Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ellen Block. The Definition of Wind. New York, NY: Bantam, 2011.

Abigail Harker, a Boston lexicologist turned Outer Banks lighthouse keeper, returns in Ellen Block’s sequel to The Language of Sand. A year has passed since the tragic fire that took her young son and husband, and Abby is only slightly closer to healing than she was when she came south to North Carolina’s Chapel Isle. Renting the dilapidated, possibly ghost-infested lighthouse and attached cottage isn’t helping: the toilet is constantly breaking, the windows are swollen, and the heat in the summer is ghastly. Even worse, summer brings crowds of marauding tourists, and Abby has reluctantly agreed to perform small home repairs for the local rental agency, Gilquist Realty. Wasps nests, toilet clogs, and irritable summer people are not a recipe for inner peace.

Neither are home invasions. Abby is dismayed to find that she is of particular interest to a burglar, which she correctly guesses is due to recent hubbub over The Bishop’s Mistress, a ship carrying valuables that sank off the coast of Chapel Isle in the late 18th century. The journals of the lighthouse keeper from that century (which she happened to find in her basement) could provide valuable clues, and the burglar seems to know this. But who could it be? Sheriff Caleb Larner, whom Abby knows to have secretly been a thief? Her landlord, the ditzy and manipulative Lottie? Those arson-enthused teens who are adding even more mayhem to the already tense island? Abby must try to protect the journals, handle the touchy lighthouse, and fend off both wasps and amorous summer suitors. Luckily she has the perfect vocabulary to handle any situation.

Ellen Block has written a simultaneously sensitive and hilarious mystery that happily resists descending into melancholy. Abby Harker is a strong, intelligent personality, perfect as a companion for a day on the Outer Banks, or as the subject of discussion in your local book club.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, or start from the beginning of Abby’s story with The Language of Sand.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Block, Ellen, Coast, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mark Phialas. Who Killed 20G? Williamsburg, VA: Cherokee McGhee, 2011.

Trent Jones is a has-been M.P. with a penchant for poker and scotch, and a passion for UNC basketball. The obsession with liquor and gambling means that he’s often drunk, broke, or some combination of the two, and that his best friend, Frank Williams, has to bail him out more often than not. Frank, a successful sports and entertainment agent, lives in New York City, a world away from the North Carolina haunts they used to frequent together. However, Frank keeps a vacation home at nearby Myrtle Beach, and after his latest slump, Trent wants a place to recuperate (or just more scotch, which Frank has in spades). Frank is angry about Trent’s downward spiral, but unable to deny his friend anything. However, rest and refreshment are last on the list for the wayward Tar Heels fan. One evening, out having a drink, Trent encounters Kenny “20G” Kincaid, the basketball head coach for the fictional Wellington University, located just north of Charlotte. Having recently lost $500 thanks to 20G’s losing streak, Trent decides to have a little word with Coach about his technique, a tactic that quickly turns into a fistfight. Trent wakes up the next morning hungover and sore with the intention of moving on. But he can’t; sometime during the night, someone murdered Coach 20G and Trent is suspect #1.

Things get worse when Trent receives a phone call from New York City: Frank Williams has also been murdered. These two homicides, unrelated at first glance, plunge Trent into a dangerous game of sleuthing and revenge that takes him to Arizona, New York City, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and even out to sea. To make matters even more unbearable for him, the action occurs during the NCAA play-offs, and Trent is convinced that this year the Tar Heels are going all the way. Can Jones find and eliminate his friend’s murderer, uncover what happened to 20G, and protect himself while still watching the Heels achieve victory? Find out in Phialas’ debut novel, which is hopefully the first of many. Trent Jones is a gruff, troubled, but highly likable and entertaining anti-hero; readers, especially fellow Tar Heels, will root for him from the start to the final buzzer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Mecklenburg, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Phialas, Mark, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Sain, Leanna. Magnolia Blossoms. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2010.

Sweet Magnolia Poinsett (understandably) loathes her name, preferring instead to go by Maggie. At 25, tough and worldly Maggie is a photographer for the prestigious National Geographic magazine, until she contracts malaria on a shoot in Zaire. Ordered to rest, Maggie reluctantly returns home to Charleston, South Carolina and the Civil War-obsessed parents who chose her horrible moniker. With typical misunderstanding, her mother and father decide that a family vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains is just what they all need, dragging her along to Golden Apple Farm, a small bed-and-breakfast nestled in picturesque MacKinlay, North Carolina. Despite the beautiful countryside and Jane MacKinlay,the kind proprietress,  Maggie is all set for a week of misery. Until she sees the ghost.

Jane MacKinlay suspects there is something different about the young woman who arrives with her family in the spring of 2010. When Maggie sees Thomas, Jane knows that her prayers have finally been answered. Shot in 1864 for desertion, the spectral Confederate is also Jane’s great, great uncle, and she thinks Maggie can help him–by returning to the past through Golden Apple Farm’s best kept secret: the iron gate. But Maggie is skeptical. After all, time travel? Ghosts? Then, one full-moon night, she follows Thomas … straight through the gate into 1864.

Soon Maggie is on the run. Disguised as a boy, she assists the photographer Thomas with his business of capturing Civil War action, all the while looking for a way to save him from his untimely end. But the wartime South is a dangerous place; overrun with spies, deserters, and villains of all kinds. Thomas, Maggie, and the entire MacKinlay clan (many of whom readers will remember from previous books) must do things they never thought themselves capable of  doing in order to survive.

This is a rousing end to a wonderful trilogy, and fans of novels such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will be particularly delighted with the romance, time travel, and adventure surrounding the intrepid Maggie and handsome Thomas.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Henderson, Historical, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Sain, Leanna

Steve Watkins. What Comes After. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011.

Iris Wight knew that moving to Craven County, North Carolina, from her lifelong home in Maine would come with many changes, but she had no choice. Her father had just passed away, and her best friend’s family who was supposed to take care of the sixteen year old backed out of their promise. Iris’s only option was to start over in a new land where she would stand out with her Northern accent, attend a high school that did not offer the AP (Advanced Placement) classes she was used to, and would be without the comfort of her best friend and softball teammates.

What Iris could not have anticipated, though, was just how different her life in Craven County would be. Her Aunt Sue and cousin Book, both of whom she met briefly as a young child, do not welcome her with open arms (although Aunt Sue is more than happy to take Iris’s inheritance). Instead, they treat her as if she is a nuisance and give her the chores of milking the goats and pasteurizing the milk for cheese that will be sold at the farmers market. Iris does not mind these responsibilities; playing with the goats is the only form of warmth she receives in North Carolina. The way Aunt Sue and Book treat the farm animals and the family dog, however, deeply troubles Iris. Their cruelties are in stark contrast to the way her veterinarian father taught her. When she tries to protect the four-legged friends she has grown to adore, Aunt Sue and Book beat her. This violent act puts Iris in the hospital, then into foster care, and Aunt Sue and Book in jail. Over the next few months, Iris must prove to herself and to others that she is worthy of independence, trust, and affection.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Craven, Watkins, Steve

David Shaffer. The Double Lie. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Book Publishing, 2011.

Miami private eye Harry Caine is back in North Carolina in this latest installment in the Harry Caine Mysteries series.  His client is Elaine Sanford, a wealthy widow who wants Caine to dig up evidence that will save her son, Frank, from a murder conviction.  Frank is no boy scout.  He is already in a federal prison for lying about witnessing the kidnapping of a young girl in Virginia.  Shortly after Caine visits him, Frank escapes.  Caine is certain that Frank will try to harm the woman who will testify against him in the murder trial, but Frank may have another agenda that Caine can’t quite make out.  As Caine pieces the puzzle together, readers are  plunged into a world of stolen goods, shifting loyalties, and multiple murders.  As in earlier books, Caine is aided by Mona Morgan, who is developing into a confident–and attractive–investigator.   A new character, Florida private investigator, Alice Anderson is introduced; it will be interesting to see if she appears in future books.


Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Forsyth, Guilford, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Randolph, Shaffer, David

Diane Chamberlain. The Midwife’s Confession. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA, 2011.

Thus far 2010 has been a difficult year for Tara Vincent and Emerson Stiles. First, Tara’s husband, Sam, dies in a car accident; then their best friend, a local midwife named Noelle Downie, inexplicably commits suicide. Sam, Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since attending UNC Wilmington together in the 1970s, so the double loss is especially hard. The Noelle who Tara and Emerson knew was an ethical, passionate human being devoted to her work; she had no secrets, especially from them. But it appears they didn’t know the real Noelle, something that becomes uncomfortably evident as her private papers reveal more and more about her life, her family, and a horrifying mistake that may have led to her mental destruction.

The shocking revelations pile up, but what hurts Tara even more is the gaping distance growing between her and her daughter, sixteen-year-old Grace. Quiet, dark Grace was especially close to her father, as different from the blonde and outgoing Tara as night is from day. Tara loves her daughter desperately, but she feels helpless to repair their foundering relationship. She envies Emerson’s easy, close bond with her daughter (and Grace’s best friend), Jenny. But Noelle’s secrets will spiral wide to include both mothers and daughters, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Diane Chamberlain presents a heartfelt, intriguing novel about familial relationships: both those we construct through friendships, and those we are born into. No matter how close we are, we never truly know those we love as well as we might think. Written from multiple first-person viewpoints, Chamberlain tells the tales of Noelle, Grace, Tara, and Emerson across fifty years, flowing effortlessly between the past and present. This is an excellent beach read, book club novel, or for any time.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Chamberlain, Diane, Coast, Mystery, New Hanover, Robeson, Romance/Relationship

Steve Berry. The Jefferson Key. New York: Ballatine Books, 2011.

You could say that it was all started by that fiery man from the Carolinas, Andrew Jackson.  After the Commonwealth, a secret society of privateers, sent an agent to assassinate Jackson, he took revenge on the group by hiding their letter of marque and expunging any record of it from Congressional documents.  Jackson then taunted the group by sending them the information they need to regain the letter–in code.   The code was created by another president, Thomas Jefferson, who thought it to be the perfect code.

Fast forward to the present.  Now a very different man from the Carolinas, Quentin Hale, is on the scene.   Hale is the head of one of the four families that make up the Commonwealth, and he is the de facto leader of the group.  From his base near Bath, North Carolina, Hale commands a corporate empire built on banking, manufacturing, and real estate–but an empire that has been considerably enriched by stealing assets and damaging companies that the Commonwealth considers enemies of the United States.  The federal government had not been of one mind on how to deal with the Commonwealth, but when the Commonwealth goes after the friendly government of Dubai, the president decides the privateers have gone too far.   That makes the president a marked man.  After a failed assassination attempt, the president calls on Cotton Malone to bring the Commonwealth down.  Double-dealing on both sides makes for a high body count and a number of twists.  This thriller takes place in North Carolina, New York, Washington, Nova Scotia, and at Jefferson’s Monticello.

This is the first book in the Cotton Malone series with a North Carolina setting.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Beaufort, Berry, Steve, Coast, Historical, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller

Alex Hairston. She Creeps. New York: Dafina Books, 2008.

For the first time in Naomi Gaffney’s twenty-nine years, life is normal. Although her childhood was marred by her white mother’s death, her black father’s conviction of that murder, and the racial tensions that episode created in the community of Eden, North Carolina, Naomi finally has the life she always wanted. She is married to a man she loves, has three children she adores, and household chores she enjoys, such as cooking big meals for her family. This should be the picture of perfection, but Naomi is unsatisfied. When her sister suggests she go outside of her marriage to find happiness, Naomi balks at the thought. Sure, the spark she and her husband once shared has lost its shimmer, but after seeing what happened between her parents, Naomi is not interested in ruining a good (if not great) thing. All of this changes when an attractive mechanic rescues her on the side of the road. Naomi gives in to the temptation, but this puts her life in danger. There is a sociopath on the loose in Eden who is targeting “sinners.”  That zealot kidnaps Naomi with the intention of murdering her. As Naomi confronts the complications her act of adultery has created, she realizes that the simple life was not so bad after all.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Hairston, Alex, Piedmont, Rockingham

Elizabeth Towles. The Long Night Moon. Lady Lake, FL: Fireside Publications, 2009.

Darcie Edglon is a stereotypical teenage girl: she thinks mostly about boys, followed closely by shopping. But her whole world turns upside-down one terrible day in the spring of 1974 when her parents are killed in a car accident outside their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her big brother, nineteen-year-old Ian, is suddenly in charge of the family. Strangely, he orders her to pack her things and drives a mystified Darcie out to the family house in the mountains, a spacious retreat known as Qualla’s Folly. When they arrive, Ian reveals that he knows Darcie’s shocking secret, one she tried to keep from both him and their parents. He intends to follow through with their parents’ plan to confine her in the mountain house, safe from gossip that might ruin the prominent Edglon name. Darcie is furious, but at least there is a distraction in the form of the quiet Native American handyman, Wa’si. Darcie is certain that all she has to do is ply him with her myriad charms and Wa’si will be her plaything. But the tall, dark and handsome Cherokee has a tragic past, and his stoic politeness presents a unique problem to a girl used to having her own way. But a reluctant lover is not the only difficulty Darcie faces. Left alone at Qualla’s Folly when her brother returns to school, the pampered teen must transform herself into a strong, self-reliant woman if she is to survive her shameful secret, the multiple dangers of the mountains, and maybe even find true happiness.

This suspenseful, surprising tale is the perfect addition to a blanket and beach umbrella on a relaxing summer weekend by the ocean!

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Macon, Mecklenburg, Mountains, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, Towles, Elizabeth

Tamar Myers. The Den of Antiquity Mysteries.

All Abigail Timberlake wants is to run her antiques store, The Den of Antiquity, in peace. In charming Charlotte, North Carolina, this shouldn’t normally be a problem, but at Abby’s store murder is always on sale. First, her batty junk-collector aunt is strangled; next, a dead body turns up in an 18th-century wardrobe; then an old woman is murdered outside Abby’s shop for the deceptively valuable vase she was carrying. The list goes on and the bodies pile up, and Abby always seems to be caught in the crossfire, whether it’s dodging killers, dealing with her boorish ex-husband and his new trophy wife, or falling for handsome police detectives. It’s almost enough to make a girl want a change of scene, and in the eighth book, Nightmare in Shining Armor, Abby does move to Charleston, South Carolina for a time. Happily, she returns to the Old North State in the sixteenth and final book, The Glass is Always Greener. These cozy murder mysteries are perfect for lazy days at the beach or adding some spice to your lunch break!

Set in North Carolina:

1. Larceny and Old Lace
2. Gilt by Association
3. The Ming and I
4. So Faux, So Good
5. Baroque and Desperate
6. Estate of Mind
7. A Penny Urned
16. The Glass is Always Greener

The first book in the Den of Antiquities Series









Try the first book in the series, Larceny and Old Lace, today! Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Mecklenburg, Myers, Tamar, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Series