Ta-Nehisi Coates provides an intimate view of the slave culture in #TheWaterDancer at a time when the Underground Railroad was building in strength and numbers. Written in the first person perspective of Hiram Walker, his struggles to recall the events of his parents' disappearance unfold into the story of the "Tasked" and the "Quality."
His life begins as a slave at Lockless, a tobacco plantation in Elm County, Virginia, where he and others from "the Street" continually experience torture, humiliation, and anger at the hands of their masters. Enraged by the injustice, he discovers a gift within him – one that can lead many to freedom – if only he can learn to harness its powers.
I must admit, I struggled with the prose in parts of this story, as well as the meaning behind specific sections. This is exactly what makes this novel a great read for a book club. There is no shortage of material to discuss.
I would like to thank Carrie Vrabel with the #ACPL for the Advance Reader's Edition of this amazing novel.
I enjoyed the way Stokes built suspense throughout this novel, keeping me anxious to see what would happen next. His protagonist, Teri, is an unlikely main character, which I found refreshing. After she witnesses a murder, she's determined to find justice at her own risk, but didn't count on putting the lives of others at risk as well. Stokes does an excellent job of demonstrating Teri's impulsive nature, along with her increasing strength and resilience. A great read!
I hesitate to share with readers a particular lesson I learned from two maple trees that are growing strong in my front yard, but I can't help myself. I guess it never ceases to amaze me how much I have learned over the years, through working in the garden or simply tending to the landscaping surrounding our house. Nature's lessons tend to sneak up on me. Perhaps it's the physical aspect involved, or maybe it's the quiet time spent in union with the earth and it's life force. Regardless, I think I cherish the "ah-ha" moments that emerge, and I definitely remember the lessons better than if someone had lectured me on the specific topic.
When we moved into our previously-owned home in Indiana, two maple trees were struggling to survive. They were little more than saplings, so I went into my full-blown nurturing mode. I spoke with experts from the local nursery, and purchased the appropriate fertilizer, along with a bag that zipped around the base of the trunk. It allowed a slow trickle of water to soak into the roots on the dry days of summer.
I treated both trees equally. Soon, though, I noticed that one had dark, rich, green leaves, while the other was a much paler green. Obviously, I hadn't put enough fertilizer on the tree with the lighter foliage. Hence, I proceeded to carefully mix the recommended fertilizer again into a bucket of water and dumped it around the base. It had worked so well on the other maple tree, I was certain it would do the same for this one. Instead, I watched in horror as the tree began to wither. It made no sense to me, until it finally did.
One day, while clipping a few more dead branches out of the struggling tree, I noticed something I should have noticed long before. I had been so busy treating the trees equally, that I hadn't paid attention to the fact that they weren't the same. Although both were maples, they were two distinct varieties of maple trees. The one with lighter green leaves, actually had variegated leaves, that were meant to be lighter in color. The tree was meant to have leaves with two-toned lighter shades of green, not dark green. I had nearly killed this tree because I'd ignored it's uniqueness. Finally, I stopped fertilizing it, and simply watered it. Eventually, it flourished as well as the dark-leafed maple tree had done.
The experience made me think of people. Sometimes I lump us all together and expect each individual to react the same way to situations. After all, we're all part of the human race, right? But as much as we're all the same, we're also each uniquely different. Whether it's two kids from the same family with different personalities, or people within our neighborhoods or communities, in spite of shared experiences, each one is unique.
The monumental task, then, is to learn how to nurture one another by embracing who we are as individuals, not who we are expected to be because of family, culture, religion, etc. It requires both time and patience, and sometimes mistakes. Yet the effort is well worth it. Maybe we'll know we've gotten it right when we each begin to flourish like those two maple trees, with roots firmly planted and possessing the ability to thrive. It will require some serious master gardening skills. Good luck honing yours. May we all be master gardeners, nurturer's of one another.
Author Dawn Hosmer does an amazing job of building suspense in her thriller, "Bits & Pieces." In this first person account, the reader is submerged into the minds of both a young woman with a special gift, as well as a killer. The deaths of four female college students and a search for their killer, creates tension and mystery throughout. The story will keep you guessing until the very end, where it delivers a surprise twist.
Her main character, Tessa, has a special gift that feels more like a curse, when it drives her to the brink of insanity. A mere touch can give her "bits and pieces" from the lives of others in flashes of color. Relationships become complicated. Compelled to solve four murders, will her gift be a hindrance or an asset along the way?
Little Pretty Things is a compelling mystery with characters everyone can relate to on some level. Lori Rader-Day creatively pulls the reader into the life of Juliet, the main character, and takes them along on her personal journey as she solves a mystery in a small town. Good luck putting this one down!
** spoiler alert **
For Juliet Townsend, her years on the track team in high school were not the way she'd chosen to remember them. When her best friend and former high school track star, Madeleine, tries to reunite with her ten years later, she is forced to face the ugly reality of those years. Maddy's death sends ripples of distrust through the small town, and Juliet finds herself among the list of suspects. As the hunt for a murderer unfolds, Juliet discovers clues about herself tangled within the secrets of those high school years.
I've often been asked, as an avid reader, "Do you like books with a lot of detailed description?" A discussion usually ensues over this point, that partially includes not only the reader's preference for detail, but also the specific book in question.
For example, when a setting is so unique, as in Delia Owens' Where the Crawdads Sing, I relish the beautiful prose that paints the scenery in vivid sensory delights. In this particular novel, it is of special importance to the essence of the story. And therein lies the answer to the question, how much description is too much?
It only makes sense to delve into detail about a marsh teaming with plants and wildlife, when the main character is referred to as "The Marsh Girl." It's intrinsic to the development of Kya. However, should a writer include page after page of setting description in every novel? Probably not. So, it is up to the author to determine if such detail is deemed necessary.
Certain stories demand the author provide a detailed setting for the reader. After all, how difficult would it be to read a fantasy novel, if the other realm was not described with care? Readers crave to easily imagine a place they've never experienced before, which only comes through the author's words.
On the other hand, a novel written with the goal of evoking an emotional response, requires building upon something quite different than a detailed setting. The same would apply to a suspenseful story that builds upon action more so than setting. Not that a certain amount of description isn't necessary in these novels, but the demand for it from the reader is less.
At the risk of frustrating some, I would suggest the amount of description depends on the specific goal of the book. Let that be the general guide. The rest is still personal preference.
When murder enters a small Kansas town, there is a ripple effect that leaves everyone changed, especially the families of the victim and the suspect. Two children, Jody and Collin, from both of these families, experience sympathy and hate overnight as a result. Life somehow goes on until a prison release has town folks scrambling not only for their safety, but for unwanted truths as well.
You will not be able to put this book down, as Nancy Pickard does the artful job of painting the reader into her picture of this small town. She builds suspense like a stack of building blocks, then knocks them over to reveal a surprise twist. A highly recommended read.
If you've ever wanted to know what goes on inside a slaughterhouse, while enjoying a suspenseful novel, then this book is for you. Even though I became somewhat squeamish through details of the industry, I felt compelled to learn the hidden secrets at the Dyersville Packing Plant. Dr. Jessica Bergstrom, employed as a public health veterinarian, finds that her harassment charges against a coworker there lead her to uncover those secrets at her own peril.
Long Grows the Dark is a fantasy novel that took me to a magical place, and introduced me to a tight-knit group of characters who become entwined in a connection between two dimensions in time. Forced into a battle to preserve their land and ruler, their efforts continue to be confounded by past secrets revealed in bits of riddles. Conflicting relationships among the characters, made them feel oh-so-real, causing this reader to wince, moan, and applaud as they struggled to make tough choices. If you enjoy fantasy, adventure, romance, and a roller coaster of emotions, you will definitely enjoy Catherine Labadie's Long Grows the Dark.
A new movement among the #WritingCommunity on Twitter has propelled #IndieAuthors to a new level of acceptance. During the month of April, readers and writers alike have shown their support for indie authors with #IndieApril, posing requests for titles, links, and descriptions of self-published novels. Often selections of one to three books were made from a list of replies, but the mere fact that individuals were perusing titles to make their selections, helped build exposure for a group of writers, who often struggle with the marketing aspect of their novels.
Momentum exploded as the month progressed, and those of us who participated discovered new talented authors that might have otherwise remained unknown. I found it difficult to make a choice among the many intriguing titles and descriptions, but finally purchased several ebooks, and plan to leave reviews for each author.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the level of support from readers and other authors. Suggestions were retweeted, encouraging reviews were posted, and a community of writers began to lift each other up while grappling with their own #WIP (work in progress). Seasoned authors continue to give advice to novice writers, and a shared sense of humor among all eases tensions and frustrations common to the writing process.
In a world where negativity and criticism are abundant, it was refreshing to experience this push-back of positive energy. I want to thank all of my followers @koontz1_ma who have been a part of this journey with me, and hope we can continue to support one another in the future.