bitterriver

Keller’s second mystery set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia and featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins is ALMOST as strong as the first, A Killing in the Hills (2012).

I loved Keller’s first Elkins outing (it was one of the most compelling American mysteries I had read in a while), so I was very excited by the prospect of another harrowing suspense tale. Although it’s not as strong as the first, this story is still intense – a real page-turner. This time, just as Elkins is put in charge of prosecuting the case of a murdered teenager found in the river, two more devastating events happen in Acker’s Gap…a sniper shoots up the courthouse and there is an explosion at the popular diner in town. Elkins pursues the case in her usual persistent way, but this time, her life comes under threat and the case has issues hitting too close to home, literally.

The best part of this book, as it was with A Killing in the Hills, is the well-constructed plot, fully-realized characters and excellent, top-notch writing. Keller, a journalist by trade who earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for her feature writing in the Chicago Tribune, has found a second trade: crime novelist. I cannot wait for the next Elkins book!

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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five-memorial

I should start this review by expressing some bias on my part. I am personally connected to the events in this book since my uncle was one of the patients in Memorial during Katrina. Thankfully, he was one of the lucky ones who got out shortly after the flooding began. As I was reading this story, it was all the more captivating and heart-wrenching since I kept thinking what would have happened had my uncle not been as lucky.

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mourning-book

Looking for your next great read? I would highly recommend The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard! It’s emotional, well-plotted, engaging, well-constructed and suspenseful without being a thriller. What more can you ask for from a good novel? And it’s a debut novel, at that!

Most of the story takes place 16-17 years before the epilogue, which is set in 2011. So, we head back to 1994 and there we meet Kirsten Hammarstrom, 10, and her family, all of whom live on a rural Wisconsin farm. Grandpa (dad’s father’s) lives in the smaller of the two houses on the farm and Aunt Julia living just down the road. An idyllic, tranquil, laid back life. Until 18-year-old brother Johnny falls for the wrong girl and then the wrong girl goes missing, with Johnny as the prime (and only) suspect.

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mother

In What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most, novelist Elizabeth Benedict decided to ask other contemporary women authors to write about gifts from their own mothers. She was pleased to note that almost without exception the gifts were not of high monetary value. Ann Hood wrote of her own mother giving her the confidence to trust her own personal taste even if it wasn’t the same as her mom’s. Mary Gordon wrote of how her working-class mother took a day off work to take Mary on a boat ride around the New York Harbor, showing Mary that she could dream of other places and other opportunities in the world.

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astronaut wives

“What kind of a woman would actually let her husband be blasted into space on a rocket?”

This was the question all the reporters asked when the Mercury 7 astronauts were announced on April 9, 1959 at a press conference at the Dolley Madison House in Washington DC. The Astronauts Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel tells the story of those seven women referred to as the astrowives: Rene Carpenter, Annie Glenn, Trudy Cooper, Betty Grissom, Jo Schirra, Louise Shepard, and Marge Slayton.

The astrowives became instant celebrities along with their husbands. Life Magazine sent a reporter to cover the wives and children while their husbands were in training and on missions. They were given $500,000 for participating in the story to split between the seven families, which was considerably more that the $7,000 a year the astronauts were making from the military. They went on tours around the world and had tea with Jackie Kennedy.

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