?

This is the first book in a promising new series featuring Chief Kate Burkholder, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of John Tomasetti as well. Despite the Amish connection, this is definitely NOT a cozy mystery - the grisly details, salty language and sexual situations and references are not for the faint of heart. Kate is a great heroine - strong yet vulnerable, principled yet hesitant, and damaged yet hopeful. I look forward to seeing more from this series. Fans of this book may also like Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series or Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Book by the Author of The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, explores the world of gothic literature in her latest novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Although this story takes quite a turn from her previous work, it still requires some suspension of belief to make it through the plot.

Elspeth is dying, in London, leaving her younger lover, Robert behind to mourn. Rather than leaving her worldly possessions to him, she leaves her flat and its contents to her twin nieces, whom she has never met. Julia and Valentina have grown up with their parents, Edie and Jack, in Lake Forest, Illinois. Edie and Elspeth were twins as well, but estranged.

The twins move into Elspeth's flat, and begin exploring London, meeting their neighbors in the building, Martin, who has severe OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's former lover. Before long, they also realize that Elspeth herself is occupying the flat as well, and they and Robert begin communicating with her. As Elspeth grows in strength, she discovers she can remove souls from living creatures when, in trying to pet the twins' kitten, she accidentally hooks its soul and removes it from its body. She is able to put it back in, with Valentina's help, and the kitten seems unscarred from the experience. This gives Valentina an idea to finally escape the over-bearing Julia once and for all. But will Elspeth and Robert agree to her plan?

This book has so many things I like in a story - ghosts, cemeteries, romance, family secrets, London. Niffenegger's writing style is lovely and the story slowly unwraps. I have a difficult time believing Valentina was willing to go as far as she did in order to escape her twin; perhaps that is part of what makes this story so ultimately horrific. The ending is a bleak one, devoid of much hope for the future for the parties involved. In short, this is a beautifully written gothic horror novel for our times.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Push by Sapphire

Set for limited release in the U.S. in November, 2009, under the title "Precious" (with none other than Oprah and Tyler Perry behind it,) Push is the story of a young woman who lifts herself out of dire circumstances to go from feeling like "nuffin'" to loving herself and her accomplishments.

Claireece Precious Jones, who goes by "Precious" has not had an easy life. Poor, illiterate and obese, she gave birth to her first child at the age of 12 (after being consistently raped by her father since a very young child) and is pregnant with her second (also by her daddy) at the age of 16. Living with her mother who also verbally, physically and sexually abuses her daughter, Precious is a child who has fallen through the cracks of society.

When her junior high principal points her in the direction of an alternative school, (after suspending her over her pregnancy,) Precious begins to turn things around. Her teacher at the school, Blue Rain, challenges and nurtures Precious to overcome her past, deal with the present and look toward the future. Through her interactions with the other students and Blue, Precious learns to love herself and take care of herself and her baby.

Although this is a little book, it is anything but light reading. Written from Precious's perspective, this is a difficult book to read, due primarily to the graphic subject matter. Precious is an amazing character - just when it seems as if everything is going right for her, she receives news that would shatter most people. This is a unique work of urban fiction with an unforgettable heroine - I am looking forward to the movie, which won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

The Robinas, a Detroit couple in their eighties have been married for nearly 60 years. Ella has terminal cancer and John has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. Even though their doctors and middle-aged children are against Ella's decision to refuse medical treatment, she decides that she and John should have one last hoorah. They get into their old RV and head west to Disneyland taking historic Route 66. Their story is sad, funny, romantic, and deeply moving.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain

Are you looking for a sick and twisted tale of a serial killings this Halloween? Chelsea Cain's Heart Sick might be just what you are looking for. This book is the first of the Archie and Gretchen thrillers series (followed by Sweetheart and Evil at Heart.)

Two years after a serial killer that terrified the Pacific Northwest turned herself in, another one is loose on the streets of Portland, Oregon. Archie Sheridan, the head of the task force that helped capture Gretchen Lowell (he was her final victim and the only one that survived,) has been lured off of his medical leave to head up a task force to capture "the After School Strangler." Tagging along after him is local reporter Susan Ward, who is doing a profile on Archie. Susan is surprised to learn that two of the suspects in the current murders are former high school teachers of hers.

Although Archie survived his ordeal with Gretchen he is an extremely scarred individual, both physically and emotionally. He cannot seem to escape the grip that Gretchen has over him, continuing to visit her in prison every Sunday, trips that led to the demise of his marriage. He also has a vigorous pill-popping habit in an effort to stay on top of the pain. He somehow manages to hang on to his tenuous grasp of reality and be an effective leader.

Both Archie and Susan are extremely vulnerable human beings - the details of Archie's torture at the hands of Gretchen are gruesome, and as the book progresses, the readers learn more about Susan's troubled adolescence. Gretchen, the imprisoned serial killer is terrifyingly cold and plays both Susan and Archie to satisfy her own sick needs. The puzzling relationship between Gretchen and Archie is intriguing to say the least - I'm diving right into the next book of the series, Sweetheart, to see what happens next!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Displays

New Lenox Public Library has some great displays going this month for your reading pleasure:

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage by checking out our Hispanic Authors book display. We have some wonderful books by such talented authors as Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, and Mario Llosa Vargas. There is definitely something for just about everyone in this display.

With Halloween just around the corner, we've put together some books on Halloween decorating and entertaining, as well as those ever-popular ghost stories, vampire lore and Halloween history. Be ready for the holiday with our help!

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month - we have books on the disease itself, but also personal accounts of how some women have dealt with the disease personally.

Last, but not least, we've got a spooky selection of Horror Fiction to get your blood curdling and keep you up at night! Get in the Halloween spirit with one of our hair-raising tales. Don't forget to grab a scary movie on your way out also! DVD and VHS feature films are a great deal at $2 for an entire week's checkout!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A "Rediscovered Classic"

In 2005, Jane Smiley published a book titled Thirteen Ways to Look at the Novel, in which she mentions the mostly-forgotten novel The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. First published in 1962, this novel garnered lots of fans and critical acclaim at the time, then faded into obscurity. Now rediscovered and even mentioned on Oprah for goodness' sake, the book has seen a resurgence in popularity, leading to a papberback reprint this year.

The majority of the story takes place on the rural Missouri farm of the Soames family - Matthew, Callie and their four daughters. The story begins with an overview of the elderly couple, who are joined on the farm for a couple of weeks every summer by their daughters. Each character lends their point of view to a portion of the book, providing honest and straightforward insight into their lives and the lives of those around them. What at first appears to be an old-fashioned traditional family has a history at which few readers would guess.

While I found this book to be a lovely read, I hesitate to compare it to some other classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Invisible Man, as Smiley does. In this family drama, Carleton tackles some hot-button issues, particularly for the early '60's, but ideals which are still relevant today, such as religion, sexuality, and women's roles. The Soames family is every family, and Carleton does a marvelous job of reaching beyond the superficial into the very depth of this family - the obstacles, challenges, temptations and choices - that make them (and us) who we are.