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SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW: Another Wonderful Novel ~Catherine Ryan Hyde

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Catherine Ryan Hyde is a master storyteller- SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW is proof that her stories get better and better, all 30 of them.  She has over 50 short stories in major publications and awards upon awards for her artful writing.    I have had the good fortune of reading and reviewing three of her most recent novels within the past year.   Most people would recognize Catherine Ryan Hyde by her magnificently successful story PAY IT FORWARD, which was made into a very successful movie staring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.  Her writing is often cast as Young Adult, but I cannot think of a single adult I know who would not enjoy these coming of age stories and the look at adults though youthful experience and questions.

Most of Hyde’s stories seem to include horses, dogs and adventures that problem-solve and add meaning.  The adults in her stories make a number of discoveries that are life changing for them also.  The main characters often have high levels of responsibility and are cast in a lonely position, which clarifies their situation and allows the characters to get what they need to recover or grow.

Pete does not know that his father is psychologically and physically abusive because it seems to him that all the fathers that are in his community are so inclined.  His father is just going way beyond in his abuse and making Pete’s life impossible for success or sitting down after the whippings.   Pete is trying so hard to do the right thing and find favor and love from his only remaining parent.  He feels responsible for helping a dog that has been hit by a car which costs him a friend and delivers him a new friend and several adults that he can trust.

The story begins in 1959 when Pete is 12-years-old and beginning summer vacation from school.  His father has been injured on the job and is home on Workman’s Compensation and maybe abusing the pain medications and certainly alcohol.

Dr. Lucy is a physician who lost her son to pneumonia during a painful divorce. Dr. Lucy now rescues racehorses, which are not fast enough and dogs that no one wants any more.  She lives alone in the countryside in a house given to her by her father.  She has closed herself off from the community as this Texas community has made being a practicing female doctor an impossibility in 1959.  The community is extremely closed minded.   Here is where the story adds being against “Negros” and the hostile environment that is created.  The Doctor and Justin, Pete’s new friend, have very different value programing than what Pete has experienced in his life, and yet there is an attraction and the resonation of the new values within Pete.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW has many levels of discovery and very well written dialogue. The adults must explain many things from the meaning of words to telling the truth in a protective manner.

I would read this book again.  It made me think about current hatred and racism being expressed in our culture at this time.  I made me think about how one brings about new thinking and acceptance of others; it maybe only through one person at a time.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW is an excellent read, and I have purchased a copy for the son of my new neighbor.

A TLC Book Tours review book.

Related:
Leaving Blythe River
The Language of Hoofbeats

THE BONE TREE: BOOK TWO OF THE NATCHEZ BURNING TRILOGY ~GREG ILES

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Southern Lawyer Penn Cage and his fiancée Caitlin Masters the newspaper publisher have just escaped being set on fire by a ruthless businessman Brody Royal and are still searching for Dr. Tom Cage, Penn’s father, who is being accused of killing a black nurse who worked for him as we finish the exciting book NATCHEZ BURNING, which is the first in the Trilogy by Greg Iles.

TLC Book Tours  sent me book two in plenty of time to keep right on reading this compelling saga about family, about the KKK, about racism, corruption, the brutal history and the on-going conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassinations and Martin Luther King-the South revealed.

The writing in this story is fabulous and amazingly spellbinding.  As Stephen King says, “ You just want more.

“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 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s 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.” (From TLC webpage)

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The incredible “hate” over family generations and how it manifests is fascinating to follow and just how does one help families that are so tainted by violence that they can be changed into decent, contemporary people for the future generations?  Will this kind of family system be destine to repeat itself – forever?  Do our social systems have any impact?

I have over the years often found book two of trilogies to be more of a fill in book adding more detail and transitioning to the big finish.  Yes, there is some transition material in this book and yet it is full of new components to the story and more contemporary problems that are proceeding because of the search being brought to the foreground.  It is riveting in it’s own right.  Another 800 pages of thrilling material and the death of new individuals is spelled out as the corruption and dastardly economic systems are spelled out and more and more African Americans lose their land and life in the re-building of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.

I have personally shared 5 copies of NATCHEZ BURNING with friends and the word is – The writing is amazing and thrilling – The pace and details are extraordinary – It is quite the read and perfect timing.

All the things you thought were going on in the South – They are!   It is nearly impossible to put this book down.  THE BONE TREE will not disappoint.

My copy had a reader’s book group guide at the back of the book and plenty of reference and acknowledgement material proves to be extremely interesting.

Book Three will be available March 2017.

Related:
Natchez Burning
The Contractors
Mississippi Blood

ONCE UPON A LIE: A Novel ~Michael French

Monday, May 16th, 2016

“Michael French is the author of 25 books, which include adult fiction and young adult fiction, art criticism, biographies, adaptions, and gender studies.” (Cover)

There is tremendous skill in the writing of ONCE UPON A LIE and the hooks captivate the imagination within the first few pages.  The characters are extremely well developed and the reader is able to empathize quickly; they pull at a feeling level as well as moving the story forward. Word usage is intelligent. The suspense is just right and definitely not to thriller level, keeping the reader figuring out what is next.  I liked the mix of voices; first and third person perspectives were finely synced.

The reader is meshed into a huge family drama, well two families with lots of drama and some huge lies to contend with and that makes for a lifetime of attempting to find the truth and a whole realm of situations that do not create relief from the tensions of the stories.

“…the two youths see the trajectories of their lives entwine, unravel, and come together again.  Justice, Alex learns, can be a betrayal.  Justice, Jaleel finds, can be a powerful –but dangerous- rock on which to build a life of honor and courage.” (Cover)

Alexandra is the daughter of a Los Angeles lawyer and a socialite mother and Jaleel is the only child of a black couple living on the financial edge in Texas.  The police are prepping Jaleel, who is 12, to be the murderer of his father – he is on the run.  The two children meet over a cup of lemonade and the author builds a good coming of age story around these two individuals and their survival.  The secondary characters are strong and agile in assisting the unraveling of the lies.

“Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and of Northwestern University with a master’s in journalism.  A native of Los Angeles, he also is a successful businessman, activist, and, with his wife, Patricia, a philanthropist raising money for programs aiding teachers in Santa Fe, N.M., public schools which are some of the most challenged in the country. They divide their time between Santa Fe and Santa Barbara, CA.”

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me an advanced copy for review.

Connect with characters on Online:
Alex
Jaleel
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MY SWEET VIDALIA: A Novel ~Deborah Mantella

Monday, February 1st, 2016

With a character name like Vidalia, I knew I was reading a Southern novel and so I prepared for some fairly scary scenes and painful moments.   MY SWEET VIDALIA was the retelling of a classic Southern scenario of poverty; racism and ignorance with a few bright and optimistic characters that kept the book moving forward and offered some relief from the negative environment of the 1950s.

The writing was very good and the dialect was well captured.  I was glad that the book did not drag out into epic dimensions and Vidalia did find a redemptive quality in the end of the story to express and to prove herself to be compassionate and not so “dumb” as her background would lead you to believe.  Her capacity to grow and develop kept me reading all the way through.  Whew!  That was a relief.

I liked the story and felt the discomfort of being outside the events and not being able to cajole or persuade Vidalia to move on and let go of her trials.  How does one move someone out of such ignorance when they do not know any better?  In the beginning of the story, young Vidalia falls in love with a slimy fellow who plays on her naiveté, then marries her when she becomes pregnant and beats her growing baby out of her womb too early for survival.   Vidalia finds a way to keep her baby with her through the whole story and this “spirit child” becomes her support system.

On the cover of the book Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife says
“ From its beautiful first words to its satisfying ending, MY SWEET VIDALIA is a unique, enchanting read.     Exquisite language, a cast of robust characters, and a solid and compelling plot keep readers captivated as Mantella straddles the thin line between poetry and prose, reality and either, fragility and strength.  With a deft and gentle hand, she navigates us through the travails of an impoverished young mother guided by her intrepid spirit child.”

I would place this story high up on the scale of good reads and a great weekend of escape reading, which took me back to my school days in the Deep South.  It was still a relief to leave these characters back in the 1950s and early 60s and find comfort in my more progressive environment of home.   I worked as a social worker in the South in the 70s and 80s and I am hard pressed to even think about returning for a visit.  I am sure my experiences prejudiced my reading of this story.

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this well-written story for review.

From the cover:
“A transplant to the South, Deborah Mantella has lived and taught in various cities in the Northeast and the Midwest.  Now a resident of Georgia she lives outside Atlanta with her husband.  Mantella is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the Author’s Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators.  This is her first novel.”

Deborah Mantella Website
Deborah Mantella Facebook

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The Mapmaker’s Children
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter
Flight Behavior