BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent

Twenty-eight-year-old Australian author Hannah Kent spent time in Iceland while in high school, chosen because she wanted to see snow for the first time. She fell in love with this island country south of the Arctic Circle, and returned several times to do extensive research on Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, in 1829. Kent imagined the interior psychological states of various characters, especially the enigmatically alluring Agnes, and has successfully penned a suspenseful fiction tale that transcends the outcome. It reveals a complex love triangle and double murder, and a provocative examination of the religious and social mores of the time. Knowing the fate of Agnes prior to reading the novel won’t change the reader’s absorption of the novel. The strong themes hinge on the backstory and viewpoints that are woven in and reveal characters that go through a change of perception as the circumstances of the crime

April 10, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Facing History, Iceland, Mystery/Suspense

THE SWAN GONDOLA by Timothy Schaffert

Swan Gondola literally starts off with a bang! Two elderly sisters, Emmaline and Hester, known by most in their small county, as the “Old Sisters Egan,” are sitting in their Nebraska farm kitchen drinking coffee. The day has been a peaceful one. Suddenly the house begins to shiver and shake and they are enveloped in noise, a loud BANG!! Books fall from their shelves, china dishes and cups fall to the floor, breaking, chimney bricks drop into the hearth, their caged canaries stop singing and the two sisters are left stunned, shocked.

February 14, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, US Frontier West, Wild West

BLUE ASYLUM by Kathy Hepinstall

This is Kathy Hepinstall’s fourth novel… and I’ve read all four, so obviously I like this author. She writes a different book each time and thus one never knows what will be found upon picking up her latest, although one can be sure it will be both literary and lyrical, no matter the tone and subject.

BLUE ASYLUM takes place during the Civil War years on Sanibel Island on the west coast of Florida.

February 9, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Facing History, Literary, Reading Guide, Theme driven, US South

THE GHOST OF MARY CELESTE by Valerie Martin

FACT: “The Mary Celeste,” (or “Marie Céleste” as it is fictionally referred to by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others after him), was a British-built American-owned merchant brigantine famous for having been discovered on 5 December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean, between the Azores and Portugal, unmanned and apparently abandoned, (the one lifeboat was missing, along with its 7 member crew, the captain, his wife and small daughter). The ship was in seaworthy condition and still under sail heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. She had been at sea for a month and its cargo and provisions were intact. The crew’s belongings including valuables were still in place. There was no sign of foul play. None of those on board was ever seen or heard from again and their disappearance is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time. There was nothing written in the ship’s log to account for the vanishing. ” (Wikipedia entry)

January 30, 2014 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, y Award Winning Author

PIG’S FOOT by Carlos Acosta

Oscar Kortico might be living in the slums of Havana now but the story he narrates is one of voluptuous plenty — populated by a vast array of colorful characters in a seemingly idyllic setting. “In the 1800s Pata de Puerco was just one small corner of a sweeping plain with a few scattered shacks between the Sierra Maestra mountains of Santiago de Cuba and the copper mines of El Cobre,” Kortico says, as he describes the Cuban village where his grandparents settled.

December 29, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Cuba, Debut Novel, Latin American/Caribbean, World Lit

THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Coplin

In this understated and emotionally raw novel of a family born as much from choice as from blood, debut novelist Amanda Coplin explores themes of love, loyalty, courage, compassion, revenge, and honor, as well as the lifelong, traumatic impact of both childhood abuse and loss.

December 22, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Facing History, Reading Guide, US Frontier West, US Northwest