Cozy Mysteries: What’s the Deal?

Many readers more than likely assume that all mysteries are the same.  That’s not true mysteries are as unique as their fiction counterparts.  There’s the classic detective story, the traditional suspense, as well as the murder mystery, the police drama just to name a few.

Then there’s the cozy mystery subgenre, which is a whole different type of mystery.  Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.  Don’t let that fool you – these aren’t your grandmother’s mysteries.

Jessica-Fletcher

Another way to look at cozy mysteries is basically that they are Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys for grownups.  So if you loved those series as a kid and want to continue reading similar books but know that you don’t want to read kids’ books as an adult then cozy mysteries are the perfect alternative to getting caught reading adult books.

The main character in a cozy mystery – the mystery solver – just happens to be an average citizen with no police, or detective experience.  Many times they work to so solve the mystery because the local law enforcement is incompetent or they are a family member or friend have been accused of the crime, and they want to clear themselves or some else as quickly as possible.

There is a cozy mystery out there for just about any reading taste. Cozy mysteries have a cast of characters though on average it tends to be heroines.  They can have any type of career, the following of which are but to name a few:

There are quite a few cozies that feature librarians as the hero or heroine, such as the Library Lover’s Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay.  There’s even a series or two that have a cat helping to solve a mystery, the Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James and the Lighthouse Library Mystery series by Eva Gates.

There’s a cozy mysteries for every reading type, and there’s one for you.  If you’re not sure where to start just stop in at any library and the reference staff will help find the right cozy for you.

Article by Carissa, Main Library

How-To Festival is One Month Away!

5th annual How-To Festival returns to LFPL’s Main Library

Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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Want to learn how to milk a cow? Make a robot? Stop a leaky faucet? Act out Shakespeare?

Those are just a sample of more than 100 things people can learn in five hours at the Louisville Free Public Library’s fifth annual How-To Festival.

This year, local presenters will offer a variety of free interactive learning experiences – from dancing to crafts to gardening – that offer entertainment and practical skills for adults, children and teens. “How-to” sessions last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes and cover a range of activities, from brewing your own beer to Zumba.

This year’s Festival is a mix of past favorites – how to age gracefully, train your dog, and BBQ – along with new lessons, including how to create a banana piano, how to read Tarot cards, and how to make chainmail jewelry. Kid-friendly activities include how to walk, talk and dance like a pirate and how to hula hoop. Plus, Mayor Greg Fischer will be a special guest presenter this year, teaching “how-to start a business.”

The How-To Festival takes place on Saturday, May 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Main Library, 301 York Street. Sessions will be located in more than 20 areas throughout the building and surrounding grounds, transforming the entire library into a giant classroom. Food trucks will be available.

The How-To Festival is free and open to the public. For more information, including a schedule of sessions, visit LFPL.org/how-to.

Already know you’re coming? RSVP on our Facebook event page. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram using #HowToFestival.

Classic Adaptations: The Count of Monte Cristo

This is the first of a series of posts on works of classic literature and their adaptations. Classic literature is usually classic for a reason (especially if they’re older than 100 years or so) ; these works tap into central concerns and universal themes. Given all of this, they’re especially prone to being remade over time, as people tell and re-tell the stories – usually while trying to knock off the jagged edges of the age and culture in which it was originally written. Taking a good hard look at classic adaptations can lend a lot of insight into cultural differences and changes over time, and also into what does not change, that universal core of experience.

My pick to launch this project is, naturally, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Here’s my reasoning:

  1. It’s good (really good), especially if you like broody, psychological revenge tales.
  2. Counts as a double adaptation, since I read English, and the original is in French.
  3. This post will involve space vampires. Of course.

Before we dive right in, let’s establish some ground rules. “Classic Literature” refers to the super-stars of the literature world. These are the most famous works in the canon of their respective cultures, proverbially famous, even, and endlessly re-told. I’m also only counting works over a century old, since it would take at least that long for the culture to change around it enough to see if the story can truly stand the test of time. Until then, it’s just a best-seller.

Due to how well-known these stories are, there’s no such thing as spoilers for the most part. I mean, imagine this situation:

Romeo and Juliet’s puppy love for each other [SPOILER ALERT guys! Highlight with your mouse between the asterisks to read the spoilers!] * Doesn’t end well, because they’re impulsive teens. They both die. The end. * [Spoilers end here!]

Yeah, it’s sort of silly. If it’s been out for four centuries, and/or it’s grade school level history, it can’t be spoiled. That said, I won’t assume you know everything about it, and I’ll step lightly on the plot to keep it fresh. The focus here is on how the story is told, and how it changes in adaptations. Let’s get this party started!

 

The Classic

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This cuddly photo of the author is completely unrepresentative of the contents. Perfect cover choice, guys.

If you haven’t read this book, read this book. Right now. It’s not like you’re on a library website or anything like that. Get to the catalog, and get a copy. It’s that good. It’s also very very long, but it covers a huge span of time, lots of characters, and a complex plot. If you like juicy, scandalous, vicious revenge stories, this one is the granddaddy of them all. There’s romance, intrigue, and action aplenty. Arguably, what makes this book a classic is how credible the characters are, and the interactions, motivations, and mental states behind what they do. This level of detail lends extra weight to the central concern of the book – revenge measured against redemption and mercy. This is heavy, good stuff right here. It’s like a rich, dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and drizzled in hot fudge made of more chocolate and utter ruin.

 

The Adaptations

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

This is the movie poster for the 2002 Count of Monte Cristo adaptation.

Here’s the cover art for the DVD, and I think it does a very good job of conveying what it’s all about.

This is some tremendously ambitious stuff, right here. The unabridged novel is a real doorstop of a book, and the aim in this case is to make an adaptation that fits into a standard feature-length film, with a run time of about two hours. Do they succeed??

Maybe: it’s an entertaining movie, gripping, action packed, fun to watch. I remember catching it on TV re-runs once, though, and was utterly confused about the last third or so, where it diverges wildly from the novel. Also, given only about an hour and fifteen minutes of Count of Monte Cristo, much of the psychological richness that makes the original successful gets lost in the compression to film. The storytelling would have to be incredibly compact to begin with, to fit in a complete adaptation, so maybe taking an alternate path as the filmmakers did is the better choice? But I have a hunch that they made the changes to conform to what a modern audience expects in a feature film: we want action, suspense, and a “love story” where the main character has a romance and ultimately gets the girl. The novel has no love stories in this sense, given that all of the relationships are immensely complicated by the social, economic, and political environment in which it is set, to say nothing of the plot’s impact. Any of the novel’s female characters, however, are infinitely more interesting and complete as credible characters than the stock “love interest” of most of our feature films.

In sum, a good movie, but only a very loose adaptation.

 

Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo (originally aired 2004)

Gankutsuou DVD cover art.

Any still image is a very poor representation of what this anime is like. Imagine a breathtakingly elaborate animated digital collage.

I promised you space vampires, didn’t I? You know how I implied in the movie review that an adaptation of such a long book would be more nuanced and complete if it had longer than two hours to develop characters and motivations? If it was, perhaps, a miniseries? This is that miniseries. In the future. In SPACE.

(Why yes, it IS an anime, too. How could you tell??)

Despite the changes to the setting, this is still the most faithful and complete adaptation of the book that I have seen. Told over 24 episodes, the series does make changes to the original, but keeps the engine of the plot running strong fueled by sensitive characterization and giving the story a chance to pace itself and develop to maturity. In terms of major plot points, none are lost in the telling, and only a few are shuffled around in order to accommodate the run time.

Visually, this is an impressive work of art as well ; where many series use computer animation and coloring to take cheap shortcuts, this anime uses it to render the entire series in a unique style, with each scene a moving collage of textures and patterns. The largest difference between this adaptation and the book, apart from medium and setting is what, precisely, happened at the island prison (space station) Château d’If, therefore changing the Count’s true motivations in his quest for revenge. The series begins during Carnival on the Moon, and is told completely through the point of view of Albert de Morcerf, the trusting and innocent son of one of the Count’s enemies – this choice conveniently focuses all 24 episodes on the revenge plot itself, leaving the Count’s imprisonment and escape to brief allusions. It’s worth watching even a few episodes of this riveting series, if just to admire the artistry and vision of the creators.

 

In the case of these versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, the changes made in the course of adapting the work, even in the most successful adaptations, are generally due to the constraints of space available for the plot to play out in (2 hour run length), as well as face-lifts intended to improve the attractiveness of the story to a different audience and culture than it was initially written for (love story, space vampires, the Count’s motivations). As we will explore in future installations of this series, changes to the original story don’t necessarily make an adaptation a bad one, even if it starts with Carnival on the Moon.

Alexandre Dumas, Sr.

I’ve never seen a picture of Dumas, Sr. not looking cuddly, though. Like everybody’s storytelling grandpa. Seriously, though, the Dumas family has an incredibly interesting history. Like one of his novels, actually. Specifically, The Count of Monte Cristo.

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

A Glimpse of Nineteenth Century Life Through the Eyes of a Cocker Spaniel: Flush by Virginia Woolf

While I find beauty and wonder in all creatures both great and small, I must admit to a particular fondness for the canine. In fact, I will often introduce my own dog, a wire fox terrier named Thatcher, as my first child. There seems to be a particular connection, an unspoken bond, between the human and the dog seldom found with other animals.

Additionally and in regards to literature, I count Virginia Woolf as one of my favorite writers. Ms. Woolf, in my mind, penned some of the loveliest and most sophisticated novels to be found in the literary firmament. With her use of various experimental styles, most prominently stream of consciousness, she creates such wondrous scenes with her prose that one feels as if one has actually entered a painting in the impressionist style, where characters and setting do not possess definite lines or boundaries and both are viewed through an enchanting haze of color and light.

flush

How are these two interests connected, you may ask. The answer: Ms. Woolf published a short book entitled Flush: A Biography in 1933 concerning a cocker spaniel of the same name and his experiences, as told from his perspective, with his mistress in nineteenth century London and Italy. Certain historical items are learned, which would, I imagine, otherwise escape the reader. For instance, dognapping for the criminal purpose of demanding a ransom was common at the time, with owners sometimes paying large sums; in fact, in this story Flush finds himself the victim of such an abduction, and his narration of this is quite moving and harrowing.

In addition to the unconventional stylistic approach of relating a story through the internal musings and observations of a dog, Ms. Woolf further employed this book as a means of providing the reader with a fictionalized look in to the life of one of the most popular and respected poets of the Victorian era, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who did indeed own a cocker spaniel to whom she dedicated some lovely poetic lines. Imagine your biography written by a close household pet; what an interesting story that would be.

Flush is a highly readable and entertaining tale that I would recommend to anyone, really, but most especially to the fellow lover of the dog and of the incomparable Virginia Woolf.

In closing, I will cite one stanza from Ms. Browning’s poem To Flush, My Dog:

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith hath run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature !

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Resources for Local Writers and Authors at LFPL

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Local authors — independent, self-published, aspiring, and mainstream — now have access to a valuable suite of services thanks to the Louisville Free Public Library’s IndieLou Author Series. IndieLou features programs for aspiring authors on how to write and publish, opportunities for indie authors to schedule appearances at the Library, and a way for self-published authors to upload and share their work in the Library’s eBook collection.

The Main and Southwest Regional libraries will be hosting IndieLou author visits twice per month – giving authors the opportunity to reserve a meeting space and promote their book at the Library. Information on scheduling an IndieLou Author Talk, including available dates and times, can be found at LFPL.org/IndieLou.

Scheduling is made possible through ePublishorBust.com.

Self-published and independent authors can also share their eBooks with local libraries through LFPL’s new SELF-e service (hosted by Biblioboard). eBooks uploaded to SELF-e will be added to the Louisville Free Public Library collection and made available to other Kentucky public libraries via the Indie Kentucky feature on Biblioboard.

Participation is free.

Finally, the Library is offering an array of resources to help local writers.  Whether through programs like the Women Writers series at the Iroquois Library in March, the Writers Conference at Southwest Regional Library, and the How to Write a Book in Six Weeks short course at Main (both in May); through self-guided learning using LFPL’s Lynda.com service; or at special library classes on how to use Biblioboard and SELF-e; LFPL is working hard to support writers in our community.

For more information on IndieLou’s suite of services, including upcoming author events, visit LFPL.org/IndieLou.

 

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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Seven year old Lavinia doesn’t remember her past or even her name as she is taken in by the Captain and Master of Tall Oaks plantation, on whose boat she was found.  Her parents died unable to survive the voyage from Ireland to America where they were to serve the Captain as indentured servants.  The Captain, having sold off Lavinia’s brother, takes her to serve in his kitchens.

At first Lavinia is unable to eat or speak but soon, comforted and loved by the slaves in the big house she opens up and regains health.  Dory, Belle, Papa, Mama Mae all nurture and become Lavinia’s surrogate family, not letting color stand in the way of love.

Over time, Lavinia learns all of the secrets to the plantation.  She discovers that the head mistress fights a terrible addiction to opium and that Belle, the light-skinned kitchen slave, is the Captain’s daughter.  Lavinia also learns of the tense relationship between Rankin the overseer, Mr. Waters the tutor, and the Captain who is frequently absent.

She and the slaves are apprehensive every time the Captain is gone – which is frequently.  They fear abuse at the hands of the tutor and overseer.  Soon after several beatings and abuses are doled out to the slaves (as well as the Captain’s own son), life on the plantation is thrown into chaos.  The tense line between races is broken, leaving Lavinia unsure where she fits in as a white servant who thinks of her fellow kitchen slaves as family.

This book is an interesting look at gender, family, and slavery in 1790s and early 1800s.  The Captain is described as sympathetic to his slaves’ conditions but leaves much or their care ultimately to two men who are as pro-slavery as they come.  The Captain claimed to have loved Belle yet keeps her working in his kitchens and bought her mother at an auction.

While the issues of slavery and servitude might not be fully developed, treatment of women is very clear within the book.  Female characters are powerless in the man’s world – being left for long periods of time, raped, imprisoned, and bonded.  Even the Captain’s own daughter must beg her father for her papers to be free.

Lines and characters are not clear, perhaps to represent the true nature of the time period where people might have known it was wrong but did very little to change or stop it from continuing.  So also is the interesting shadow with which indentured servitude was cast.  Lavinia is white yet lives in the kitchens with the other slaves.  The Captain dismisses that living and being raised with slaves would hurt any chance Lavinia had at a future, despite other characters asserting she’d never be able to find a husband or a future being raised this way.

The narrator of the audiobook has a lovely Irish accent and overall the book raises many interesting and important questions.  It feels like the author, Kathleen Grissom, teeters back and forth on where her characters stand on the issue of slavery but perhaps that is only to make her readers aware of the failure of society during this time to fully answer such questions themselves.  The plot is a bit convoluted but The Kitchen House is overall worth a listen or read.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

thisiswhereitendsThis fictional tale could have been taken from today’s headline news.

It is the story of a teen that has lost contact with reality and blames others for his feelings of abandonment and loneliness.  He enters his former high school armed with the means to lock down the school on his terms, with a deadly weapon to “show the world” and “to be remembered.”  The reader is initially placed outside when the gun shots are heard for the first time, locked out of the auditorium.   As the story progress, the author places you right there inside the auditorium facing death.

The story unfolds in four voices:

  • Claire is a senior on the track team who was excused from the school assembly this morning along with several other team mates for early morning practice. 
  • Tomas, on detention with his friend Fareed, for gluing the desk drawers of a teacher, also excused from the assembly. 
  • Sylv is a senior with her choice of college. 
  • Autumn is a junior and a gifted dancer with a dream.

The last two aren’t so lucky.  They are seated in the auditorium with a thousand other teens listening to the Principal’s speech.  That is until a young man steps up on stage to ask a question.  A young man with a gun named Tyler. 

Tyler is Autumn’s brother.  He is the son of an abusive alcoholic and their mother died two years ago in car accident.  Tyler’s girlfriend broke away from him when she saw the mean, abusive side he had hidden for so long.  In his eyes, he has lost everything and everyone he ever loved.  Tyler believes that it’s his turn to make people sit up, take notice of him, and pay for the pain they have caused him.

You are there, watching while innocent teens are murdered or maimed.  You are running for help but feel helpless to do anything about what is going on inside the school.  You are the heroes that, in spite of their bad boy images, risk their lives to free those students under fire.

Through flashbacks and memories you will learn about Claire, Tyler’s ex-girlfriend and her disabled brother Matt, who is in the auditorium.  Fareed, Tomas’ cohort in crime, is an A student who happens to be Muslim.  Tomas and Sylv are twins who were so close until a year ago and whose mother is mentally drifting away.  Autumn  dreams of going to Julliard when she graduates.  She is also Sylv’s girlfriend.  

The story draws you in and places you in seat at the center of the terror.  It locks you outside, scared for those inside the assembly hall, feeling helpless and places you in a heroes shoes.  This isn’t just a headline story anymore.  The fictional story has all the grit of a true tale.

This Is Where It Ends is a drama filled novel, full of emotion that may have you taking a second look at some of the people around you and realizing that there is more to them than what you can see on the outside.  And while Marieke Nijkamp has given us a diverse group of characters (various ethnic origins, different religions, and gay teens), each has their own perspective of what’s happening and what they are capable of doing.  Some are too terrified to move, some try to escape where there is no escape, some are targeted for death, and a few are foolishly brave, heroes.

By the end of the story, I really cared about this group that I had only met for a few hours before, and wondered where the the survivors would be a year from now.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Spotlight: A Great Way to Find the Books You Are Looking For!

NoveList_ProductButton_200

NoveList is a great tool for those who are either searching for a particular title (especially if one is unsure exactly what the title may be) or are just looking for recommendations.

This database is designed for use by readers of all tastes.  It opens with a clean, uncluttered splash page and has easy to use navigation buttons or tabs.  There is also a search engine if one would prefer to use text as the method of search.

Here’s what Novelist will look like when you click on the link (which can be found on the right side menu here on the Reader’s Corner or under LFPL‘s Research Tools page):

NoveList Display

How does it work?

The easiest way is to use the Basic Search box at the top of each page.  There you will be able to search for a title, author, series, or topic. When you use the default Keyword options from the drop-down menu, NoveList will search for your terms in the full text of all NoveList content, including annotations, reviews, and NoveList articles and lists

You can conduct a more focused search by selecting the Title, Author, or Series options from the drop-down menu.

Searching for books by an author:

Because the Basic Search box searches the full text of reviews and articles, NoveList will search for all instances of the author’s name when you enter it in the Basic Search with the default Keyword option selected. From the Author tab of your Result List, you can click on an Author link to access the Author Detail page.  From the Author tab, you will also be able to access the Detail pages for any pseudonyms that the author uses.

If you enter an author name in the search box and select Author from the search options drop-down menu, NoveList will ONLY search the Author Detail pages. An exact match will take you directly to that Detail page.

At the Author Detail page, you will find all books by the author, all series by the author (when applicable), all NoveList content about that author, and author to author recommendations when available.

Searching for books with certain plot characteristics:

In NoveList, you can search for books with certain plot characteristics using the Keyword option from the drop-down menu at the Basic Search box.

Search for a series:

You can search for a series from the Basic Search box by entering a series name and selecting the Series option from the search options drop-down menu. An exact match will take you to the Series Detail page, which includes a list of all of the titles in reading order. If multiple series match your search, they will be listed under the Series tab of your Result List, where you can click on the link to the Series Detail page.

Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to help narrow your search:

  • AND tells the database that ALL keywords used must be found in an article in order for it to appear in your results list.
  • OR broadens a search by telling the database that ANY keywords it connects are acceptable.
  • NOT narrows your search by telling the database to eliminate all terms that follow it from your search results.

Once you find a suitable title, it will have a wealth of information about the book (Description, Keywords, Appeal Terms, Tone, Writing Style, and Book Reviews).  It will also link you to the database’s info on the Author and give detailed information about the book itself (e.g. Publisher, ISBN, or Dewey Number).  The Book Reviews are especially helpful as they are not overlong or academic but are descriptive of the general storyline and its quality.  Reviews are supplied by reputable sources such as Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly

The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History

artofhorror-atc-300x337When this book first arrived at the library, I knew that it was going to be one that I added to my personal collection just by looking at the cover. The book is heavily bound and literally a monster of a book at over 250 glossy color pages.

First let’s focus on the artwork presented throughout the book. The art presented within the book spans from early century paintings to modern contemporary art created digitally. He doesn’t fail to leave out the famous horror movie posters either. Mr. Jones organizes each section of the book beautifully by horror genre. All images are reproduced beautifully with no distortion or fuzziness. Even the historical images in this book are stunningly beautiful sitting beside their modern counterparts on the same page.

The editor didn’t aim to make just a book full of beautiful pictures when he put together The Art of Horror either. The book starts out with a foreword from legendary writer Neil Gaiman, and then continues on with ten different sections written by leading authorities of each subject. For example, S.T. Joshi writes a stunning essay on H.P. Lovecraft highlighted by gorgeous images throughout. Many of the essays deal with the origination of the genre, for example zombies, and then moves throughout history to modern times.

If you are a fan of the horror genre or just a fan of art in general, I certainly would recommend this to you. This book has become a common piece on my coffee table, and not just around Halloween time.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

 

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

“A bighearted gothic novel, an intergenerational mystery, a story of heartbreak, and romance, all crammed into one grand Midwestern estate.”Los Angeles Times

100yrhouse

 

The Hundred-Year House is a great sweeping saga about the Devohr family, and the seat of all their dysfunction, Laurelfield. Once a burgeoning artists’ colony in the 1920’s, frequented by luminaries of the time, the backdrop for inspiration, romance, violence and mystery; now sits decaying and forgotten.

Rebecca Makkai hints at the family’s haunting past with the first sentences:

“For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming. She had lived, she was unhappy, and she died by her own hand somewhere in that vast house.”

Mayhem and mystery unravel over three generations of Devohr women as the house and its provenance looms over their lives and ultimately their happiness. Zee is Violet’s great-granddaughter, a Marxist scholar who is embarrassed by her family, and Grace, Zee’s mother and Violet’s daughter, and the current owner of Laurelfield. Both women grapple with trying to define their place, and their identity apart from the grim history of the family estate.

Makkai chronicles the life cycle of the house into four pivotal years: 1999, 1955, 1929 and 1900. With each year we are given a peek into the lives of one of the Devohr women. In 1999, Zee and her husband Doug move into the carriage house on the property while he works on book about Edwin Parfitt, a poet who may or may not have stayed at Laurelfield while it was an artists colony. In 1955, Grace is a newly married woman to a man her family despises, but she loves him despite this. Grace has taken refuge from her family’s disapproval and her husband’s temper in the attic of Laurelfield, the place where her grandmother took her life. While living there, the house and the grounds become a sanctuary for her but in reality it is a crumbling vestige of its former self. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crashes, Laurelfield is struggling to remain relevant as an arts colony. The staff and resident artists, including Edwin Parfitt, are desperate to convince Gamby Devohr (Violet’s son) that the estate is still profitable. And finally in 1900, when Augustus Devohr buys the land on which he will build his family estate or as his wife saw “it as a prison in the wilderness”, the story’s turbulent beginning is revealed.

In a mere 338 pages, The Hundred Year House, is at its’ core a story about a family whose history is colorful, ugly and full of secrets. It is an engaging novel that warrants a second read.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Type, Large Type)

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch