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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Title: Follow Me
Author(s): Joanna Scott
Genre: Fiction - Drama
Finished: April 27, 2009

Sally Werner, a Pennsylvania farm girl, decides to throw caution to the wind and take a ride on her cousin's motorcycle. This choice will change her life forever. A teenager mother in 1946, she abandons her baby boy with her family and runs away to start a new life only a few miles away. Sally runs to escape the people she feels judges her for her mistakes. Yet the unfortunate nature of her life is that she always feels like she has to run away and start over again. Most of the time, this is the result of her own feelings of threat and failure. With each new place that Sally runs to, she adopts a new name, a name she feels will change her fortune and reflects something she has left behind or wishes to be. Along the way Sally has another child, a daughter named Penelope. As Sally runs, so too does Penelope until Penelope meets auburn haired Abe and falls in love. Sally's story is told by her namesake and granddaughter, the child of Penelope and Abe. Towards the end of the book, the shocking family "secret" is revealed by Sally and drives Abe away. Scott has a beautiful way with words.

The imagery the author uses to describe the world around Sally invokes a clear picture of the trickling Tuskee River and the small, rural Pennsylvania towns Sally hops to and from. There are times when Sally expresses a self-doubt and detachment that I have felt many times. I can see a lot of myself in Sally, especially in the way that she regards the world as a struggling outsider looking in, always waiting for her moment to feel connected. Sally's internal dynamic is interesting as well because she is a contradicting mixture of strong and assured, but also weak and afraid. It takes a lot of guts to pick up and start over again, but Sally does this each time because she wants to escape the people around her. So, it's hard to tell what Sally is and that makes her more realistic. Sally is a bundle of one inconsistency after another as most of us are. Sally has a hard life, but she doesn't make it any better for herself each time she runs away. The thing she is good at, singing, she purposefully stuffs away for a long time. Again, this is something that I find familiarity in. Sally is not without remorse for leaving her son behind, or for leaving some of the people who helped her early on as she was just getting on her feet. Even as she runs away, she always looks back on the people she has left behind. I honestly enjoyed this book from page one. Since Sally's life is cut up into chunks, each stage is paced just right that I didn't feel any lag in the plot. As I said above, the descriptions are both beautiful and believable. Scott is a truly talented writer. With just a few words, she is able to evoke emotion and reality all in one breath. It takes talent to captivate, which Follow Me certain does.

Blog Tour: Follow Me by Joanna Scott & Giveaway

About Joanna Scott

Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, she lives with her family in upstate New York.

About Follow Me

On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history. Boldly rendered and beautifully told, in FOLLOW ME Joanna Scott has crafted a paean to the American tradition of re-invention and a sweeping saga of timeless and tender storytelling.

You can read my review of Follow Me here.

Participating Blogs: 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book Review: One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon

Title: One Deadly Sin

Author(s): Annie Solomon
Genre: Fiction - Thriller
Finished: April 26, 2009

Edie Swan has returned to her home town of Redbud for revenge. Armed with a list of names and a bag of tiny black angel figurines, a mimic of the black angel that stands over the grave her of her father, she is ready to make the men she feels are responsible for the death of her father pay for their crime. Her father, Charles Swanford, was reported as having committed suicide after being caught extorting money, but Edie feels it was really murder and the charge was made up to protect the still living men involved. Coinciding with her arrival is a streak of murders-- the murders of the very men she has on her list and has been leaving black angels for. She finds herself the prime suspect in the murders after her small roll in their lives is revealed. This cuts short her budding romance with chief of police Holt Drennen, who must arrest her despite his growing doubt of her guilt. Not only faced with a life in prison for murders she did not commit, someone is out to scare or kill her.

I always worry when I read books like this because I fear your typical "kick ass female" character. And by fear I mean that they just annoy me-- they are unrealistic, loud mouthed, and suspiciously Mary Sue. When Edie waltzes in with her tight clothes, her messy dark hair, her dark black eyeliner, her aptitude for working behind a bar and making ANY drink, and her suped-up Harley, I worried for this book. But, joy of joys, I found Edie to be a great character full of flaws and limitations, but still strong and independent. She isn't perfect-- gorgeous yes, but prone to her own personal issues and troubles, and certainly not infallible in any sense. And no, she would not be able to punch out a biker four times her size as some characters like her can. Comparing her to some of the awful female characters I've read, she is a great female lead character. From when the murders started to when the culprit was revealed, I thought I knew who was committing the crimes. In fact, I was almost absolutely certain that I had the ending of the book pegged. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out that I was not only wrong, but completely unsuspecting of who it truly is. When a book can catch me by surprise and prove me wrong, I automatically reward it with extra credit.

This book is definitely not for someone younger than 18. There is violence, death, and a few steamy love scenes. It's not gratuitous, though, so you might not be offended if you have an aversion to something listed above. Given the title of the book, the plot, and the main character, it is to be expected that some uninhibited sexy things are going to happen. If erotica isn't your thing, no worries. The scenes are few and not very lengthy. They are just enough but not too much. The only thing that bothered me while reading wass the occasional choppy passage here and there. There are times in the book that new sentences are started that are awkward and unfinished. I guess that's what Word likes to call Sentence Fragment when you grammar check? I don't know. I am a major culprit of them myself, at least according to Word. It isn't awful by any means, and it certainly isn't indicative of a poor writing style. Indeed, Solomon is a wonderful writer-- her book is an engaging page turner. Just now and then I sort of had to pause and connect things because there was a period there that didn't feel right. So what is One Deadly Sin? It is thrilling, unsuspecting, and well written. The characters are realistic and well rounded, full of personality and individuality. The pace of the book is great because it never lags or staggers, it never lingers or drags on too long. The book has enough edge to keep it exciting, but not enough to over-do it.

Blog Tour: One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon

That's right. Morbid-Romantic.net is participating in the blog tour for Annie Solomon's One Deadly Sin. Rather than give you all the goods today, I am going to spread this over the course of the tour, which lasts from today to May 8th. Today, we start off the tour with a little information about Annie Solomon and One Deadly Sin!

About Annie Solomon:
A native New Yorker, RITA-winning author Annie Solomon has been dreaming up stories since she was ten. After a twelve-year career in advertising, where she rose to Vice President and Head Writer at a mid-size agency, she abandoned the air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps of her professional life for her first love, romance. An avid knitter, she now lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. For more information about Annie Solomon: Author Bio, Bibliography, Annie Solomon's Website

Book Description:

COMING HOME IS MURDER... Revenge. Edie Swann has hungered for it since she fled her hometown as a little girl. Now she's returned, ready for payback. Armed with a list of names, she leaves each one a chilling sign that they have blood on their hands. Her father's blood. What happens next turns her own blood cold: one by one, the men she's targeted start dying.  Sheriff Holt Drennen knows Edie is hiding something. She has a haunted look in her eyes and a defiant spirit, yet he can't believe she's a murderer. As the body count rises and all evidence points to Edie, Holt is torn between the town he's sworn to protect and the woman he's come to desire. But nothing is what it seems. Long buried secrets begin to surface, and a killer won't be satisfied until the sins of the past are paid in full--this time with Edie's blood.

Read my review here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller
Finished: April 18, 2009

Connie Goodwin is a Harvard Graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation. Her advisor, Manning Chilton, suggests that she find a unique and undiscovered primary source to focus her research on. Unfortunately for Connie and her academic progress, not a lot of work is getting done on the dissertation, not since Connie's earthly and eccentric mother Grace called to ask her to go up to Marblehead, Massachusetts and help get her grandmother's house ready for selling. While going through her Grandmother's house, Connie chances along an old bible and a key that contains a scroll with the name Deliverance Dane. Her curiosity is peaked. Uncovering the past through scattered documents and records, Connie soon enough learns that Deliverance Dane was accused and killed as a witch during the famous Salem Witch Trials, leaving behind a book of receipts, or what we would refer to as recipes. Connie passionately searches this book out, tracing the lives of mother to daughter until she comes to see her own family connection in this all. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane weaves reality, history, and magic together as logical and realistic Connie faces the possibility that there may be something more to this world than can be explained by reason alone, especially when her own safety begins to be threatened by something faceless and nameless.

This is a page turner. I just couldn't put this book down and loved the flashbacks to Deliverance's time the most. The late 1600s were hard for women, especially Puritan women who had to be steely and reserved at all times. I came to respect Deliverance for her steadfast nature and her want to help those very people who condemned her. It is certainly hard to be strong when faced with conflict, especially that of the life threatening brand. The mother-daughter dynamic is important in the book, and each mother and daughter carries on their family legacy of spells and healing while adapting to the times. Just as mothers and daughters tend to be, each daughter is both like and unlike her mother. Sometimes it seems as though Howe, a historian herself, uses the plot and Connie as an excuse to let us know just how much she personally knows about history. While this isn't a bad thing, quite the opposite in the opinion of this historian, it does make the dialogue sound forced at times. There was one thing I did take issue with, but not enough to put me off of the book. I was sort of disappointed that this book turned from historical fiction / thriller to thriller / fantasy. I would have liked it better had the author not chosen to make the "magic" aspect of what Deliverance and her kin did actual reality. When the characters began to do real magic, I gave a sigh. Part of the appeal of the book was that it spoke to me as an historian and a realist. What I wanted to see and get from the book was the story of a woman, a natural woman capable of using the earth as anyone could, being marked as evil for her skill with healing. That hope was cut short when the characters began actually speaking spells and shooting light from the tips of their fingers. To be honest, I could see the ending coming a mile away. It was quite obvious from the get-go who the bad guy is. I was surprised that it took super-intelligent Connie so long to figure it out for herself. Then again, maybe I just have a distrustful nature. My suspicion as to the end of the book didn't ruin the plot for me, though, and I absolutely devoured the book.