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review 2017-12-24 17:07
The Last Suppers
The Last Suppers - Mandy Mikulencak

By: Mandy Mikulencak

ISBN: 9781496710031

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 12/26/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Featured Friday Read

“A gorgeous novel that finds beauty in the most unlikely of places.” —Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

 

A beautifully written story, both absorbing and haunting, Mandy Mikulencak delivers a breakout book, THE LAST SUPPERS —a heartbreaking tale of secrets, racism, inequality, the death penalty, and prisoner rights. 

A courageous young woman becomes obsessed with the preparation of the last meals for death row inmates, and a lover haunted by his related past. 

However, there is a mystery to be unraveled about her own father’s murder and secrets of the past. A strong need for justice. 

Part Southern, historical, mystery, and suspense. From the 1920s-1960s, a young woman Ginny works at the fictional Greenmount Penitentiary in Louisiana. Her father was a guard at the same prison years ago and murdered when she was six-years-old.

Ginny Polk currently resides with Roscoe (Warden Simms), who also works at the prison as a warden. He is old enough to be her father. 

Her father, Joe (a heavy drinker) and Roscoe were best friends for years. He promised her father he would take care of her and her mother, Miriam. Roscoe and Ginny keep their relationship a secret inside the prison. Warden and cook. 

Executions were hard on Ginny. The cruelty and darkness of the prison often overwhelmed her and gave her panic attacks and nightmares. Her mom, Miriam forced her to attend the execution of the man who murdered her dad, when she was only eight-years-old. 

His name was Silas Barnes. She recalled his wife and son. She also remembered the horrors of his claim of innocence until the very end. She is haunted by the family he left behind. She always suspected something was not right. 

Dot, an African woman, also works in the kitchen with Ginny. She is like a mother to her. (loved her). She has always been there for her to pick up the pieces. 

On a side note: Love the show "Queen Sugar." If there is a movie based on this book, would love to see Dot played by Tina Lifford or one of the strong leading ladies. Ginny played by Jessica Elise De Gouw, and Roscoe by Christopher Meloni from "Underground." Love this show and hope it comes back for another season. 

No one can understand why Ginny is so concerned about the death row prisoners, and their last meal. Her madness started the day she was forced to witness the execution of her father’s killer. 

Ginny is now almost thirty years old. She is unsure she loves Roscoe, but she has feelings for him. She knew she did not want to raise children in this compound. 

Currently, Ginny is concerned about the next execution in less than a week. Samuel LeBoux. He will be her nineteenth execution she has witnessed. 

She wants to ensure he has his last meal. She would seek out the prisoner, the family, and try to determine their most memorable dish. Ginny would do her best to replicate it, even using her own money. 

Some thought a man only hours from dying would not be able to enjoy a meal. He has done horrible things. Does he deserve such a right?

Ginny feels differently. It was not the act of eating. It was something memorable the prisoner may have treasured from his past. 

Memory and loss, more than hunger and pleasure. She believed it was a sign of respect to offer them a last meal. A prisoner is a human no matter the crimes they have committed. Ginny wanted to do something special for them. 

She has fond memories of her dad enjoying a tasty dessert. Even after his death, she would learn how to make a new dessert each week. 

Haunted by the families who watched their loved ones die. Her grandmother always said a person’s soul drifted up from his body at the moment of death and some could see it. She still watches. 

“Their fear and anger usually surpassed that of the death row inmate’s emotions, and it was a horrible thing to witness.” 

The executions. The electric chairs. The families. "Ginny always wondered if taking one life for another— meant justice served?" 

She volunteered to witness every execution and take down the prisoners’ last words, although all she had to do was drop off a tray of food and leave. 

Ginny’s scrapbook of these men included the recipe of the dish he requested as his last supper and the words he uttered seconds before dying in the electric chair. 

From rape, murder, and robbery and unspeakable crimes. However, the men had a family. Wives, mothers, children, and friends. What torture did they undergo inside the prison walls?

Roscoe and Ginny’s relationship becomes strained since the board visited often and Roscoe was under a lot of pressure trying to protect inmates. 

Roscoe thought Ginny was trying to make up for something as if she believed the family of her dad’s murderer blamed her. 

He does not want her getting to close to this current execution. What is he hiding? Roscoe has his demons from the past. Those secrets he has been forced to keep quiet. 

Ginny still has nightmares about the family. The worst was the guilt of the family—Taking a father away from his son. She begged his forgiveness. 

Only once in all the years had anyone screamed out he was innocent. It was Silas, her dad’s murderer. He did not receive "the last supper. " This incident still haunts her. Why does she remember now? She feels their utter despair. 

 



Joe hadn’t died at the prison, but rather just outside of Baton Rouge. However, Miriam blamed the penitentiary. What was the real reason he died that night? 

The secrets of the past surface as Ginny becomes involved with Samuel’s last meal. The real truth about that night so long ago is slowly revealed and the events leading up to the murder. 

No matter how many suppers she cooked, she could never undo the pain his family endured. The devastating and lasting memory of Silas Barnes’ death. Was he innocent?

Ginny soon uncovers a shameful part of her daddy’s past. The ugly truths intertwined with Dot’s family history. From the Klan, rape, racial injustice, coverups, and murder. She must make the wrongs, rights. 

Filled with sympathy and compassion, as a reader your heart goes out to Ginny. Secrets, truth, lies, heartbreak, mercy, despair, hope and, redemption. 

She finds comfort in food. Food is an ongoing theme throughout the book, as well as the stories of different inmates and their requests for last meals. A sharing of cooking secrets with the writing of a cookbook. 

Mikulencak deftly unravels a compelling story of heartache, courage, mercy, and love. The author has put her heart into this novel and reflective throughout. Well-researched, an astounding job with the highly-charged subject material and character-development. Darkness and light. Even though historic, we are faced with similar destructive issues today, decades later. 

For fans of Diane Chamberlain, Heather Gudenkauf, Karen White, Vanessa Lafaye, Mary Marcus, Amy Conner, and Kim Richardson. THE LAST SUPPERS is an ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. (guide included as well as featured recipes). 

Thought-provoking fiction that exposes the dark side of our racial past and present and our ongoing corruption within our distressing prison and justice system, yet today. 

Highly recommend! 

A special thank you to Kensington/John Scognamiglio Imprint for an advanced reading copy. It was a pleasure meeting this talented author. Look forward to more.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/11/07/The-Last-Suppers
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review 2017-12-17 16:47
Mississippi Blood
Mississippi Blood: A Novel (Natchez Burning) - Greg Iles

By: Greg Iles

Natchez Burning #3

ISBN: 9780062311153

Publisher:  William Morrow

Publication Date: 3/21/2017 

Format:  Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

 

The 30 Best Books of 2017

EPIC! 10 stars — Secrets of Mississipi’s violent past and a KKK group called Double Eagles are revealed. At the heart, the big question: Who killed Viola Turner?

Natchez Burning The first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage, whose quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past. Top Books of 2014 

The Bone Tree In this second volume, Penn is caught in the darkest maelstrom of his life, as he fights his way out of the war he unwittingly started with a violent offshoot of the KKK, the Double Eagles, and continues to hunt for the truth about dark deeds from the 1960s. Top Books of 2015 

MISSISSIPPI BLOOD The endgame is at hand for Penn, his family, and the enemies working to destroy them. Featuring a trial scene that Publishers Weekly calls “among the most exciting ever written in the genre,” this novel delivers the shocking resolution Greg Iles’s fans have eagerly awaited.Top Books of 2017

The King of Southern Fiction, Greg Iles returns with his highly anticipated Natchez Burning trilogy, with his finale: MISSISSIPPI BLOOD – where we pick up following the murder of Viola Turner and the high profile trial of Dr. Tom Cage. 

The Penn family is in crisis. Sins of the past still haunt the present. 

Greg Iles is a master Southern storyteller and no one can compare! Skillfully crafted, a brilliant mix of Southern, historic, crime thriller, suspense, and classic literary fiction at its finest. He uncovers the moral outrage of racism, corruption, and hatred which has been a part of our history and still exists today- years after the Civil Rights era. 

“Mississippi blood is different. It’s got some river in it. Delta soil, turpentine, asbestos, cotton poison. But there’s strength in it, too. Strength that’s been beaten but not broke.” ― Greg Iles, Mississippi Blood 

 


Picking up from The Bone Tree, the Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, former Houston prosecutor, and novelist Penn Cage is still grieving the loss of his fiancée Caitlin Masters. He still wonders if ghosts exist. He spends time visiting graves. Henry Sexton is dead. Caitlin is dead. Annie’s mother is gone —cancer took her to her death. 

Presently, Penn is dealing with his dad’s upcoming murder trial. Local physician, Thomas J. Cage is being held in protective custody in Louisiana by the FBI for the murder of Viola Turner, his former black nurse, and mistress. He was not even allowed to attend Caitlin’s funeral. Penn has not spoken to his dad, Tom since Caitlin’s death. 

The case has drawn national attention. Dr. Cage is accused of murdering his former 65-year-old black nurse in the wake of a pact that would have required him to euthanize the terminally ill woman who had been his employee thirty-eight years earlier.

In the final stages of lung cancer, she had returned to Natchez to die from Chicago. Being Cage is white and Nurse Turner was black, also complicated matters. In addition, it was recently revealed she had a child (Lincoln Turner) by Dr. Cage in 1968 while he was married. She was a widow at the time after her husband had been killed in the Vietnam War. 

Assisted suicide? Or if administers the drugs, it is murder. A mercy killing? He was charged with first-degree murder.

However, what really happened that night? Did he administer drugs, or when he left, who came in next? Did Viola inject herself or something more sinister at play? A botched injection? A heart attack? An overdose or the wrong drug? So many questions and few answers. 

What about the Double Eagles? Are they to blame? They have a history. Viola’s family wants justice. Lincoln set the investigation in motion. Does he have his own agenda? 

There is John Kaiser of the FBI. Cage is being held in protective custody because he is a material witness in a major federal investigation and his life is in danger. He is being represented by African-American civil rights attorney Quentin Avery of Jefferson County, Mississippi, and Washington, DC. 

Dr. Cage is keeping quiet. Avery his African American attorney in a wheelchair cannot discuss his case with Penn. What does Snake have to do with Viola’s murder? A recording of that night? Who are they protecting? 

The civil rights era of the 1960s remains present. Viola Turner’s brother (a civil rights activist) was murdered by the Double Eagle in 1968. She was also raped repeatedly by the same group and the KKK. Upon returning to Natchez, this brought fear to the group. They want her dead. They had warned her. 

Penn’s family is still under attack by Snake Knox and Double Eagles and the FBI cannot be counted on to protect them even though they live surrounded by bodyguards. Penn is raising his 11-yr. old daughter, Annie and his mom is staying near the prison in a motel, so he brings in the babysitter, Mia who has worked with them previously. His mom wants him to forgive his Dad enough to visit him in prison. 

However, if his father had not hidden the truth of what inspired on the night Viola Turner died, Caitlin would never have become obsessed with Henry Sexton’s quest or picked up his torch after he martyred himself to save them, or followed a bloody trail to the abomination called The Bone Tree. She would be alive. They would be together in Edelweiss, their dream home with Annie and well on their way to a child together. 

Penn’s work is suffering, and he is questioning his own sanity. Who is Quinton trying to protect? His family has imploded. 

His father had two sons and one of them was doomed to be an orphan. The happiness of his childhood was bought with the pain of a black boy who had hurt no one. He had a brother and long after his father passes his blood will flow through both their veins.

. . . “A man who has known love and grief and understands that one is the price of the other.”

 



An upstanding physician and friend to many. A man, not perfect. Dr. Cage is self-destructing and has every puzzled. Penn’s half-brother, Lincoln Turner, is hell-bent on destroying the Cages. Race relations, violence, corruption, evil, and those with hatred. Even though Lincoln and Penn have the same blood running through them, they grew up differently. 

To Lincoln, he had nothing growing up and Penn had it all. They are opposites. When Penn was striving for a baseball championship, with a highly respected physician and mother, Lincoln was scrapping in the streets and running from the Chicago PD. His stepfather was in and out of prison or gambling away his wife’s salary. 

All along while Penn was moving from a successful legal career to an author of legal thrillers, Lincoln was slaving in a small firm, chasing small-time cases until he was finally busted for embezzling escrow funds from a client trust fund. Doing so in a desperate attempt to save his stepfather (which he thought was his father), from a long prison term and had his license suspended. 

Penn can only image Lincoln’s rage. Now his mother is dead, and he wants someone to pay. Justice. Payback. Lincoln is the living symbol of his father’s sin. Perhaps, his crime. After all, it was Lincoln who set in motion the murder investigation. And now Lincoln haunts his city, his family like some dark, retributive spirit. 

Yet, Penn is resilient. Family and friendships are important. He must find a way to help. He can only hope that Lincoln can free himself from the lies that shrouded his youth and become what Viola dreamed he would be. A man who embodies the best of both his parents. 

Can the two brothers join forces and work together to solve this horrible wrong, to find the truth and attain justice for both father and mother? Time is running out for Dr. Cage. Unless Penn is successful at exposing the past to exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed. 

“ . . .Right meant more than might; that being faithful and good meant more than being rich; that honor superseded all.” 

Readers are introduced to a new character, Serenity Butler,(love her), a famous writer (light-skinned African American), and former army officer who steps in to tackle the Double Eagles. The beautiful and talented writer in Atlanta, from Mississippi originally. He cannot trust anyone, even his mother. However, he joins up with a young black author and former soldier named who has come to Natchez to write about Dr. Cage’s case. She may be his best ally. To help expose the dark secrets. 

Formed in the 1960s, the group’s mission is terrorizing and murdering African-Americans, and they are still at it today. The Double Eagles have reasons to want Viola Turner dead, and if their involvement can be proved, it will save Tom. Penn has to find a way. 

Heartwrenching, raw, emotional, complex, intelligent – Penn Cage desperately wants to believe in his father, the family martyr. The decisions his dad makes have terrible consequences for the entire family. Penn is tested. He wants to believe in truth and justice, but his beliefs and values are threatened and shaken to the core. 

No one can rest until the last of the Knoxes have been jailed, and the Double Eagles smashed for all time. 

Rich in Southern history, –From crusading journalists, racism, half-brothers, old lovers, old grudges, corruption, blacks-whites, fathers/sons, sons/mothers, strong family ties, protecting others, revenge, power, justice, and survival – Iles is at the top of his game with this extraordinary trilogy. 

Superb character development, action-packed with page-turning suspense —bringing the saga to a satisfying conclusion. While at the same time exposing the ugliness, cruelty and shameful episodes of our past. Unfortunately, not only does it exist in the American South - it is widespread. 

In 2011 the author was badly injured in an automobile accident and almost died, losing his right leg below the knee. Afterwards, he chose to go deeper with the story about family, race, prejudice, and secrets. His work is commendable! 

Of course, we fans are delighted with the news: Sony Pictures TV is developing a cable series based on the books, with producers Tobey Maguire and David Hudgins (a Dallas native) and director John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) attached. Can't wait! Let's hope they film it where it all took place, due to the author being an expert. Would not have the same impact, filmed elsewhere. 

If you have reviewed Iles' website you know (house/office) property is for rent in Mississippi, due to the steps. One of these days, my wish is to visit and experience the journey, while touring the places and landmarks in the book. Enjoyed reviewing The Map. 

“Mississippi Blood” is the capstone to what could legitimately be called a magnum opus. Iles has emerged from an excruciating ordeal to create a superb entertainment that is a work of power, distinction and high seriousness. These are angry novels, filled with a sense of deeply-considered moral outrage. They are also prime examples of what the thriller— and other forms of “genre” fiction — can accomplish when pushed beyond traditional limits. 

Often grim and frequently horrifying, these Natchez Burning novels set their larger historical concerns against the credibly detailed backdrop of a family in crisis. As the Cage family endures its own trial by fire, Iles shows us both the weaknesses and strength of people tested by extreme circumstances and by secrets and lies that have festered for too long. In successfully illuminating both the inner life of a family in peril and “the troubled borderland between black and white,” he has created something memorable and true.” – Washington Post



Well said. 

As always, with Greg Iles books in this series, you need to experience MISSISSIPPI BLOOD in all formats. The audiobook is a must (narrated by Scott Brick) for an amazing performance (have listened several times). Then of course, you "must" purchase the Kindle format in order to highlight the beautiful lyrics; and last but not least, the print copy is a given, to add to your personal library collection. 

USA Today: Greg Iles has his first-ever No. 1 USA TODAY best seller with Mississippi Blood the final book in his searing Natchez Burning trilogy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/08/Mississippi-Blood
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review 2017-10-02 22:22
The Stolen Marriage
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain

By: Diane Chamberlain 

ISBN: 9781250087270

Publisher: St. Martin's Press 

Publication Date: 10/3/2017 

Format:  Other 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

Top  Books of  2017 

International Bestselling author and one of my all-time favorites, master storyteller, Diane Chamberlain returns following Pretending to Dance, landing on my Top books of 2015 with her latest multi-layered compelling drama: THE STOLEN MARRIAGE — Profound and moving, a complex novel of deeply buried secrets. Well-researched, a perfect blending of fact and fiction. 

Rich in history, mystery, suspense, intrigue and the finest of southern fiction. Emotionally driven, infused with richly layered characters—with highly-charged and compelling “true to life topics” of the era. 

Movie-worthy: From racial tensions to the stresses and emotions of World War II — tragedy, loss, love, trust, betrayal, compassion, forgiveness, and the toll of secrets from a rural small Southern town. 

A poignant and engrossing tale. 

From dark secrets, infidelity, sex outside of marriage, same-sex, abortion, prejudice, interracial marriages and relations, war rationing, family obligations, gripping moral dilemmas, religion, polio epidemic, and a little magical sprinkle of the supernatural. 

Set in 1943, Theresa “Tess” DeMello, a 23-year-old nurse-in-training resides in Little Italy, Baltimore, Maryland. A happy Italian Catholic family, they have lived next door to the Russos forever. They are celebrating her twenty-third birthday and the completion of Vincent’s hospital residency at John Hopkins.

She has been in love with Vincent Russo since she was a child. They have planned their lives and even their children. In a few months, Tess would be graduating from nursing school and taking her licensing exam and finally be able to call herself a registered nurse. A career she had longed for since she was ten years old. They even fantasized that someday Vincent would have his own pediatric practice and she would be his nurse.

The two families are planning their upcoming wedding. They had been dating for seven years. She is still a virgin and since Vincent had grown up expecting to be a priest, he had never pressured her. They would wait until their wedding night.

Her best friend Gina, on the other hand, was a different story. She did not think it was a sin, and really— she did not find too much of anything a sin.

Tess was worried that he would be called off to war but he did have a minor heart problem. However, she was not prepared for a change in their well-laid plans. Vincent was called to Chicago. There was an infantile paralysis epidemic there and they needed doctors to volunteer. A subject true to his heart due to members of his family with polio.

This is just one of the reasons Tess loved him so. He was devoted and selfless. He had hoped to be away for only a few weeks. However, the few weeks turned into longer. He was so busy, he seldom had time to write or phone in a shared boardinghouse with eight men. She worried he would fall in love with Chicago and forget about her —their plans and their life. She fears what is there is someone else? She is feeling insecure. Self-doubt sets in. 

As time moved on Vincent was still away and her friend Gina was feeling a little down since her man was away fighting for his country. Gina begs her to accompany her to Washington, DC. A weekend getaway. They deserved it. Only an hour train ride from Baltimore and they could stay at her aunt’s house near Capitol Hill. She runs a tourist home. Tess does not want to go, but Gina finally persuades her. 

However, when they arrive, their aunt had to leave unexpectedly and leaves them a note and key. There are also two businessmen who will be staying overnight in the house. They meet the men and they take them out for dinner and martinis. 

The two men seemed nice enough, Robert Talbot and Henry Kraft. Henry was from the South, and appeared to be well dressed, in his late twenties and rather quiet. Gina was flirting with Robert and left her to talk with Henry. 

Henry’s family owns a fine furniture factory (Kraft Furniture) in Hickory, NC and now they are producing material for the war effort. She did notice Henry had only seven fingers. Their maid Adora saved his life. He looked sad. 

Back at the house, with too much to drink, things get out of hand. Intoxicated. They had sex. Tess was horrified. How could she have done such a thing when she loves Vincent? She is determined never to see or speak to him again. Was it rape? One night changes the course of her life. 

Upon return, she is guilt-ridden and goes to the priest for confession. A mortal sin to have sexual relations outside of marriage and betraying her fiancé he says. She must tell Vincent. However, he needs to remain eight more weeks but assures he will be back months before the wedding.

Then her worst fears. She is pregnant. What was she going to do? A smart girl with a brilliant career and future will dishonor her entire family. Could she pass the baby off as Vincent’s? She could not marry him. She must leave. She cannot face him. She does not trust in their love. Gina says she must have an abortion. None of these options are looking good. Gina knows someone who will take care of it. 

Scared and alone, she arrives and cannot go through with it. She must move away. A place where she would not be the object of scorn or shame or worry about bumping into Vincent or his family. She decides she will travel to Hickory, NC and tell Henry. She would do whatever she could to protect her baby.

However, things go differently than she planned. She was not quite expecting Henry to propose. She did not love him or know anything about him nor his family. She was stunned. Could this be a sign from God? She decides to marry him. She has no clue what she is getting into. A loveless marriage with a stranger? This is not the life she planned. 

Henry was a take charge man with money, power, and prestige. Plus, a sophisticated family. She knew she was not part of his life. She could not forget her nursing and immediately wanted to look into the requirements for licensing in NC. He does not think she needs a career. 

 


He wants to build them a house; however, while the house is being built, they have to move in with his overbearing mother and sister Lucy. His sister was about the same age as Tess and she thought this could be her new best friend. Wrong, on all accounts.

Tess soon learns there is no lovemaking (which is a good thing), and Henry goes back to his busy life, leaving her stuck with mother and sister. Also, Violet Dare, Hank’s fiancée most of her life. Everyone knew they would marry. They came from the right families. No one can understand why he married this girl no one had met and from Baltimore. 

Something secretive is going on with Henry (Hank). Lucy tells Tess there are things she does not know about Henry. (it is definitely not what you expect). 

Now everyone blames her. Plus, her mom and others cannot comprehend why she would give up her life for some man in NC? Her mother and father (in heaven) will disown her. How could she do this to Mimi, Pop, and Vincent? A man who left to do volunteer work and she cheated on him.

She decides to write Vincent a letter. She cannot be honest and she cannot tell him about the baby or her marriage. She tells him not to find her and find someone worthy. A letter full of lies and omissions. Heartbroken, she is the talk of the town. Alienated from everyone. Then her mother passes away. She blames herself once again.

Violet is the district attorney’s daughter. She will not be Henry’s wife. Tess feels her only friend is the maid, Hattie. Bryon Dare (her dad) is prosecuting Henry’s friend Gaston. His friend who married a Loretta (black), and wants to return to NC to reside.

Tess knows she must take the RN exam and it would be held only a few hours away in Winston-Salem via train. She has to figure out a way to get there. Of course, the mother-in-law and Henry think all this is nonsense since she will be too busy with the women’s organizations, now that she is Henry’s wife. Of course, being in the South, this is Baptist Bible belt territory and she is Catholic.

What else would she have to give up? 

With heartfelt letters from Tess to Gina back home she talks about the town, her husband, a nanny, and child on the way. She knows she is fortunate to have his support but she misses her life and Vincent. So many things she wishes she could undo.

However, if you have read any of Diane Chamberlain’s books, you know there is a complex story coming. Paths will intersect, lives will be tested, love and hope will be restored. 

Fun part: Hattie tells her about Reverend Sam (love him). He talks to the spirits. She is sad and wants clarity. However, he lives in Ridgeview (colored town), and how will she get there? She needs to make peace with her mom, Maria. A book. She loves visiting him and feels freer. 

She soon suspects she is being followed. Henry does not come home sometimes. Zeke the colored janitor is always at the factory. A cop following her. What was she missing? A mystery. Then she stumbles upon an armoire filled two-thirds with bills. Banded and in stacks. More than two thousand dollars. 

Another tragedy. Another loss. She was trapped and miserable. How foolish she had been about Vincent going away for a few months to Chicago for work, and then allowing Gina to talk her into the stupid Washington trip and sleeping with Henry. Then the baby. She must find a way out of this trap.

Then polio strikes. Infantile paralysis. Ruth (Henry’s mom) says it only happens to poor people, which was not true since she points out FDR was not poor. Maybe she could help out since she is a nurse.

Enter more problems. Between Gina and Lucy, these two get Tess in all sorts of trouble. A car accident on the wrong side of town. Lucy is gone. Everyone blames her. She needs her mom and Lucy’s forgiveness. War and polio. People dying. She could not sit still. She could do some good. 

“We need to remember that polio knows no socioeconomic or racial lines. It affects all our community and it will take all of us to fight it.”

With the weight on her shoulders, Tess must dig her way out of the muck and get her life back. Disliked by a town, her own household, and her secretive money-hiding husband, and unable to do the work she loved, and still longed for a man she could not have. A husband and mother in law telling her what she could and couldn’t do. 

Is she being played for a fool? Will she find a way to get the power back?

She needs her spiritual guide named Walter. She must help at the polio hospital. She has to save herself and get her life back. In the process she may even save others, seeking redemption. Someone’s tragedy could be someone else’s salvation. 

What will happen when she meets face to face with Vincent? Has she lost her chance at real happiness?

Could tragedy bring out the best of people and possibly the judgemental friends may turn out to be more generous and compassionate than she thought possible? Could she win back her dignity with the town and those she loves? She arrived broken and hopefully. Will Tess possess the strength to help make it whole? 

The author grabs you from the intriguing and suspenseful prologue to the satisfying conclusion. Loved the Epilogue and the author’s notes about Hickory and the actual polio hospital which was staffed in fifty-four hours! 

A gripping, powerful and compelling page-turner! 

No one can tell a story like Diane Chamberlain. The author has never been afraid to tackle the hot highly-charged topics and a pro at family drama and riveting suspense. She is at the top of her game. Of course, everything she writes is solid gold (have read all her books and anxiously await the next).

Loved Tess’ character and her enduring power. What a journey; from self-doubt and fear — with one crisis after another, to a stronger woman through her adversity. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. Reading Guide 

Highly Recommend! THE STOLEN MARRIAGE is a Top Books for 2017 and read in one sitting. Suspenseful as well as informative, insightful and compelling. 

For fans of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, Karen White, Lisa Wingate, and Amy Hatvany, 

Once again, her meticulous researched topics and well-developed characters remind me strongly of one of my other favorites: Necessary Lies and the novella The First Lie. If you enjoyed THE STOLEN MARRIAGE, you will devour these two. PS Another oldie but goodie favorite: The Bay at Midnight. 

The Stolen Marriage and Necessary Lies are my top favorites out of all her books. Possibly being an NC native, I enjoy revising my roots and its rich Southern history. I always learn a new bit of history after reading one of her books. 

If you have not already, please visit Diane’s website and her blog. You will appreciate the story even more and further enhance your overall reading experience when you read her personal account. 

Thank you, for having the courage and determination to express. An inspiration to many. Rape, Race and Writing Historical Fiction 

She includes more extensive research on her website and books about polio in 1944 in this town. Another article. 

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an early reading copy. Also pre-ordered the audiobook narrated by Susan Bennett. Look forward to listening. 

Adore both covers. The rain and the train (strong) since Tess was traveling on a train so many times. Each time required courage in order to attain her final goal. 

JDCMustReadBooks 

 

 



On a personal note: 
Was delighted to see the author chose the southern setting of Hickory, NC and could not wait to read. Exceeded all expectations.

 

A native of Statesville, only 20 minutes east of Hickory, spent a great deal of time there growing up. In addition, have the Lenior Rhyne College connection for many years, as well as was in the fine furniture interior design business in NC —spending a great deal of time at the Furniture Mart in Hickory as well as High Point. Also, always enjoy the Winston-Salem references where my sons now reside. 

The rich history of Hickory, NC has shaped it into the up and rising city that has earned it the title of an All-American city three times. . . As outlined in the book, "Historically, Hickory is most known for its huge polio epidemic, also known as the Miracle of Hickory. Following World War II, polio epidemics severely hit the US’ population. Hickory had the largest polio outbreak in all of NC. 

My mom’s twin died of polio in the mid-1930s and my best friend from school had polio. She was disfigured and was made fun of by many. 

I enjoy how the author takes multiple historic topics and weaves a compelling story which is both heartwarming and tragic. My mom was a huge Diane Chamberlain fan and she would have loved this story.

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 25 novels published in more than twenty languages. Some of her most popular books include Necessary Lies, The Silent Sister, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, and The Keeper of the Light Trilogy. Diane likes to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of her books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, her stories usually feature a combination of drama, mystery, secrets and intrigue. Diane's background in psychology has given her a keen interest in understanding the way people tick, as well as the background necessary to create her realistic characters.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and spent her summers at the Jersey Shore. She also lived for many years in San Diego and northern Virginia before making North Carolina her home.

Diane received her bachelor's and master's degrees in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, Diane worked in hospitals in San Diego and Washington, D.C. before opening a private psychotherapy practice in Alexandria Virginia specializing in adolescents. All the while Diane was writing on the side. Her first book, Private Relations was published in 1989 and it earned the RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Novel. 
Diane lives with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her sheltie, Cole. She has three stepdaughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. She's currently at work on her next novel.

Please visit Diane's website at www.dianechamberlain.com for more information on her newest novel, The Stolen Marriage, and a complete list of her books.

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/03/03/The-Stolen-Marriage
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review 2017-10-01 04:01
Odd Child Out
Odd Child Out: A Novel - Gilly Macmillan

By:  Gilly MacMillan 

ISBN:  0062697838

Publisher:  William Morrow 

Publication Date: 10/3/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

Gilly Macmillan returns following What She Knew and The Perfect Girl with her latest, ODD CHILD OUT —her third highly-charged compelling psychological (literary fiction) suspense.

Set in Bristol, meet two teen boys from different backgrounds: Noah Sadler— a native-born British boy, and Abdi Mahad —refugee from Somalia. 

An opening scene. One boy jumps near a canal at the edge of the water . . . He lands, gets up and begins running. One pleading with the other. 

A suicide attempt? What happened? Did someone fall? Foul play involved?

Two friends. As thick as thieves. They made friends of the first day and became inseparable at the college. One boy winds up in the hospital. An accident?

Detective Jim Clemo (we met in Book #1) returns and is assigned to the case with colleague DC Justin Woodley.

Things become complicated. Social tensions arise of fear and fury. Both parents want to learn the truth. 

Noah is dying. Cancer. Terminally ill. 

He has a bucket list. Thirteen items. His #1 item. “Don’t tell anybody else I’m dying. Not even Abdi.”

They need Abdi to speak. 

A photo exhibit. Images from war and disaster zones. A racially motivated attack?

Neither boy can provide a version of what happened. Noah is in a coma and Adbi remains mute. Emma, a reporter stirs up emotions.

Both Noah’s and Abdi’s families are forced to confront emotions and secrets. 

Covering the course of 5 days of the investigation and the day after, the author covers media frenzy and social tensions, as well as emotions of diverse families, in this highly-charged third book. 

A story of family, love, loss, illness, and friendship. A realistic and timely storyline, with similar critical issues we are faced with today in our own society.

A special thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Harper Collins for an early reading copy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/06/21/Odd-Child-Out
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review 2017-09-18 22:16
Lightning Men
Lightning Men: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

Darktown #2

By:  Thomas Mullen 

ISBN: 9781501138799

Publisher: Atria 

Publication Date: 9/12/2017

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars + 

 

From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow-up: LIGHTNING MEN. 

Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. 

As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). 

“Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties are tested between family and law. Color lines are threatened. Moral lines are blurred. 

The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South. 

The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. It is infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today.

“Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow 

Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises. 

Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods.

In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith. 

From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support. 

Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land. 

Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist? 

They were tiring of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power. 

Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow. 

Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him. 

Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park. 

Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the richest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana?

Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them? 

Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family. 

When a black man, Jeremiah is released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection. 

Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again.

Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop? 

Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid. 


. . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide. 

The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. . . 

The Armor was worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective. 

. . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.”


Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties are tested. Family versus law. 

Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort? 

After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only (without violence)? 

From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat! 

The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior. 

Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed. 

Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely! 

Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs. 

When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans. 

Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care about. 

Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series. 

In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished. 

Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner! 

JDCMustReadBooks

****
Due to post-Irma, residing in South Florida with water damages, power outage, cell towers, and loss of internet for nine consecutive days; no gas, grocery, or mail service – late posting my review on pub day. Let's hope Maria does not pay us a visit. 

Yay! Today we have internet restored, power, cell towers, and mail service! Back in business. Ordered the hardcover copies of both DARKTOWN and LIGHTNING MEN for my personal library. So excited, they are out for delivery today, from Amazon! (Love the covers) Looking forward to receiving my copies. (Now, I have to figure out how to get the author to autograph) my copies. 

Busy catching up with posting reviews and my blog. Thanks everyone for your patience.
 
 
 

City on the verge of a race riot in ‘Darktown’ sequel


Thomas Mullen’s new novel examines brotherly hate  

By Tray Butler - For the AJC

 
 
 
 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/04/19/Lightning-Men
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