R. J. Ellory’s A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS is the heartrending story of Joseph Vaughn, a boy who grows up under an unlucky star. The narrator is only eleven when his thirty-seven year old father, Earl, dies in 1939, leaving him and his impoverished young mother to fend for themselves. Earl’s death leaves Joseph and his mother deeply shaken. The boy is further traumatized when a classmate is found dead, after having been stripped, beaten, and assaulted by an unknown perpetrator. This girl’s murder is just the first in a long string of calamities that will dog Augusta Falls, Georgia, where Joseph and his mother live. The specter of death constantly haunts this tragic tale of hopes dashed and innocent lives snuffed out prematurely.

October 10, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Coming-of-Age, Mystery/Suspense, US South

THE LAST SECRET by Mary McGarry Morris

THE LAST SECRET is powerful and unflinching. It builds up slowly but the tension and angst keep coming. The characters are disgruntled, desperate, despairing, fragile, with huge currents roiling through their being as they try to keep their inner and outer storms at bay. Some characters are loathsome, despicable and pathetic. These are juxtaposed with others who try to stay strong, keep one foot in front of the other, and maintain independence at all costs. What Ms. Morris is so excellent at portraying is that while people try to fool themselves into believing that they have certain attributes better, worse, or more unique than others, most people are actually quite alike in that they harbor these components: the good, the bad and the evil.

October 8, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Contemporary, NE & New York


At its heart, ATLAS OF UNKNOWNS is a story about family, especially the relationship between two sisters. Linno and her younger sister, Anju, grew up with their father and grandmother in Kerala, India. Their mother’s apparent suicide is alluded to but not discussed although her death haunts both girls in different ways. At age 13, Linno, a budding artist, loses her hand in an accident with a firecracker.

September 29, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Family Matters, India-Pakistan, New York City

THE LAST WAR by Ana Menendez

If you become numb to the conflict of constant war, does it prevent you from dealing with your own personal battles? In THE LAST WAR, by Ana Menendez, Flash and Brando get paid to travel and document war – he the “Wonderboy” journalist, she the photographer/wife that follows in his shadow.

August 10, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Turkey, World Lit

MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan

“Mudbound” is the very unaffectionate name that Laura and her children give to her husband, Henry’s, Mississippi cotton farm. Mudbound is without running water, electricity and, as the name implies, muddy and dirty. For a good part of the year it is inaccessible to any town because the huge quantity of rain washes out the only bridge that links Mudbound to civilization.

August 9, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Bellwether, Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Literary, US South