Nancy's Reviews

After working in several word-related fields: copy writing, editing, freelance voice talent and theatre--followed by a long career as a stay-at-home mom I started working at the bookstore almost nineteen years ago, and was fortunate enough to be the manager for eighteen years. From my first day at work I had a sense of being home among the books and fellow book-junkies and that feeling only grew with the ensuing years.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such a terrific team of booksellers and customers, and I am especially indebted to my fantastic family who supported my choice of jobs despite work hours that were definitely not conducive to family and social activities. I'm just now learning what all the fuss about weekends is all about!

My thanks to all of you who supported the store, who mourned its closing, and who asked us to establish this forum so that we can continue our tradition of exchanging opinions and ideas about books.

Unquiet Grave                                              

 Author:  Sharyn McCrumb                Mystery                        

Based on the true story of the 1896 murder by her husband of Zona Shue, a case known in West Virginia lore as “The Mountain Ghost,” McCrumb tells the story mostly through the memories of a lawyer who served as a member of the defense, and who, in 1930, spent some time in a psychiatric asylum. The lawyer, James P.D. Gardner, a black man, sat second chair during the trial since, after all, it was 1896, and the defendant was white; to be represented by a person of color would have been unthinkable.

Zona had always been the Heaster family’s wild child. Aware of her beauty, she attracted the attention of men in a way unbecoming a young woman in the late 1800s and, after a short-lived affair, gave up her baby for adoption. Soon after, Zona met “Trout” Shue, a blacksmith’s apprentice with a shady past; despite the objections of her parents, Zona quickly married him and moved twenty miles away…just far enough to preclude visits that would reveal the abuse to which Zona was subjected. After her death, it was visions of Zona that propelled her mother to take her story to the county prosecutor, who, based on the word of a ghost, exhumed Zona’s body and brought murder charges against her husband.

Well-researched, Unquiet Grave captures the feel of the mountains in the late 1800s and early 1900s; as the nation transitions from the post-Civil War era to a world of cars and airplanes the surprising thing is how little race relations change, or the place of women in society. Very nicely written.

White Bodies                                                 

 Author:  Jane Robins                            Fiction       

Convinced that her sister’s marriage has put Tilda in imminent danger from obsessive Felix, Callie Farrow is also desperate to regain the closeness she and Tilda had, even though that closeness might have existed more in Callie’s imagination than in reality. Supremely confident Tilda, always the center of attention in whatever group she joined, has now achieved her goal: to succeed as an actress and gain the adoration of millions, but her marriage to Felix is closing her off from her career, her agent, and Callie. Terrified for her sister’s life, Callie joins an online group for abused women, trying to find a way to protect Tilda, finding that some of them, inspired by the Hitchcock movie Strangers on a Train, are murdering each other’s abusers, safe in their anonymity. When Felix dies, Callie is horrified by the thought that her involvement with the group might have encouraged his killer and, more, that Tilda may be more manipulative than even Callie could know.



Last Ballad                                     

 Author:  Wiley Cash              Fiction                                

Born in Tennessee, Ella May has had a life filled with bad men, the first of whom makes her a mother at the age of sixteen, and who promises her a new and wonderful life in the town of Bessemer City, North Carolina, where textile mills are hiring anyone fit enough to work seventy-two hours a week for nine dollars. It is Ella May’s fitness, not his own, however, that he is counting on, as he sends her to the filthy, back-breaking mill job so he can continue to do what he has always done: drink. Now there is a new man, another drinking, carousing man, and Ella May, still working at the mill, is pregnant again, with what will be her fifth living child; her life as desolate as ever until hope arrives in the form of a flyer inviting workers to attend a rally to unionize. Exhausted by endless nights at the mill, by the fear that her children will die of illness or starvation, by the dreary sameness of despair, Ella May becomes the voice of the union, and the target of those who oppose it.

Cash has taken the real life of Ella May Wiggins who, in 1929, almost unwittingly, became a central figure in the attempted unionization of the Southern textile mills, which, much like their brethren in the coal mines, depended on a dispensable labor pool to assure their profitability, and told her bleak, terrible story. This is a sad and informative book, one whose people will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.



Midnight Line                                     

 Author:  Lee Child                         Fiction                         

Graduation from West Point is hard to achieve, and a class ring from there is, generally speaking, an item treasured by those who have earned one. His discovery of one in a pawnshop window triggers Reacher’s interest: how desperate must someone have been to have sold what must have been an important reminder of the sacrifices made for it? Reacher earned that right himself although, being someone singularly uninterested in possessions, he never ordered one for himself. Determined to return the ring to its owner, Reacher discovers a huge, interstate organization of theft, money laundering, and drugs, and people who are fine with killing anyone who interferes with the cycle.


Don’t Let Go                                      

 Author:  Harlan Coben                   Fiction                         

When Leo and Diana died, when Nap Dumas last saw Maura, it was fifteen years ago, and Nap has learned, more or less, to cope with his losses. To lose your twin brother, his girlfriend, and the love of your life all at once, though, does something to a man, and Nap Dumas is no exception. Cynical, sardonic, Nap is a very smart cop; unafraid to die, Nap takes chances. He still talks to Leo, still wonders what became of Maura, still puzzles over what really happened. An accident? A double suicide? Drugs? It seems likely that it will always remain a mystery, until Nap opens the door to two cops with news: another of his friends from back then has been killed, and the only fingerprints at the scene are Maura’s.