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NATCHEZ BURNING: A Novel ~Greg Iles

August 24th, 2016

The first book in a trilogy that will just knock you over it is so compelling and non-stop.  The action and history is condensed into an 800-page turner of a book, which fills in history and the violence of the 1960s that continues into 2005.

NATCHES BURNING was sent to me by TLC Book Tours and I have to admit I was not too thrilled as I was already reviewing 7 books for them this month and this gem was 800 pages and part of a 3 way deal.  Whew!   I am not hugely a fan of thrillers either although this one had some historic merit, which found me interested.  Then I read what Stephen King wrote on the cover:

“ Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful.  I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down; as long as it is, I wished it were longer.  There’s a bonus: You’ll finish knowing a great deal about the Deep South’s painful struggle toward racial equality, and the bloody road between Then and Now.  Only a southern man could have written this book, and thank God Greg Iles was there to do the job.  This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

There was so much history in this story from the killing of the voter registration workers in 1964 to present day distress and unequal treatment.  The torture and murder of anyone of color, and others, who got in the way or seemed funky to the KKK and the wealthy scheming whites were just what one thought was going on in the back of the mind.  And yet, the FBI and police could not seem to find the guilty parties or justice.

Iles has lived in Natchez, Mississippi all of his life and the book is full of characters that his fans have known before.  Dr. Tom Cage is a physician who has served all of his community with his medical care, which involved the keeping of many secrets. Dr. Cage’s son Penn is a lawyer, writer and now Mayor of Natchez and is working to solve the charges against his father.  Henry Sexton is a reporter who has faithfully kept the research and storytelling alive about the murders, fires and rape which throughout his history has plagued the community and threatened every member of the society with prejudice and hate.  Dr. Cage is loosely based on Iles own father, and the newspaperman is based on a fellow who has written the stories in his own paper in town and is about to write his own book on what he knows.

The book is extremely hard to put down and I read the whole in 3 days of hard pressure.  I can actually say that I am looking forward to THE BONE TREE, which I will review next month; book two in the trilogy I must wait until March for book three.

Even thought it contains a great deal of history, I know one of my book groups will not read it because of the violence and another because they have a 400 page limit.  It is a thriller and it contains a great deal of violence; it reveals a great deal of the context that I always thought was true but has been bred into the culture and will take a great teacher to heal and a determined citizen to break through.  Greg Iles breaks through and opens a door to re-enculturation.  NATCHEZ BURNING – What a Read!

“Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi.  His first novel, SPANDAU PHOENIX, was the first of thirteen NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of THE QUIET GAME, TURNING ANGEL, AND #1 NY TIMES bestseller THE DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL. Iles novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.”

www.GregIles.com

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The Contractors
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THE BURIED BOOK: A Novel ~D.M. Pulley

August 22nd, 2016

D.M. Pulley wrote THE DEAD KEY that I reviewed several years ago.  It was a fascinating study of corruption that was part of an old bank scheduled to be demolished.  It was difficult to get into and yet there I was hooked into reading every page and the story was excellent.

“The author is a professional engineer from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who specializes in rehabbing historic structures as well as conducting forensic investigations of building failures.  Pulley’s structural survey of an abandoned building in Cleveland formed the basis for her debut novel.” (Cover)

THE BURIED BOOK starts off a huge leap as nervous Althea Leary drops her son, Jasper, off at her brother’s farm about 60 miles from Detroit.  He is left with a suitcase holding a change of clothes and a children’s Bible.  It is August of 1952 and Althea is in a huge hurry to escape something.   Everyone is confused but falls into place with the farm routines and helping Jasper fit into the schedule.  The cabin is small with almost no privacy.

Jasper is finding the farm chores rigorous and yet he is enjoying the work and the learning.  He is very confused by his Mother’s departure and when she does not return and her car is found abandoned or hidden the stress pushes him into hunting for her.  At a burned down farmhouse, he finds a journal written by Althea when she was a young girl.  The journal details how she was blackmailed into doing the bidding of bootlegger/wealthy farmer and this awfulness continued throughout her life.

The book is quite the page-turner, as I was kept invested in the story and what would happen to Jasper and his family.  We are also learning about what was happening to the Native American’s who were on a reservation in the area of the farm.  The prejudices and the fear of the people in the area are very much exploited by the drug runners and mafia people dealing with prohibition.  Poverty is a theme that underlies the entire story.

Pulley writes like an engineer; precise, mathematical, descriptive and dense.  The story moves forward until the riddle is solved and we find Jasper’s Mother and bring her home.

Fire was an important component of the story and I am still sorting out its meaning and reference.  It was a potent threat.

This good read was sent to my Kindle by TLC Book Tours for review.

Related:
The Dead Key
In Doubt
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FAMILY TREE: A Relationship Story ~Susan Wiggs

August 15th, 2016

“Susan Wiggs is the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of more than fifty novels, with her books in print in thirty countries.  A native of a small town in upstate New York, she now lives with her husband at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather can commute to her writers’ group in a twenty-one-foot motorboat.  A former teacher and graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard, Susan is also an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier, and cautious mountain biker – yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. (From the book jacket)

FAMILY TREE is just a lovely read and it was such a pleasure to curl up and enjoy each page on a rainy summers day.  The story unfolds in a small rural community in Vermont, on a farm dedicated to Maple Syrup and healthy lifestyles.  Annie is the girl who drives herself to do everything well and is determined to follow her passion into a big career in the media.  She has learned under the careful tutelage of her Grandmother the ‘Art of Baking’ and she has an innate skill for the craft.

FAMILY TREE is a generational story, which includes the art of creating Maple Syrup to the art of building family relationships that grow and do not consume.  There is considerable wisdom shared in the gentle writing style through the school years, college years and into career building.  Will family patterns repeat and continue into future problems?   What will be success for the family, each character and for the community?

I learned a great deal about the small family farmer, the maple sugar industry, distilling and cooking.  The book came complete with recipe cards for some of the amazing meals served up between the pages.  The book is also about persevering and adapting to change happening to and around each of the characters. A very nice study and I am sure many readers will want this story to come true for them selves.

When I leave the movies it takes a minute or two to come back into the present tense.  It is the same with FAMILY TREE.  The story suspends time and relaxes the reader; taking them away from their own life and problems delightfully.  I am sure it is another bestseller in the making and I can recommend it.  I have not made any of the recipes but I did enjoy FAMILY TREE with several cozy cups of tea.

TLC Book Tours sent me a print copy of this book for review.

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A PIECE OF SKY, A GRAIN OF RICE: A memoir in four meditations ~Christine Hale

August 8th, 2016

I just need to state at the very beginning of this review that I am so happy I was sent this book for reading and review.  What a wonderful book, which arrived at perfect timing for what is happening in our world and the politics of the day.  So many people right now are asking why do people remain so ignorant and do not change their minds?   This memory is about how one of those people, who value programmed in the Blue Collar realm of Southern USA and how much effort it took to learn to reprogram those values and help her children succeed.

“In this layered collage of memory within memory, Hale recreates for readers her kaleidoscopic experience of a decades-long journey to acceptance and insight. Writer, prodigal daughter, single parent, Buddhist disciple, and, late in midlife, a newlywed, she is transformed through an unconventional relationship with a female spiritual teacher and an odd ritual of repeated tattooing with her two young adult children. “ (from book cover)

A PIECE OF SKY, A GRAIN OF RICE is poetically written as the segments over lap in telling her story and piecing together the facets of a life.  From her parents love-hate relationship and hard work ethic,over years of self-study and volunteering in a domestic violence center in New York, this southern woman begins to understand how physical, verbal, and sexual abuse played out in her own family and that was considered the normative behaviors of her historic family and of the culture of the working class.  Christine Hale drugged herself up for awhile and then found a mentor who assisted her in digging her way out and making changes, which led to changes in her own family structure and breaking the pattern and the mold of enculturation she had endured.

TLC Book Tours  sent me a copy of this book for review.

The author also studied at the same school I did in North Carolina and now lives in the same area I did my first social work practicum.  At 20, I arrived from a family that discussed everything and had value programmed with one “British Rules” parent and one “Creative Genius” thinker and I could see clearly in my new surroundings  the stuck in a rut life systems that were not going to work in the new century – how to change awareness and values?  It seemed to take a great deal of pain and the desire to change to escape one’s early programming.   Hale experiences that pain and sometimes believes her only “out” is suicide and yet she persists and change happens.   The telling of her story certainly opens doors for others to step through and find new hope and not just escape and death.  Change is hard work.

Even without getting tattooed most of us can benefit from reading this beautiful memoir and it may help many others in the reading.

Though I have to say that most Buddhist retreats I have partaken of, the centers have been immaculate and beautiful in their earthy settings and natural silence.  Her teacher’s centers were fairly awful facilities and would have made it extremely difficult for me not to be distracted and nearly impossible to let go.   More power to Christine Hale

From the cover:

“Christine Hale is the author of a novel, BASIL’S DREAM.  Ms. Hale’s creative non-fiction has appeared in ARTS & LETTERS, SPRY, STILL, HIPPOCAMPUS, and PRIME NUMBER, among other journals.  A fellow of MacDowell, Ucross, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College.  She teaches in the Antioch University – Lost Angeles Low Residency MFA Program as well as the Great Smokies Writing Program in Asheville, North Carolina, where she and her husband live.”

www.christinehalebooks.com

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Whistling Women