Saturday, May 31, 2014

'Hollow City'

Way back in February 2012, I reviewed an unusual book; 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'.  I was intrigued by the weird photos taken from a bygone era, and author Ransom Riggs wrapped the story around each one.

I loved it.  It was strange and creepy, yet full of emotion, and compassion for the rather unique human condition.

When I read the news that he had finally written a sequel, I 'quick like a bunny' put a hold on it at the library.  It was a long wait, but definitely worth it.

'Hollow City' follows the peculiar children from their escape from their island home, and far into 1940's London, England. It isn't a straight shot; they find another 'loop' (a different time frame which enables them to come into contact with other 'peculiars'), fight hollows and wights, and try to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine.

This particular story is a bit more grown up. Our hero, Jacob, has fallen in love with Emma Bloom, the girl who can make fire...with her hands.  He struggles with his feelings, hoping they will be reciprocated.  

And we have Olive, the girl who can float, and Bronwyn, a very strong girl. And there's Millard, an invisible boy.  Most all of the major characters are back, and all are involved in the intrigue, and are trying very hard to hold up a united front against their paranormal enemies.

Author Ransom Riggs
But it is the photographs that will really suck you in. You ask yourself just how Riggs will present them?  

The answer:  He does it very, very well.

A major surprise awaits you at the end of 'Hollow City'.  I was astounded, to say the least.

'Hollow City', by Ransom Riggs, is now available at your local library and favorite bookstore.    

Thursday, May 29, 2014

'Midnight Crossroad'

As most of you know by now, the last two weeks have literally been hell for me.  I've been settling my daughter's estate, holding an estate sale, and taking care of mountains of paperwork.  It's exhausting.  And humbling.

The love and support from friends and family have given me great strength and sense of purpose.  But I know that when all of this madness settles down, when the messages dwindle, and the memorials are finished, I will have something left that is timeless. Something my daughter and I shared.

A love of reading.

In the midst of sadness, in the midst of rage, we all need to get out of ourselves and linger in another world, if only for a moment.  I found that other world in Charlaine Harris's newest novel, 'Midnight Crossroad'.  

Midnight, Texas is a town with many boarded-up windows, abandoned buildings, and very few full-time residents.  Located at the crossing of Witch Light and the Davy highway, Midnight is a pretty standard, dried-up western town.

However, there's something unique about the residents. Two live in a pawnshop (one of them lives in the basement and is seen only at night) owned by a handsome, love-sick man, and the local diner feeds them all, where they gather to talk and gossip.  The new resident, Manfred Bernardo, thinks he's found the perfect place to work in private.

But he has another thing coming...

Harris, author of the incredibly popular 'Sookie Stackhouse' series (and other mystery series which are equally good), has given us the beginning of a new series, one I find entertaining, funny, and mysterious.  She's good at mysterious.

Author Charlaine Harris
Although her story is told in a simple style, don't let that fool you. She is sharp as a tack, and has a way of bluffing us all.  Bless her little Southern heart.

It's a page-turner.  It's exciting.  

And I can't wait to read the next one.  I think you'll feel the same way.

On a side note, I want to thank Charlaine for helping me get through a very hard time.  This Book Hog owes you bigtime!

'Midnight Crossroad' by Charlaine Harris, is now available at your library and favorite bookstore.  If you love Sookie, you'll love Midnight!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

'But I Digress...Again'

It was in December 1986 when I discovered true love.

When that little bundle was put in my arms, the purest form of love totally enveloped me.  I had originally decided that she would be bottle-fed, but once I had her, I placed her against my breast and she ate like a champ.  I had also originally decided that she could be kept in the nursery.  Bingo!  Wrong again. I insisted that she be kept with me all the time, where I could gaze upon her loveliness and hold her whenever I wanted (which was all the time). When a nurse took her away for a bath, I was distraught; I couldn't wait for my sweet little girl to return to me.

We named that sweet little girl Alicia Marie.

And she is gone, now.  

She was twenty-seven years old when she took her own life a few days ago.  No goodbye, no note.  Just....gone.  I'm not afraid to tell you that she took her own life with a gun.  I'm also not afraid to tell you that she suffered no pain; she went instantaneously.  

But my little girl left behind scores of friends who mourn the loss.  A lot of them had kept in touch with her, some didn't because of her drug usage.  

And she left me behind.  But she gave me the most precious gift of all:  Pure love.  Love that I still hold in my heart, despite the fact that we had grown apart.  And she knew, she just knew that I loved her no matter what.

She loved Coach purses and she loved shoes.  She loved perfume, and jewelry and clothes. She was a 'girly girl' who could throw a punch like a prize fighter.

She was smart and spunky and great with math.  She had a smile that would light up a room. She loved rap music, and sometimes even classic rock.  Her dog, a pit bull named Indy, was the love of her life, and she was very happy when Indy found a better home.  She had no child of her own, but it didn't stop her from loving all children; her devotion to her friends' children was legend.  Whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted to go.  She spoiled them rotten. 

But she was depressed; had been through her teen years.  When her father committed suicide a few years ago, her life was never the same.  She missed him desperately, and I was sometimes the recipient of her rage regarding his end.  

I tried and tried to get her to join a recovery program; I had done a lot of research; but, ultimately, it was up to her.  And she brushed it off.

But near the end of her life, she was taking meds for depression and had joined Narcotics Anonymous.  We had some good talks and laughed together.  She spent the night, and I stroked her hair as she slept.  It was rare when she stayed over, and I wanted to cherish every moment.  She seemed to be growing stronger, and I was so pleased that she was going back to college to continue her studies in dental hygiene.

Alicia and her buddy, Caden
Alas, depression sunk its hooks into her again, and she kept it from us.  Her last day was spent house sitting, and her boyfriend was trying to get her off the drug.  But, in a final act of desperation (I assume) or defiance, she made the ultimate sacrifice: Her life.  

It's been a hard road to travel.  I've raged against the night, I've screamed, I've cried I don't know how many tears (and still am, probably forever), and, thanks to the dear memories of friends and family, I've laughed. So many memories of the one who gave me pure love.

And it's still pure.  I see her at two years old, painting the hallway with my copper-colored nail polish.  And I see her in the bathtub, refusing to get out.  And I remember reading a Harry Potter book to her, and as I kept reading when she fell asleep, she suddenly awoke and exclaimed, "Mama!  You're not supposed to read ahead!"

She karate-chopped a mirror when she was five.  Seven stitches.  All because of 'The Karate Kid' movie she and her father had been watching.  She loved to sleep in, probably due to the fact that she was two weeks late when I was pregnant with her.  And she had a temper!  A bad temper.  A 'throwing myself on the ground and screaming' temper...which I walked away from until she noticed that she wasn't getting the attention she wanted. 

And her driving scared the beejeezus out of me!  She didn't appreciate the fact that I kept my hand on the door grip.

There are memories and photographs and jokes that I, our family, and her friends have all shared.  I snuggle her bathrobe and always look upon the hot pink Uggs boots she adored.

But I will never, never forget the love I first felt when I held that precious bundle in my arms.

The one who showed me that true love really does exist.

That is my most precious memory.  No one can take that away.

The one I will love until my own end on this earth.  And the one I want waiting for me when I finally reach that pinnacle.

Be well, my dearest love.  Mommy loves you.

And, the second time around, I wouldn't doubt it if you're the mom and I'm your little babe.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
You will be routed to the closest possible crisis center in your area. With over 120 crisis centers across the country, our mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. Call for yourself, or someone you care about. Your call is free and confidential.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

'One of Us'

When I'm bored, when I'm stressed, when I get discouraged, only a mystery story will make me feel better.  Mysteries are such a challenge, if well written. And they have to flow.  

Fortunately, the folks at Simon & Schuster have gifted me with yet another good mystery story.  

Tawni O'Dell has written some great stories; I loved 'Back Roads' because the plot, while thoroughly engaging, had me guessing until the end.   

So, I just finished reading her newest novel, 'One of Us', while I was soaking in the bath tub. I was so involved that I didn't even notice when the water grew cold. That's how interesting it was.

Dr. Sheridan Doyle is a famous, successful, smart, and polished forensic psychologist for the Philadelphia's D.A.'s office.  But beneath that fame and designer clothing, he is still Danny Doyle, the bookish boy from a blue-collar family living in the Lost Creek mining community.  Lost Creek is famous for the long-ago hanging of four Irish leaders of a rebellion against the mine owner, and it is here where Danny discovers a dead body, a body that is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners' deaths.  Danny teams up with Rafe, a detective and the man who was a father figure to him.  And while searching for the killer, Danny discovers some unsettling truths about his own family.

Author Tawni O'Dell
O'Dell has returned to her Pennsylvania roots and given us a story that only she can write. Her descriptions of the desolate landscape and resignation of the community left me feeling just as resigned. Although Danny was like a breath of fresh air, I could feel his eventual despondency and regret. His grandfather, Tommy, is a particular favorite of mine because of his common sense and deep intelligence. The love that he and Danny share is a highlight of the story.

When the mysterious Scarlet roars into town, the story really takes off.  She's a very colorful character who definitely has her own agenda.  What that is, I'll leave for you to discover.

This is a story about family and the ties that bind us.  It's about secrets, lies, abuse, and sorrow.  It's dark, it's powerful, it's very, very surprising.

And it flowed!

'One of Us', by Tawni O'Dell, will be published in August 2014 by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.